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Microinverters or power-optimizers, which inverter solution works best?

Inverters are an important part of a solar energy system. As their role is to convert the direct current energy generated by your solar energy system into alternating current that your home can use. There are multiple inverter solutions that a home can utilize. Although, we will specifically talk about microinverters and power optimizers. Specifically, how they can benefit your solar energy system and which is preferable over the other.

A quick guide to inverter setups

There are three types of primary inverter setups that are used in solar energy systems.

String inverters

Grid-tied string inverters are the most popular type of inverter. They are designed to deliver AC power from a string of solar panels to your home and electricity grid. They are the most common inverter types as they have been around the longest, and are durable and cost-effective.

Microinverters

Microinverters are small units underneath or built into each solar panel. This replaces the need for one large inverter for your solar energy system. Microinverters give each solar panel the ability to function at their peak performance, independent from each other. Even if the panel next to it gets shaded, the other panels can continue to convert at full capacity.

Power Optimizers

Power optimizers are small units located on the back of each solar panel. They work with a string inverter or central inverter by conditioning the DC electricity from each panel and sending it to the string inverter. Power optimizers make it so if one of the solar panels is shaded, it doesn’t hurt the overall performance of the system. It will not degrade the output of the entire string, which happens with normal string inverter systems.

It is also worth mentioning that micro-inverters are often compared to each other and referred to as “Module-Level Power Electronics,” or MLPEs. These are devices that are incorporated into a solar energy system to improve their performance in conditions such as shading. Although they are referred to as such, they operate differently and have different purposes in a solar energy system.

How are microinverters and power optimizers similar?

Improving performance

Microinverters and power optimizers both help improve the performance of your solar energy system. Microinverters directly convert the DC power from the panel to AC. Power optimizers improve performance by optimizing the DC power from the solar panel. This reduces the negative effects of shading on the performance of your solar energy system.

Individual units per panel

Microinverters and power optimizers are individual units that are added to each solar panel. They are either mounted on each solar panel or underneath. They allow for solar energy system designs to be much more flexible.

Performance monitoring

Microinverters and power optimizers allow you to monitor the performance of each solar panel. This is helpful when noting down the amount of energy your solar panels produce throughout the day. This can also help you identify and troubleshoot any issues with your solar energy system.

How do microinverters and power optimizers differ?

Where the current conversion happens

Microinverters convert the direct current energy into alternating current straight from the solar panel. While the conditioning from power optimizers helps the DC to AC conversion become more efficient, it still requires a centralized string inverter.

Maintenance Cost & Labor

Maintenance is important when choosing between microinverters or power optimizers. Over the lifetime of any device, there will come a time when it will fail. The way they fail will also affect your solar energy system. In the case of a failure, it would mean that a technician would have to go up to your solar panels and replace the unit. This is a much more intensive process compared to replacing a centralized inverter at ground level, meaning a higher labor cost.

Although the difference is that power-optimizers are also still reliant on the centralized string inverter to be in good condition. If it fails, it will affect the entire solar energy system and will require replacing to get the whole system up and running. While a microinverter failure will only affect one solar panel, and reduce your system’s energy output.

Warranty

Microinverters and power optimizers both come with 25-year warranties. While this can seem like a similarity at first, the difference is that power-optimizers have to include the centralized inverter. Centralized inverters would come with a shorter warranty compared to the power optimizers. It’s also worth taking a close look at the warranties of the components in your solar energy system. As installation, labor, replacements, and shipping would be covered differently between components and models.

Battery connection

Microinverters and power optimizers can be used in solar + energy systems. Although the way they are configured would depend on your battery storage solution. There is also the need for a type of inverter that allows for battery usage and has islanding capabilities. Battery solutions can be AC or DC coupled, so it is something that you can discuss with our solar experts when considering a solar energy system with a battery.

Which option would work best for me?

Microinverters and power optimizers both bring benefits to a solar energy system. They help maintain the performance of your solar energy system by keeping them efficient. They also allow you to check the performance of your panels and monitor them for any issues. It should be noted that both are costlier than just using a regular string inverter.

If you have the ideal conditions for solar energy, whether through climate, no shading, and a south-facing roof. A string inverter will be the most budget-friendly option. Micro-inverters are reliable and allow your solar energy system to be flexible. Power optimizers improve the efficiency of a string inverter system, keeping up performance despite unsuitable conditions. The choice will come down to which device better suits your system and your needs.

Get started with solar energy today

If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.