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17 Nov 2023

Shining Light on Power Conversion: Your Comprehensive Guide to Solar Inverters

Solar Inverters: What You Need To Know – Forbes Home


So, you’ve decided to join the 700,000 homeowners who adopted solar in the United States in 2022. If you’re doing it yourself or want to know the ins and outs of your installer’s quotes, you’ll need a breakdown of each solar component. In this guide, we’re breaking down solar inverters

What is a Solar Inverter

Residential wiring systems are designed to use alternating current (AC) power,  so any PV solar energy setup meant for household use necessitates a mechanism for converting the direct current (DC) energy produced by the solar panels into AC power. 

A solar inverter is a piece of electronic equipment responsible for transforming the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity. 

This AC power is what powers households, businesses, and the electrical grid. The AC power that the inverter produces is identical to the type provided by utility companies and utilized in residential and commercial settings.

Multiple variables will determine the specific power inverter needed for your home's solar energy system.

Types of Inverters

Choosing an inverter can be a dizzying process. There are several types of solar inverters, each serving a specific purpose and suitable for different types of solar power systems. Here are the most common types and why you might choose them. 

String Inverters: What You Need To Know | EnergySage

String Inverters

These are the most common types used in residential solar installations. They're called 'string inverters' because solar panels are arranged in strings when connected to the inverter.

How They Work 

A string inverter accepts the direct current (DC) power produced by solar panels and transforms it into alternating current (AC) power, which is suitable for powering your residence or commercial establishment. This conversion process involves several electronic elements like transistors and capacitors.

The main benefit of string inverters is their capacity to manage the output from several solar panels linked together sequentially. This allows the inverter to process more electricity, making it an excellent choice for expansive solar energy systems.

Benefits to String Inverters

String inverters typically have a lower upfront cost than other inverter types, such as microinverters or power optimizers. They are also well-suited for larger solar power systems as they can handle the output of multiple solar panels wired together in a series. 

This is also the best option if you’re looking for a low maintenance, as they are relatively simple compared to systems that require an inverter for each panel. 

Downside to String Inverters 

String inverters may not be the best choice for all situations. For instance, in a setup where solar panels are shaded at different times of the day, microinverters or power optimizers might be more efficient. In addition, string inverters need to be installed in sheltered locations, such as garages, which can help protect them from weather-related damage and extend their lifespan.

Microinverters: What You Need To Know | EnergySage


Micro inverters, a recent trend in the solar industry, provide several advantages compared to conventional string inverters. These compact yet potent devices are mounted on every solar panel, enabling each panel to function autonomously. As a result, the direct current (DC) electricity produced by each panel is instantly transformed into alternating current (AC) electricity and delivered straight to your residence or commercial establishment.

How They Work 

Micro inverters operate on a different principle than conventional string inverters. In a system equipped with micro inverters, each panel has its own inverter to transform DC electricity into AC electricity. Consequently, every panel can produce power independently, meaning that shading or underperformance of one panel doesn't impact the entire system's output.

Benefits of Microinverters

Micro inverters facilitate more accurate tracking and enhancement of each panel's performance, improving overall efficiency and productivity. Installers love them because they offer enhanced adaptability in the design and setup of solar systems. They can be fitted onto single panels, providing more leeway in panel positioning and alignment. 

Comparatively microinverters exhibit a longer durability compared to traditional inverters, primarily because they aren't exposed to the same degree of wear and tear as conventional options like string inverters.

Downside of Microinverters

Micro inverters are generally more expensive than traditional string inverters. The installation is also a more complex and time-consuming undertaking because each solar panel requires its own inverter.

These are used in solar-plus-storage systems. They can convert AC electricity into DC so it can be stored in a battery for later use, then convert it back to AC when needed.


All About Hybrid Inverters

Hybrid Inverters

Also known as multi-mode inverters, they can manage inputs from both solar panels and a battery storage system, often including a feature that allows you to use your solar power during a grid outage.

How They Work 

Hybrid inverters work as a manager to your entire system, regulating the flow of electricity between your solar panels, storage system, and the grid. When your system underperforms, a hybrid inverter helps to relay surplus energy from storage. When the battery is depleted, a hybrid inverter works to pull power from the grid to supplement your energy needs. 

Benefits of Hybrid Inverters 

One of the greatest advantages of hybrid inverters is that they afford you increased management over your energy consumption. This capability lessens your dependency on the electricity grid and enables you to use your stored energy during peak periods. 

Downside Hybrid Inverters

When it comes to pricing, hybrid inverters are on the more expensive side. These are also not a great choice if you install in a compact space as their collective system takes up more space than alternatives. 


