Solar energy is slowly gaining traction as one of the top alternative power sources. If you plan to transfer from a traditional energy setup to a solar-powered one, it’s best to understand how inverter technology works by learning the difference between string and micro-inverters.
With the Earth’s atmosphere slowly thinning due to harmful chemicals being released every day, more and more people are looking for alternative energy solutions to help protect the environment. Solar energy is one of the most popular options at the moment since any household can take advantage of it by simply installing photovoltaic systems on their rooftop and exposing it to sunlight.
When a photovoltaic system makes contact with sunlight, the inverters on the solar panels convert the direct current (DC) into an alternating current (AC), which is what gets stored in your system and used as electricity in your household. There are two types of inverters that can do this function, but they go about the process in different ways. These two are called string inverters and micro-inverters, and we will discuss each of them further below.
What is a String Inverter?
Let’s begin with single inverters. Also known as central inverters, this system refers to a standalone box that is usually installed near your house’s main service panel and electricity meter. Depending on the size of the solar power system, you can have one or two string inverters per residential installation.
A string inverter operates in a series of circuits, involving six to twelve individual solar panels in what is called a series string. String inverters are easier to install because they involve fewer wiring connections, which also means there are fewer chances for wiring accidents to occur. Since they don’t take much skill or time to install, the installation costs are also cheaper compared to micro-inverters.
One of the major disadvantages of using string inverters is having to comply with rapid shutdown requirements. Some locations require residential systems to have rapid shutdown boxes installed near the system’s control wires and the electrical service entrance so that it’s easy to reroute electricity from the inverters if necessary. Unfortunately, adding rapid shutdown requirements to a solar energy system comes with hefty costs, so it’s best to check first if your area requires them before opting for a string inverter.
Another disadvantage of using string inverters is their series formation. Since the panels are all connected together, any damage that causes one solar panel’s output to be affected impacts the entire series of solar panels in the system. This means that if the damage is enough to shut down a single panel, the entire system will also cease functioning.
What is a Micro-inverter?
Micro-inverters are similar to string inverters in that their main function is to convert DC into AC that you can use to power your home. Unlike string inverters, however, micro-inverters are smaller and installed under the solar panels on the roof.
One of the main differences between micro-inverters and string inverters is that a solar system that utilizes micro-inverters is bound to have the same number of micro-inverters as solar panels. This is because the micro-inverters aim to maximize the production of each individual solar panel, converting the power that each panel generates and collects into the grid voltage.
Micro-inverters function as a parallel circuit, which means they are able to do their job by themselves. If a panel gets damaged or starts to produce energy at a less efficient rate, it won’t affect the other panels that are still working fully optimized. Instead, the other panels can pick up the slack and produce the necessary output for the damaged one.
If your area requires rapid system shutdown for your power system, micro-inverters are ideal for you. Micro-inverters have rapid system capabilities embedded into each module, so you won’t have to worry about spending extra to access the feature.
Which is Better for your Solar Power System at Home?
Each type of inverter comes with its own benefits and disadvantages. As mentioned earlier, string inverters are cheaper and easier to install (and repair) because you’ll only be dealing with one set of circuitry. On the other hand, you’ll need to pay more to install a micro-inverter because it involves a more complicated installation process, but it also comes with its own rapid system shutdown feature which technically saves you more money if your location requires it.
While the simplicity of the string inverter has its own appeal, the added value that comes with micro-inverters is well worth the extra investment. Micro-inverters can function even if one or more panels get damaged, ensuring that your home is kept powered up. String inverters do not have this feature because their series circuit indicates that one faulty panel can shut down the entire system.
Additionally, micro-inverters have a considerably longer lifespan (up to twenty-five years) than standard string inverters (eight to twelve years). Keep that in mind when computing costs since you’ll probably need to purchase and install two sets of string inverters at the same time that one set of micro-inverters can last in your system.
A Final Word on Micro-Inverters and String Inverters
As mentioned earlier, the type of inverter you need to install depends on your needs. If you need to comply with rapid shutdown requirements, micro-inverters are definitely the way to go. If you feel that your panels won’t be damaged or affected in any way that makes them less efficient, opting for the less expensive string inverters can also be a good decision.
To make sure that you are making the right choice, you can always contact a roofing professional to do the assessment for you. Yorkshire Roofing is an expert in solar installations and can surely assist you in determining which kind of inverter is best suited for your solar power system.
Yorkshire Roofing prides itself in high-quality service, as evidenced by its Owens Corning and Golden Pledge warranties. Contact Yorkshire Roofing now and receive professional assistance at an affordable price.