Solar Inverters 101

SMA Solar Inverter

Inverters are an integral part of a solar panel system as they are responsible for converting the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity that is used in homes and businesses. There are two main types of inverters: string (or centralized) inverters and microinverters.

String Inverters

A single inverter that is connected to the entire array of solar panels and is the least expensive option. However, if one panel in a string is shaded or not performing optimally, it can reduce the performance of the entire string. In some cases where necessary, two or even three of these string inverters can be used for larger projects.

String inverters are typically installed near to your hydro meter and typically will have an area identified for installation during the site-assessment stage of the project.

Solar Edge String Inverter
Solar Edge String Inverter


Microinverters are installed at each individual solar panel, allowing each panel to maximize production. This is particularly useful if some panels are shaded at different times of day or if they are not all facing the same direction. Microinverters tend to be more expensive than string inverters for this reason but do offer that added benefit.

One draw back (compared to string inverters) that could be brought up is the additional weight on the roof as the inverter portion of the system is now on the roof (as opposed to string inverters). Saying that, all projects will go through a structural analysis with an independent engineer to approve the roof load capacity to allow for microinverter installations.

Power Optimizers

Power Optimizers (or simply Optimizers) are a hybrid of microinverters and string inverters, with one being installed at each panel. They “condition” the DC electricity before sending it to string inverter and perform well in situations where panels are shaded or facing different directions. Power optimizer systems tend to be more expensive than string inverter systems, but less expensive than microinverter systems.

Solar Edge Power Optimizer
Solar Edge Power Optimizer

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