There is no “one-size fits all” solution when it comes to you investing into a solar panel system. The most visible part of a solar panel installation is of course the solar panels themselves.
What many homeowners don’t know is that solar panels produce a form of electricity that most homes cannot use. This electricity is called – direct current (DC). The type of electricity almost all homes use is alternating current (AC).
But how does DC electricity produced by solar panels get converted into AC electricity?
This is where solar micro- inverters come into play.
Solar Inverters turn the DC electricity produced by solar panels into AC usable power. It does this by converting the direct current, which flows in one direction, into alternating current, which flows back and forth very rapidly.
This AC current is then sent through your electric/fuse/breaker box and can be used by all your electrical appliances and fixtures within your home. With the ever increasing price of gas, oil and LPG, many of our customer’s are also investing into our Solar Assisted Heat Pumps to heat their household water. They don’t want to waste a drop of their self-generated energy!
There are three different types of solar inverters that are used in conjunction with a solar panel array. They are: string (or central) inverters, power optimizers + inverter, and micro-inverters. There are advantages and disadvantages with each type.
Although the upfront cost of micro-inverter technology is higher than that of a string inverter, they will provide you with a better return on your investment over time. It stands to reason that if micro-inverters increase the performance of your solar panels and therefore the output of your solar system as well as being more reliable, then over time they will have a better pay back for you.
Micro-inverters work by converting DC to AC directly from the back of each solar panel. Therefore no string (central) inverter is necessary because each micro-inverter converts the DC to AC immediately and then sends it straight on to your electric/fuse/breaker box, for use in your home.
Pros: Because each micro-inverter is converting the DC to AC on each panel immediately, the solar panel array will only be minimally impacted by shading on individual panels. If shade covers one panel, only that panel will produce less power output as opposed to the whole system output decreasing, as in a string inverter setup.
Micro-inverters are also easy to expand with your solar system in the future should you add to your current array. Any solar panel that is added to the system just needs to have a micro-inverter installed on the back of the panel.
As with power optimizers, micro-inverters also allow for panel-level monitoring of the solar system, which allows for any solar output issues to be diagnosed more easily and accurately through remote monitoring software.
Cons: Micro-inverters are a little more expensive than other solar inverter options. That aside, their benefits can easily outweigh the higher costs in certain situations, especially if shading is an issue.
String inverters, also known as central inverters, are the oldest and most common type of solar inverter in use today. They work by connecting a string of solar panels to one single inverter, which converts the total DC input into AC output.
Pros: Because string inverters are the oldest type of solar inverters, they are also the most reliable. After years of being on the market and used in thousands and thousands of installations, string inverters have had most of the earlier pitfalls worked out. They are also the least expensive solar inverter option.
String inverters are also usually installed in an easy to access location in your home. This allows for easy access to monitor, repair, or replace the inverter.
Cons: While string inverters are reliable, they are also less efficient at optimizing solar energy output. Because string inverters are connected to an entire string of solar panels, shading on one solar panel will cut the power output of the entire string.
Also, string inverters only offer total-system monitoring as opposed to panel-level monitoring. This can be a disadvantage when diagnosing issues with solar production, and it can also be unfortunate for those solar homeowners who want a more granular level of monitoring. Both of these situations can be easily overcome with the additional installation of power-optimisers.
Solar Power optimizers are located on the back of each solar panel, and they work in conjunction with a string inverter to convert DC to AC. They do this by conditioning the DC electricity from each panel and sending that conditioned DC to the string inverter to convert to AC electricity.
Pros: Because power optimizers can condition the DC electricity produced by each individual solar panel, they can decrease the impact of shading on individual panels. If one solar panel is partially shaded, it will not degrade the output of the entire string as with a simple string inverter setup.
Power optimizers also have the benefit of allowing panel-level monitoring, along with system-level monitoring thanks to the string inverter. This means any issues with solar output can be diagnosed more easily, with each solar panel being monitored individually. It also allows the homeowner to see a more detailed level of monitoring.
Cons: Power optimizers are more expensive than using just a string inverter, but they are still less expensive than micro-inverters.
Power optimizer systems also require additional power optimizers and potentially additional string inverters if you expand your solar panel system in the future.
It is also important to note that because power optimizers are located on the roof, it is more difficult to repair and replace them if they should happen to have any operational issues.
The brand leader in the power-optimizer market-place is solaredge a photovoltaics company and a provider of power optimizers, solar inverters and monitoring systems for photovoltaic arrays. Watch the short video below to learn more about this incredible technology.