What are inverters?

When homeowners begin thinking about going solar, they often struggle with what type of inverter to choose.

As you may know, inverters take the direct current (DC) power from solar panels and create an alternating current (AC). AC is the electricity used in homes.  Choosing the inverter that’s right for you, could make all the difference in your solar power journey.

So what’s the answer?

Truth is, it all depends on your home, your budget and your preferences.

We’ll explore how the two types of inverters we install work. These are string series inverters and micro-inverters, also called ultra-inverters.

Standard string inverters function in a series circuit. Micro-inverters function in a parallel circuit. This means string inverters cap the electricity of each panel based on the lowest producing panel on your roof. Meanwhile, a micro-inverter, takes advantage of the production of each individual panel. As you might guess, micro-inverters tend to outperform string inverters.

String inverters are generally the cheapest option. They are well-suited for perfectly installed panels that are in direct sunlight for most of the day.  Many solar installation companies recommend string inverters for people with no shade. Otherwise, this type of inverter will not be effective for converting the sun’s energy into home electricity.

Why are they called string inverters? Well, let’s say you install 40 solar panels, they may be installed into 8 groups of 5 panels each. Those groups are referred to as strings. The panels with a string are connected in parallel to each other and then connected to the inverter. String inverters are a box about the size of a small microwave and installed next to your panel box. They track the energy production of the whole system.

Micro-inverters tend to be pricier at the moment as they are newer technology. As they become more commonplace, it’s expected that the price will go down. Despite the cost, they are becoming a popular option for residential solar systems.  Micro-inverters convert DC electricity produced from your solar panels into AC at the panels on your roof. This means, you don’t need a separate central inverter. Each panel will have a micro-inverter installed with it and, depending on the model you choose, they might fit under two panels. They are able to track the performance of each individual panel – giving specific feedback. Because the DC to AC conversion happens at the panels, there won’t be any congestion if one panel produces little or  no electricity. Micro-inverters are smaller than string inverters and are about the same size as an internet router.

Micro-inverters are a great option for solar systems that are facing many angles. Also, if you have shading from trees, a chimney, other buildings, etc., micro-inverters work the best.

In summary, if you are planning to expand your solar system in future, you can do so simply with micro-inverters. Adding a full unit to string inverters could become costly for you. Micro-inverters have lots of perks, there’s no doubt. But if conditions are right for string inverters, they are the more cost effective option. Plus, they’re a tried and trusted technology.

The decision is yours to make. And remember, our team of trusted professionals is happy to help you along the way.