What’s the difference between a single inverter and a micro inverter?

A solar inverter is a crucial component in a solar power system. As a homeowner, it is very important to know the different components of the solar system in your home. For instance, what is the difference between a single inverter and micro inverter?

Before we can tell you the difference between a single inverter vs a micro inverter, lets define what an inverter is:
Solar panels create Direct Current (DC). Your home and the grid use Alternating Current (AC). The inverter takes DC and inverts it into AC so you can use it and feed it back to the grid. A micro inverter consists of a small box located on the back of or situated very close to a solar panel usually on the outside of your home.

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Traditional solar arrays were connected in series to a conventional single inverter. The series connection is important because series is the same way older Christmas tree lights were designed. One light goes out, so does the rest of the string.

In a Micro Inverter design, each panel gets it’s own inverter and they are connected in parallel.
Parallel is a more modern design, higher quality. So now if one light goes out it doesn’t affect the rest of the lights.

In a micro inverter system each panel has it’s own inverter. This results in a more efficient system so you need to buy fewer panels for your roof.

Two main reasons for this:

1. Your system will turn on earlier in the morning and turn off later in the afternoon/evening. For a conventional inverter system the panels have to be getting enough photons to turn on the entire system. With micro inverter system each panel will turn on as soon as it is getting enough photons to turn on just that panel.

2. If one or more panels in a conventional system are getting shade, are dirty or malfunction the entire array may be affected. Shortening the panels production time even more.

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Micro inverter advantages:

▪ Panel level MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking)
▪ Increase system availability – a single malfunctioning panel will not have such an impact on the entire array
▪ Panel level monitoring
▪ Lower DC voltage, increasing safety. No need for ~ 600 V DC cabling requiring conduits
▪ Allows for increased design flexibility, modules can be oriented in different directions
▪ Increased yield from sites that suffer from overshadowing, as one shadowed module doesn’t drag down a whole string
▪ No need to calculate string lengths – simpler to design systems
▪ Ability to use different makes/models of modules in one system, particularly when repairing or updating older systems

Micro inverter disadvantages:
▪ Higher costs in terms of dollars per watt, currently up to double the cost compared to string inverters
▪ Increased complexity in installation
▪ Given their positioning in an installation, some micro-inverters may have issues in extreme heat
▪ Increased maintenance costs due to there being multiple units in an array.

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