Expandable 3.1KW Solar Hybrid (Grid-tie/Off-Grid) Kit with 6KW Hybrid –  pluggedsolar

Off-Grid Inverters

These inverters are designed for systems that are completely disconnected from the grid. They work with the battery bank to provide power when the panels aren't producing electricity.

How They Work 

In an off-grid system, the inverter draws energy directly from a battery. The battery stores the DC power generated by the solar panels and feeds this energy to the inverter when needed. 

Benefits of Off Grid Inverters

As the name suggests, an off-grid inverter operates independently of the grid, making it an excellent choice for those wanting to be self-sufficient or those who don't have access to the grid. 

Downside of Off Grid Inverters

These are generally more expensive than grid-tied inverters. They also don’t handle overload well. Some off-grid inverters, particularly those using high-frequency technology, may struggle with fully loading inductive loads, leading to poor overload capacity.


Battery Inverters

Inverters that are battery-based are designed explicitly for compatibility with battery storage systems. Their main function is to oversee the process of charging and discharging the battery. They convert the Direct Current (DC) electricity solar panels produce into Alternating Current (AC) electricity. 

How They Work

During sunlight hours, when solar panels are producing electricity, the battery-based inverter transforms power from AC to DC. Concurrently, it charges the battery with any surplus power generated. 
When there's no sun, like at night or during overcast weather, the battery-based inverter shifts to utilizing the stored power in the battery. It converts this DC power back into AC electricity for use in your home or business.

Benefits of Battery Inverters

The biggest benefit to a battery based inverter is insurance. You’ll have backup energy ready to kick on when you need it. 

Downside of Battery Inverters

Despite advances in technology, batteries have a limited lifespan and will need to be replaced after a certain period, typically every 5-15 years, depending on the type and quality of the battery. They also see some inefficiency. Energy losses can occur when converting DC electricity to AC, then back to DC for storage, and again to AC for use. These losses can reduce the overall efficiency of the system.

SolarEdge S440 440Watt 60VDC Power Optimizer For Residential Installation


Power Optimizers

These are a middle ground between string inverters and microinverters. Like microinverters, they're attached to each solar panel, but instead of converting DC to AC right at the panel, they 'condition' the DC electricity before it's sent to a central inverter to be converted. 

How They Work 

Power optimizers are compact units attached to every solar panel within a solar energy system. They enhance each panel's output by carrying out a DC-to-DC conversion, optimizing power generation.

Power optimizers work with a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) function, ensuring the panel always operates at peak performance. This works by real time tracking and adjusting of the voltage and current levels of the panel to align with the maximum power point. 

Benefits of Power Optimizers

The power optimizer is an excellent choice for mitigating the effects of shading on a solar panel. A panel under shade typically produces less power, but a power optimizer enables the panel to maintain its maximum output. How does this work? The power optimizer can separate the shaded panel from the rest of the system and independently optimize its output.

Downside of Power Optimizers

The downside to opting for a power optimizer as your inverter is that, unlike microinverters that convert DC to AC at each panel, power optimizers condition the DC energy but still rely on a single inverter for the final conversion. If the central inverter fails, it affects the entire system.

How to Choose a Solar Inverter

Choosing the right solar inverter is crucial to setting up your solar power system. Here are some key factors to consider. 


The size of the inverter should be compatible with your solar panel system's capacity. Typically, the inverter's capacity should be approximately the same as that of your solar panel system.


The efficiency of the inverter determines how much of the electricity generated by the panels is converted into usable power. Look for inverters with high efficiency ratings.

Type of Inverter

There are three main types of inverters: string inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers. String inverters are the most common and cost-effective but may not perform well in shade. Microinverters and power optimizers (also known as DC optimizers) are more expensive but can improve the system's performance in shaded conditions or if the panels are facing different directions.

Compatibility with Battery Storage

If you plan to install a battery storage system, you'll need an inverter that can manage the charging and discharging of the battery.

Reliability and Warranty

Check the reliability and warranty of the inverter. It's often worth investing in a higher-quality inverter from a reputable manufacturer that offers a good warranty.

Grid-Tied or Off-Grid

Grid-tied inverters are designed to feed excess power back into the electrical grid, while off-grid inverters are designed to work with a battery system to store excess power. Choose the type that best fits your needs and local regulations.

Extra Features

Some inverters come with extra features like remote monitoring, which allows you to track your system's performance via a smartphone or computer.

Still not sure which inverter is right for your home or business solar system? US Solar Supplier is here to help. Contact us today, and we’ll help you match the ideal inverter with your renewable energy project.