With improving technology, microinverters on solar systems are becoming an increasingly popular choice. For properties that have shaded or non-ideal rooftop directions, microinverters are expected to become the inverter of choice and replace centralised string inverters. Microinverters host a range of benefits, with the main advantage being that if a fault were to arise, it would limit the problem to a single panel rather than the entire solar system; therefore, the system is still able to function and provide renewable energy to the home or business.
Regardless of what type of solar system you are installing, an inverter is required. Solar inverters are responsible for converting the sun’s rays into electricity, by converting DC (direct current), generated from the solar panels, into AC (alternating current), which is the power used by all of the appliances in your home.
Currently, there are two types of inverters on the market for solar systems: string inverters and microinverters.
String inverters are a popular and common choice as they are both affordable and easier to install. They convert electricity from several panels, or a string of panels, which gives them their name.
Microinverters essentially perform the opposite, where they convert electricity from only one panel, rather than multiple. Each panel installed has its independent microinverter, which ultimately becomes a more costly and complicated install process, but it does provide improved reliability, easy servicing and repairs, and if one microinverter fails, the rest of the panels will continue to produce solar energy for the property.
String inverters convert electricity from several panels or a "string" of panels.
Microinverters direct DC to each panel's microinverter, to then convert to usable AC energy.
Microinverters aren’t best suited for every solar system. String inverters are practical for north-facing rooftops (assuming you’re in the southern hemisphere) that are in good condition and not made of slate or wood. For a roof that experiences a lot of shading or faces multiple directions, microinverters are typically the better option.
For a microinverter-suited property, there is a multitude of benefits to be enjoyed:
- Improved reliability for overall system performance
- Microinverters typically sport long warranties
- Microinverters can produce more power than a single string inverter
- Ability to monitor each solar panel’s performance, and quickly identify issues that arise
- Performs efficiently on complicated rooftops
With regard to electrical safety, microinverters can be the safer option for both installers and the owner. When an AC circuit falters, each microinverter will shut down automatically within 100 milliseconds (the recommended shut down time is typically 10 seconds), resulting in improved safety and peace of mind.
How shading or external factors affect string inverters (top) versus how it affects microinverters (bottom).
There is a wide range of microinverters on the market, which is why it’s important to seek the assistance of a solar specialist who can complete a consultation of your property and identify its unique requirements. A good solar company will offer a complete service, from designing the solar system to sourcing, installing, repairing, and maintaining. They will be able to identify which microinverter will work best for your system to ensure you enjoy lasting benefits and experience a high return on your investment.