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solar inverter vs micro inverter

To benefit from the energy our solar panels absorb, it is necessary to have the appropriate equipment, and one of those tools is an inverter. In this article, we will go over the basics of a string inverter and a microinverter, discuss in what scenario they are best, and compare their advantages and disadvantages to conclude which one is the most ideal for your energy system’s needs and installation.

What Is an Inverter and How Does It Work?

Inverters are an essential part of solar energy systems. Solar panels allow us to obtain energy from the sun, and inverters take the first step in transforming energy into electricity. Essentially, they give our energy systems the “fuel” they need to function.

The solar panels absorb the energy in direct current (DC) and must be transformed into alternating current (AC). Alternate current is the current we use to power our electric appliances and devices through an off-grid power system in an RV or at home.

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Let’s Get to the Basics

There are other inverter options, but in this article, we will focus on the two most popular: string inverters and microinverters. Before determining which is the go-to, we must first define them and go over their pros and cons.

What Is a String Inverter and Where Is It Used?

Also known as central inverters, string inverters are connected to one or more solar panels. They are called “string” inverters because various solar panels are connected to it. Generally, only one string inverter is needed per solar system, yet it can vary depending on the size of the solar array. They are superb for home solar panel systems, or you can also pair them with RV solar panels.

String inverters can only convert energy at the level of the lowest solar panel connected to it. And the inverter system is located on the ground next to the building it is powering.

micro inverter vs solar inverter

What Is a String Inverter and Where Is It Used?

Also known as central inverters, string inverters are connected to one or more solar panels. They are called “string” inverters because various solar panels are connected to it. Generally, only one string inverter is needed per solar system, yet it can vary depending on the size of the solar array. They are superb for home solar panel systems, or you can also pair them with RV solar panels.

String inverters can only convert energy at the level of the lowest solar panel connected to it. And the inverter system is located on the ground next to the building it is powering.

What Is a Microinverter and Where Is it Used?

Contrary to a string inverter, a microinverter is connected to each solar panel. Microinverters are used in small systems since they are needed for each solar panel. These inverters are module-level power electronics (MLPE), ideal for solar systems where the structure isn’t the best, such as an uneven roof or shading issues.

Microinverters are independent of each other, which means that no matter a panel’s performance, it will not affect the rest of the panels in the array. And since each solar panel has its microinverter, there is no central system on the ground.

Overall differences between a String Inverter and a Microinverter

The main difference between these two systems is that string inverters collect the energy from all the solar panels connected to it and transform it from DC to AC in one system. On the other hand, a microinverter converts the energy collected right on each independent solar panel.

String Inverter Vs. Microinverter: Advantages and Disadvantages

Now that we know how each type of inverter works and what kind of solar arrays they are best for, let’s go over their pros and cons.

Functionality

String inverters: These are convenient because it’s only one system per solar array. Unless you have a large-scale solar array like an industrial building, you will need more than one. However, you only need one string inverter for smaller systems, like houses or on-the-go use.

Microinverters: They are individual; therefore, they are perfect for when the panels have varied shading from one another and when they are unevenly placed or facing different directions, for example, in uneven or intricate roofs.

Maintenance

String inverters: A string inverter’s system is only one and is installed at ground level, so if any maintenance is required, it will be accessible to repair for the user.

Microinverters: Microinverters are individual systems installed on the roof (where the solar panels are), which means that if they need maintenance, it will be more difficult for the user to attend to or replace them.

Shading

String inverters: String inverters are the right option when they are installed in areas with no artificial shading and receive full sunlight.

Microinverters: These inverters are prime for systems with uneven shading. Since every solar panel has its inverter, no panel will affect the other panel’s performance.

Expanding the Array

String inverters: String inverters restrict the expansion of a solar array since you have a single inverter connected to multiple solar panels.

Microinverters: Microinverters allow users to expand their panel array installation thanks to their simple and individual wiring.

Monitoring Performance

String inverters: One inverter system will only monitor and show the entire system’s production level and overall performance.

Microinverters: Microinverters on each panel will give the user detailed information about their individual performance.

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Shutdown Technology

String inverters: Most string inverters don’t have this safety feature whenever there is a problem in the system, which can be a safety hazard to anyone around it.

Microinverters: Almost all microinverters have this safety feature, a preventive method against possible voltage accidents.

Price

String inverters: You only need one inverter for an entire solar array, meaning less wiring to buy and connect.

Microinverters: The price will be higher for these inverters since you need one for every solar panel in your solar array.

So, Which One Is Better?

All things considered, one is not better than the other. Which one you choose depends entirely on what you want to prioritize.

If you are looking for an inverter that allows you to expand your solar array in the future, requires simple maintenance, is simple to install, and is low-cost, a string inverter is your best option. Otherwise, if you plan on expanding your solar array, need to install it on an uneven surface with shading, and don’t mind paying a higher price, then microinverters are meant for you. It all comes down to how you want to use your solar system and what you want to get from it.

Mireya Cervantes

Mireya Cervantes

Writer

Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, I am also passionate about renewable energy applications and innovations. Full-time writer for Solar Home Stead, where I review and share my opinion on energy products and trends.

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