What's the difference between micro inverters, string inverters and DC Optimizers and which one is best for me? Don't worry, its not as complicated as it may seem and we are here to help you throughout the process. The answer to those questions depends heavily on your home's/business' location, architecture, and available space. Each inverter system has its advantages and disadvantages so lets break them down individually.
First, you might be wondering what is an inverter? An inverter is what alters the current coming out of the solar panels from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) so it can be used readily in residential/commercial properties. For simplicity's sake, an inverter is a metal box that you need in your solar array.
Micro inverters are mounted beneath each solar panel on the roof and are approximately the size of a tablet/iPad. Typically, one micro inverter is required for every one to two solar panels, depending on the micro inverter manufacturer. With micro inverters the charge is inverted at the module level and brought into the property as AC.
Micro inverters should be used when:
String inverters are significantly larger than their aptly named counterpart. String inverters are roughly 3' tall x 1.5' wide x 1' deep or approximately the same size as a water cooler. String inverters are typically mounted inside the property or in select cases can be mounted on the outside. The major downside to string inverters is the if one solar panel is obstructed from sunlight, it negatively impacts the entire array (or string within the array).
String inverters should be used when:
DC Optimizers are the string inverter manufacturer's answer to micro inverters. DC Optimizers are an addition to the string inverter system which allow the modules to operate independently, similar to the effect of a micro inverter. Optimizers are mounted on the roof beneath each module, however, a string inverter is still required.
As more strict electrical code stipulations come into play regarding module-level performance analysis (and rapid shutdown requirements), we predict that string inverter manufacturers will adapt by utilizing DC optimizers more frequently and more effectively.
DC Optimizers should be used when:
String inverters are the most cost effective, but are only applicable in select circumstances. Because of string inverters' selectivity, micro inverters and DC optimizer systems are gaining in market share. Both micro inverters and DC optimizers are fairly comparable in cost. If there is no room in your home or building for a string inverter, then micro may be more applicable. Similarly, if you are planning a large installation, DC optimizers' scalability may give them the edge. Deciding a clear cut winner between optimizers and micro inverts is a difficult task and one that can only be evaluated as the technology develops and inevitable corporate feuds ensue.
Questions, comments or concerns? We would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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