Inverters are an important part of any solar panel system. Your panels convert sunlight into electricity and inverters allow you to use that electricity to power your home or business.
If you’re thinking about going solar, it’s important to understand the differences between microinverters and power optimizers. Both options are available for photovoltaic (PV) systems and can improve your ability to generate electricity from sunlight. But there are some key differences that make one or the other more suitable for your needs.
What Are Microinverters and Power Optimizers?
The three main types of inverter setups are: string inverters, inverters + power optimizers and microinverters. String inverters started it all and are known as the original technology (and also the oldest). As a low cost and durable option, string inverters have been installed worldwide for many decades. Microinverters and power optimizers are simply newer versions of that technology and have become popular in the last 10 years.
While microinverters and power optimizers are comparable technologies, they’re not identical. However, there are key differences between the setups that can be more or less beneficial for your installation.
What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Microinverters and Power Optimizers?
Important similarities between microinverters and power optimizers:
- Complicated roofs that experience minor shade can benefit since they help improve solar panel performance.
- Both microinverters and power optimizers have the ability to track the performance of your individual solar panels. This means you could compare and evaluate the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) one solar panel produces versus another.
- Solar companies usually install one MLPE (microinverter or power optimizer) on the backend of each solar panel. As a result, if your system has 20 panels installed, you’ll likely have 20 microinverters or 20 power optimizers.
The top 4 differences between microinverters & power optimizers:
- During the direct current (DC) conversion process to alternating current (AC)
Microinverters can convert DC energy into AC energy directly at the panel site. Power optimizers are also located behind a solar panel, but they can’t convert the electricity alone.Optimizers then “condition” the DC energy and transmit it to a central inverter to complete the conversion process. This conditioning process secures the DC energy’s voltage and allows the centralized inverter to efficiently convert it to AC energy.
- The Warranty
Microinverters and power optimizers both come with 25-year warranties. Even though optimizers are under warranty for 25 years, the centralized inverter they’re paired with might have a shorter warranty.Most installers offer an extended warranty, however, as part of a package deal or for an additional fee. However, you should do your research to see what is and isn’t included in a company’s warranty terms. Is installation labor, replacement and the cost of shipping parts covered under the warranty? What’s the claim process like if you need to submit a warranty request?All of these are important questions to consider when choosing the right type of inverter to install on your roof.
- The Maintenance
Over the lifetime of both technologies, you should take into account how many times they might fail. You should also consider the impact of an unlikely production failure issue from your solar panels. And inverter failure will cost more to replace if it’s located on your rooftop versus at ground level.Still, that’s only part of the potential lifetime maintenance costs. Most microinverters are warrantied for 25 years, but most string inverters only have warranty coverage for 12 years. This means you might have to replace your inverter halfway through the lifetime of your solar panel system.
- Battery Options
Microinverters and power optimizers are both compatible with battery storage. However, you might require a particular type of inverter based on whether you want a DC or AC-coupled battery solution. If you’re interested in adding a home battery, ask your installer or electrician which inverters would work best with that battery.
The bottom line is both microinverters and power optimizer systems have similar efficient capabilities. Both monitor solar panel performance and maximize overall energy production if you have a complicated or slightly shaded roof. Your preferences and rooftop layout will help you decide which option is the best for your home and solar panel system.
If you’re ready to save money (and the environment) with solar, contact us today for a free customized quote.