Micro Inverters vs Central Inverters; What are the Differences?
Micro inverters vs central inverters; what are the differences? They both convert DC power from solar panels and batteries into alternating current, so some people incorrectly use the terms interchangeably.
However, there are key differences that will matter when you accidentally blow out your electrical system. Let’s cover the differences between each in theory and in application.
Here are Our Discussed Some Differences
Difference 01: Terminology
Central inverters may be called standard inverters or string-inverters. They are always a standalone box located next to the fuse box and electricity meter.
Micro-inverters perform the same function as standard or central inverters. However, they’re each connected to the solar panel. They are sometimes called microinverters or solar micro-inverters.
Difference 02: The Advantages of Each
An advantage of micro-inverters is that they electrically isolate solar panels from each other. If there are electrical glitches or a burnout of the module, it doesn’t damage anything else in the solar power array. This makes micro-inverters safer than the central inverter model. And if something does go wrong, the average home or RV owner can replace the micro-inverter themselves.
Furthermore, if one solar panel is shaded, damaged or malfunctioning, the output of the entire array is only reduced by the power output from that panel when you’re using micro-inverters.
One panel in five is out?
Power is reduced by 20 percent. You maximize the power produced by a combined group of solar panels, and you can maximize output from a group of connected solar panels that don’t have the same wattage.
This can improve power output up to 15 percent. This is similar to the function of power optimizers, but power optimizers can’t convert the DC power from solar panels into alternating current power.
Note that you can use power optimizers with a central inverter, but that adds to the cost and complexity of the system.
What is the benefit of string/central inverter?
The biggest benefit of string inverters or central inverters is simplicity. You only need one to manage your power system. This can lower the equipment costs for the solar panel system, and the cost effectiveness increases as you add panels.
Difference 03: The Disadvantages of Each
One disadvantage of microinverters is that they have a higher cost per peak watt produced, since you have to pay for more inverters per system. They’re harder to maintain, too, since there are more inverters in the entire system.
You can buy solar panels with built in micro-inverters, but that increases the cost of the solar panels. Furthermore, the inverters have to be replaced when you get new solar panels.
What are the downsides of central inverters?
The solar panels must be wired in series for the entire system to work. If one solar panel is affected, all the connected solar panels are affected. It isn’t just a matter of seeing a major drop off in solar power if one burns out.
You also see a major reduction in power production if one or two middle panels are shaded during the day. If the central inverter blows out, you only have to replace one, though you have no power until it is fixed.
Unfortunately, the average home owner cannot safely replace their own central inverter, though you could replace a micro-inverter.
High Voltage DC lines
The four to eight high voltage DC lines connected to the central inverter means you have to call in an electrician to fix it. Troubleshooting which solar panel in the system can be harder, too, since you can’t tell which solar panel is the problem unless it is an obvious issue like sand or snow on the panel.
Another downside of central inverters is that they are more prone to failure. That’s why their warranties are typically for five to ten years, whereas micro-inverters have warranties of twenty to twenty-five years.
Furthermore, you have to set up separate grounding systems for the solar panels and inverters. The fact that this often goes wrong contributes to their increased failure rate.
Difference 04: Applications
You’ll generally have a single central inverter in your residential solar installation, though some homes and RVs need two. You’ll have a single central inverter for every six to ten solar panels, all of which are connected into cables that connect to the standard inverter.
One of the simplest ways to distinguish determine if you’re dealing with micro-inverters vs central inverters is to look at where they’re located. Micro-inverters will be located under or next to each solar panel. And when you’re dealing with solar micro inverters, you’ll have one for each solar panel.
Microinverters and central inverters both have their pros and cons. However, you must understand the differences between each so that you can choose the right inverters for your solar power system and don’t get hurt trying to repair whatever type of inverter is connected to your solar panels.