When solar panels generate electricity, they generate Direct Current (DC). Homes in the U.S. use Alternating Current (AC), so the electricity must go through an inverter to convert the current from DC to AC before it can be used in the home. There are several different types of solar power inverters to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Also known as a central inverter, a string inverter is the most common and cost-effective choice in the U.S. This tried and true method works by organizing solar panels into groups connected by “strings” that all connect to a single inverter. While this method only allows system-wide optimization, it’s reliable and perfect for full-sun areas. If your roof is partially shaded throughout the day, it may not be the best option for you.
These inverters are module-level power technology, which means there is one for each solar panel rather than one for the whole system. Microinverters, which are growing in popularity, convert the electricity from each solar panel and are often mounted on the back of the panel itself. This allows the homeowner to monitor the individual performance of each solar panel.
Inverter and Power Optimizers
Similar to microinverters, power optimizers are connected to each individual solar panel. Rather than convert the DC current to AC current, though, they “condition” the DC electricity and send it to a string inverter. In situations where the roof is shaded or partially shaded, power optimizers provide greater system efficiency than using only a string inverter.
In addition to reducing the impact of panel shading, power optimizers allow individual panel monitoring, like microinverters. They are typically less expensive than microinverters as well. Power Optimizers offer a reliable, cost-effective middle ground between string inverters and microinverters.
Choosing a Solar Inverter
Like most homeowners, you probably aren’t a solar energy expert, so why would you be expected to know exactly which kind of inverter is right for your home? It all depends on the amount of shading, if any, that your roof gets throughout the day. The technicians at Big Mountain Air are solar experts, and they can easily help you determine the best type of inverter for your solar system based on your budget and your roof’s shading.