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There are really 4 main electrical components to a solar system:
- the battery,
- the solar panel,
- the solar charge controller,
- and the inverter.
In a solar system, the battery has what we call a DC signal. We won’t go into the specifics of what a DC signal is right now (you can check out my post, “What’s the Difference Between AC and DC?” if you want more information).
All you need to know right now is that your battery has a DC signal but most household appliances (like your lamp or TV) use AC signals.
The inverter’s job is to convert the DC signal from the battery into the AC signal used by most household appliances.
There are 2 main types of inverters:
- the typical, classic inverters,
- and the micro-inverter.
String Inverters for Solar Systems
The inverter is considered by many solar power pros to be “the weak link” in a solar power system because a high percentage of inverters will eventually fail.
The classic, old-school types of inverters (called string inverters) will just be one big box that is the central inverter. If that central inverter goes out, the entire system is essentially out until you get it fixed.
String inverters are the cheaper solution because one inverter can handle the energy produced by 5 to 10 solar panels.
Micro-Inverters for Solar Systems
I prefer to use a micro-inverter (My favorite one is the enphase micro-inverters – Amazon).
With a micro-inverter, each panel gets its own little inverter.
Basically, if something’s going to go wrong with your solar power system, it’s more likely going to be something wrong with the inverter. And if you have micro-inverters, then only one solar panel goes out.
Plus, I find the performance is much better with micro-inverters. You’ll usually get more actual power out of the same amount of solar panels.
Micro-Inverters & Shaded Solar Panels
A string inverter system can only perform as well as its lowest-performing panel. So, if a panel is experiencing shading from a tree or building or some debris is on one of the solar panels, every other panel connected to that inverter will be affected and work at a reduced capacity.
On the other hand, if one panel is affected by shading or debris and you’re using micro-inverters, the other solar panels won’t be affected.