If you understand how solar panels work, then you know that the inverter plays an instrumental role in your system. The inverter is the brain of your solar system, converting the power running through your solar panels into usable electricity for your home. Right now, there are two popular inverter types available on the market — micro-inverters and central inverters. Though they ultimately perform the same function, micro-inverters and central inverters vary in some key ways. Let’s review what these inverters do, how they differ, and what advantages they offer, so you’ll understand your options before purchasing panels.
Central Inverters vs. Micro-inverters
Inverters turn the energy your panels produce into usable electricity by converting Direct Current (DC) electricity into Alternating Current (AC) electricity, which can power your appliances and other household devices. Central inverters centralize this process; they work with your entire solar system to transform DC electricity for all the panels at once. This means that you only have one central inverter for your entire solar system. Micro-inverters, on the other hand, are small devices that attach to the back of each solar panel. If you have micro-inverters, your panels operate as independent units, so if you have 25 AC solar panels, you have 25 micro-inverters.
Which Type of Inverter is Best for Homes?
Solaris Renewables installs central inverters with DC solar panels for all of our installations. We believe that central inverters are a better choice than micro-inverters, and here’s why.
Increased durability is the first reason we prefer central inverters over micro-inverters. Since micro-inverters are placed directly on panels, they have to endure the same weather conditions that your solar system does. While solar panels are built with sturdy materials that can withstand intense heat, storms, and freezing temperatures, this harsh weather can take its toll on tiny micro-inverters. However, you can position central inverters in a temperature-controlled environment, so they’re less likely to experience this weather-related failure.
We also prefer central inverters because they make solar monitoring easier. Solar monitoring, through an app like SolarEdge, lets you check how much energy your system is producing, so you can ensure your array is operating efficiently. Micro-inverters complicate this process because they make it harder to identify whether changes in power output are due to system issues or other variables. For example, if a couple of your micro-inverters fail, the small drop in energy levels may take weeks or months to diagnose because it’s unclear whether the change is due to one faulty panel or a series of cloudy days. This not only wastes valuable time but also makes solar monitoring a headache.
Central inverters’ primary disadvantage also ties back to this issue. Unlike micro-inverters, when a central inverter fails, the whole system shuts down. This means that you won’t be able to produce any power during this period. However, if you choose the right solar installer, this is just a minor setback. For example, as a local solar contractor, we’d be able to send an electrician to your home immediately. We’ll monitor and troubleshoot your system, so it’s as stress-free as possible and you can get your system back to producing maximum power.
Solar clipping occurs when solar panels generate more electricity than an inverter can process. This results in lost power production, and it can be a big issue for homeowners with micro-inverters. If you pay a premium for expensive solar panels that produce a certain amount of energy, you’re losing those watts (and that money) when you choose a micro-inverter. For example, if you have a 400-watt panel but a micro-inverter that only supports 320 watts, then the maximum power output of that panel is 320 watts. You’re not able to generate the full 400 watts because your micro-inverter inverter can only process 320 watts at a time.
Central inverters have a larger capacity and can support 400-watt panels in peak sunlight. They match exactly what the panels produce, and this means more power for your home and more power for net metering. A central inverter ensures you save money, maximize the additional income you can earn through solar incentives, and achieve energy efficiency for your home.
Final Thoughts On Inverters
If you want to maximize your investment, central inverters are the best option for your solar system. They’re less likely to malfunction during the bitter New England winters and scorching summers, they make it easier for you to track your energy production, and they make sure you produce as much electricity as possible.
Explore Your Options
Learn more about how our team can design a solar system that saves you money. We’ll make sure clean energy makes sense for you and tailor your system to fit your needs.