Understanding solar inverters
An inverter is one of the most important parts of a solar panel system. It converts the direct current electricity your solar panels generate into alternating current electricity that your home can use. There are three major options to consider: string inverters, microinverters, and string inverters paired with power optimizers.
#1. String inverters
With a string inverter, groups of solar panels are connected by “strings” to a central inverter. Because they are in a “string”, you can only produce as much electricity as the least productive panel in your system. This can create problems if there is shading, or if some panels are facing different directions. However, string inverters are the most cost-effective option available. If you have a sunny roof and a simple installation, then a string inverter may be right for you.
Microinverters are small inverters located at each individual panel. Because each panel has its own inverter, you can monitor the performance of each panel separately. They’re also better for more complicated installations and those with shading – with microinverters, even if one panel isn’t producing electricity, the others will continue performing efficiently.
#3. Power optimizers
Power optimizer systems are a hybrid between string inverters and microinverters. With this technology, optimizers located at each solar panel “condition” the electricity before sending it down a string to a central inverter. This “conditioning” process improves the overall efficiency of the system by optimizing the voltage of the electricity – making it easier to convert from DC to AC power. Optimizers offer similar monitoring and production benefits to microinverters, and work well for the same types of installations. Like with microinverters, if one solar panel with a power optimizer is underperforming because of shade or other factors, the rest of the panels will continue performing efficiently.
On EnergySage, you can compare the performance and price of multiple inverter options so that you can install the right solar equipment for your needs.