Solar Inverters: Micros, Strings, & Hybrids…Oh My!

Inverters are important. They are attached to everything electronic you’ve ever plugged into a wall to convert what’s coming from the outlet into something your electronics can actually use. Without them things just wouldn’t work.

The same is true for solar. A solar inverter converts solar power from direct current (DC) electricity produced by the solar panels to alternating current (AC). In other words, inverters convert the power generated from the solar panels into usable power for your home. Currently, there are dozens of inverter options. So, how do you choose? Which is best for your specific needs? Keep reading to see an explanation of the 3 major types of inverters and when they work best.

String Inverters

String Solar Inverters

Remember on old Christmas tree lights, if you lost one bulb, you lost the entire string? That is how a string inverter works. A small bird dropping could knock out half your solar system. This is because a string of 10 solar panels will produce power at its lowest common denominator. So if one panel is covered with snow, tree shading or even a passing cloud, the entire string will operate at the diminished level.

Microinverters

Micro Solar Inverters

 

These clever devices are installed directly behind each solar panel. That means each panel operates independently, so issues of shading on one panel will not affect the other solar panels in the array. You may hear about AC Modules, which are solar panels with built-in micro inverters. Several manufactures such as LG and SunPower now offer AC solar panels.

Hybrid String Inverters with Optimizers

Hybrid Solar Inverters

 

These are a cross between a string inverter and a microinverter. Each panel has a power optimizer, which means shading on one panel will not affect the other panels (similar to microinverters).  The power on the roof is still direct current (DC) and is converted to alternating current (AC). 

So which is the best inverter option for you? Well that depends on many factors. The best way to make a decision is to speak to a solar expert.

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