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Inverter Differences

I am going to preface my explanation of these three models with an emphasis on the fact that inverter choice is a much more important decision than which panels you are going with in terms of reliability. The panels will have more of an effect on production and inverters will have more effect on reliability.


For those who do not know what inverters are, solar panels produce electricity in Direct Current (DC) and it needs to be inverted to Alternating Current (AC). There are a few types of architectures of inverting models. 

String Inverters

If any one component is having a problem or fails, the entire system is down. This system is obsolete for residential applications. Any component failing results in the entire system failing. If a panel is in the shade or is under performing, it limits the entire sting to the weakest performer. Some companies are still using these because they are less expensive but there are several disadvantages.

Power Optimizers

This system is just like the string inverting system above but with a couple of advantages. One power optimizer (shown in orange) is paired with each panel to help the system not be limited to the weakest performing panel. Also, if a panel fails, which is extremely unlikely, then only that panel is out. Panel failure is extremely rare so the power optimizers don't fix the main problem, which is the single point of failure with a central inverter. The power optimizers are not inverting the DC to AC. It's a step up from String inverters but still inferior in many ways.

Micro Inverters

This is my preferred system. In this case , each panel acts completely independent because of its modular architecture. Each panel is paired with its own micro-inverter, decentralizing the inversion and any single points of failure. In this system, not only will the micro-inverters produce a few more percent than the systems above,  but if any micro-inverter or panel were to fail, you only have one panel out. There are no single points of failure.  This configuration is the most reliable, most efficient, and has the longest life of all three. 

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