Solar inverter types
There are two main types of solar inverters for home solar installations:
Each one converts energy from your solar panels into electricity your homes can use, but how they get it done is a bit different.
A string inverter is installed on your home, typically close to your main service panel or electric meter. The electricity generated by a string of solar panels is sent to the inverter, where it’s converted to AC current and sent to your home appliances.
Because of how the solar panels are wired together, if there is an issue with one panel in the string, the energy production of all the panels strung together will be impacted. For example, if one panel in a string is shaded and produces less energy, all of the other panels in the string will match that shaded panel.
There is typically only one single string inverter installed for a residential solar installation, and they are very popular for solar systems installed on simple, unshaded roofs.
String inverters are often paired with DC power optimizers to meet electrical code standards. Power optimizers are attached to the back of each panel and track the panel’s peak output. The optimizers can then regulate voltage before the power gets sent to the string inverter, maximize the amount of energy the system produces, and reduce the impacts of shading.
Microinverters perform the same basic function as string inverters, except they are installed underneath each solar panel on your roof. Some microinverter models allow you to attach two or four panels to each unit.
With a microinverter, the DC to AC conversion is completed right at the back of the panel.
While standard string inverters will cap the electricity production of each panel by the lowest-producing panel in a string, microinverters don’t have this problem since they function in a parallel circuit.
A microinverter takes full advantage of the production of each individual panel. Each solar panel and microinverter combination can “do their best” and contribute as much power as they can. Microinverters work best for complex solar installations on multiple roof faces.