It’s no secret that solar panels are a revolutionary and critical piece of the evolution of renewable energy, paving the way for greener earth for many years to come. A solar energy system is a perfect way to both save money on electricity and become increasingly self-sufficient & secure. However, what most people don’t know is that this superhero has an equally important sidekick that, without its help, would render just about all energy gathered by your system obsolete. The piece in question is one many have never even heard of: solar energy inverters.
Put simply, there are two types of electrical energy: AC and DC. Aside from being stellar band name inspiration, AC and DC power play pivotal roles in their own fields. For a solar array, however, AC is far more valuable. AC is much more efficient over long distances, such as powerlines and, you guessed it, solar energy systems.
There’s one problem, though. Solar panels convert heat into DC energy, the type we don’t want. We need a way to invert that DC energy into usable AC. That’s where inverters come in, performing that exact job. Simple and easy, right? Almost. You see, there’s a bit more behind it that a homeowner considering a solar array will definitely want to know.
When it comes to inverter types, you’ve got two main options. String inverters, and micro-inverters.
String inverters are the cheaper option, but as most of us know, with low cost comes a high chance of issues. String inverters effectively “string” a group of panels together, allowing one string inverter to connect to a whole row of panels at once.
Of course, this comes at a price. If one panel’s efficiency is hampered, say due to damage or even temporary shade, the entire string’s production quality is lowered. This means that, even if nine out of ten of your panels are performing at peak efficiency, they will all suffer due to the lowered production of the tenth.
While some may be willing to take the risk of a string inverter, advocates of micro-inverters would suggest otherwise. Micro-inverters trade a bit of added cost for massively heightened efficiency, pairing each individual panel with its own inverter. This means that if for whatever reason, one of the panels in an array is damaged, the rest of the system can continue operating at full capacity. For this reason, many agree that the slight additional cost of a micro-inverter is far outweighed by the increased security they represent.
All in all, knowing the impact and effectiveness of inverter types will almost certainly help aspiring solar consumers make the right choice for their solar array.