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September 12, 2018

What are Micro-Inverters and Optimizers?

What are Micro-Inverters and Optimizers?

Optimizers and Micro-Inverters transfer power from the solar array to the home.

Solar panels collect the energy from the sun and inverters/optimizers funnel that power into your home. Solar panels produce DC power and homes run on AC power. Subsequently the power needs to be inverted from DC to AC between the panels and the home. Originally, solar panels worked in a series like old-time Christmas lights. The line of panels would have trouble producing if just one panel was covered in snow or shade. As a result Optimizers and Micro-Inverters have eliminated the issue created by traditional string solutions. This new technology has improved the efficiency of all the panels.

There are different reasons for using each which has led to two different ways to power solar homes. 

For this process, there are two new schools of thought: invert the power at the solar panel, or create a central inverter that connects to the home’s power panel.

Micro-Inverters work like the original inverters but are designed small enough to fit one on each panel. This allows each panel to regulate its own power solving the single panel shading problem. Like Micro-Inverters, Optimizers are located on each panel and are usually integrated into the panel. These individual components are able to regulate each panel in a much more efficient manner. Additionally, Optimizers have monitoring built in that can be accessed online or from an App on your phone. 

In Colorado extreme weather changes and altitude can affect the efficiency of the Optimizers and Micro-Inverters.

While Colorado does get 300+ days of sunshine each year, it also has hail and high wind events. Optimizers have a greater reliability in climates where there are significant temperature swings. Furthermore, Optimizers work at altitude and in the cold more reliably than micro-inverters. In contrast, Micro-inverters historically have had a twice-times failure rate in states like Colorado.

Many people also have questions about batteries as power storage becomes a real option for homeowners. 

All batteries run on DC power meaning only those homes that run optimizers will be directly battery-ready. Whereas homes with Micro-Inverters will need a Rectifier. This will re-invert the AC power and then a central inverter converts the energy back to DC for storage. Each time the power coverts there is a drop in efficiency reducing the systems output. 

Consider two things when deciding which type of solar panel power inversion system is right for you. Factor in the temperature swing from summer to winter in your location, and whether or not you’ll ever want a battery.

If you have a wide temperature swing, or ultimately will want a battery, choose optimizers over micro-inverters for the best production. 

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