Micro Inverter vs. String Inverter - Which is Right For Your System?

By Johanna Poole
14 February 2017
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A common question you may have when researching solar for your home is which type of inverter is best for your specific solar system.  There are many brands and types in the marketplace, all claiming to be the best choice. But as you know, each home solar system is custom designed by our experts and every project has specific inverter needs. 

The basic function of an inverter is to change the Direct Current (DC) power generated by the solar panels on your roof, to Alternating Current (AC), the kind of power used in your home. There are ways to make this conversion more efficient and effective.

Inverters fall into two basic types - string and micro inverters.

String Inverters

String Inverters are the simplest and lowest cost option. When using a string inverter, all the energy your solar panels create travels to a singlestring inverter.jpg
source where it is all converted.  There is one large inverter installed on your home next to your utility meter. It is approximately the size of a wall mounted water heater.

These types of inverters are best for solar systems that receive full sun and have panels mounted in one large grouping.  String inverters convert the total energy based on the lowest performing panel. So, it's important that all panels are behaving at similar levels for the most energy to be gained from the system.  

If one panel has a branch shading it by 30%, you will only receive 70% of your total system’s possible production.  The lowest performing panel dictates the production of the entire system.

View our 2018 Solar Starter Guide

Micro Inverters

In contrast, micro inverters are much smaller and they are placed on the back of each individual solar panel. They convert each panel’s DC current to AC at the source of creation. Each micro inverter works independently from the rest of the panels, converting the amount of energy that each solar panel is generating. Micro inverters tend to cost a bit more, but are a crucial part of getting the most energy out of systems with unique specifications.

Micro inverters can be an advantage when your home solar system has panels in different environments.  For example:

  • If some of your panels are shaded a portion of the daymicro inverter.jpg
  • If your panels are mounted facing different directions

Choosing micro inverters in these cases allows the energy to be converted at each panel. If a panel is underperforming due to shading, the un-shaded panels are still able to produce and convert energy at full capacity.

Additionally, micro inverters provide the option for additional panels to be added in the future should your needs increase. Supplementary panels are installed and connected with their own micro inverters. In contrast, if you have a traditional string inverter, enlarging your system means adding a second inverter. This adds significant expenses and may make adding panels in the future more difficult.

Solar system monitoring software uses data collected from the inverter to tell you how your system is performing.  String inverters provide information about your comprehensive solar system production. Micro inverters tell you how each individual panel is performing.  This data can be useful in troubleshooting for maintenance needs.

A third option, power optimizers, are a hybrid of these two systems. You can read up on power optimizers in this article.

Custom Designed Solar Energy Systems

At Pick My Solar, are goal is to design the perfect solar system for our homeowners. This includes equipment type, panel placement, number of panels, and inverter type. We design your system to ensure it produces the most energy possible at the lowest rates available. If you are ready to speak to one of our friendly solar experts, please call (888) 454-9979 or click the button below to get started.

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👋 - We're Pick My Solar. Our mission is to empower communities to adopt sustainable technologies through transparency and choice. We've built an online platform where you can get competitive solar offers from top-notch providers.

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