Technology is advancing so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up. With every new breakthrough there comes an entirely new vocabulary that can sometimes make things even more confusing. That is why we would like to take a second to explain the true backbone of solar: solar power inverters.
What is a solar inverter?
If solar panels are the heart of a system, then inverters are the brain. Typically, an inverter’s main job is to convert DC power produced by solar arrays into usable AC power, but recently its role has become more involved. Certain inverters now enable monitoring so we can see how your system is performing. We at Sunrun use a monitoring system that helps us guarantee your solar panels will produce 95% of the estimated power needed when you lease your system.
Isn’t AC/DC a rock band?
Yes, AC/DC is a classic rock band, but in the solar-world, AC/DC means something different. A direct current (DC) is generated when solar rays interact with the solar panel material and force electrons to flow freely from atomic structures. Solar inverters convert this DC energy into an alternating current (AC). It is much easier to transport and convert AC into different energy strengths than DC energy. That is why AC is the standardized form of energy we all utilize in our homes.
How does an inverter save you money?
Back in 1956, solar systems were only 6% efficient and cost a staggering $300 per watt.1 Now, with advancements in solar panel technology and more efficient solar inverters, the average solar system performs at 14 to 18 percent efficiency, costing as little as $3 per watt.
The right inverter for the job
Not all inverters are created equal. Some are more efficient than others, and this affects your entire system’s output and potential savings. There are three different kinds of solar panel inverters for homes:
- Traditional Inverters, also called a central inverters, draw power in series through all your panels. This means the amount of power you receive is only as much as the weakest power generated. Typically, this kind of inverter is a single box installed right next to your home’s breaker box.
- Micro Inverters are small inverters that are placed on the back of each solar panel. Installing individual inverters allows each solar panel to perform independently. This method distributes the workload so that the system can have a lower standing energy capacity making micro inverters safer for firefighters and repair/installers.2
- DC-Optimizers, like micro inverters, are devices that go on the backside of each panel. However, instead of converting the DC energy to AC, optimizers “condition” the DC energy and send the power to a central inverter. This creates a hybrid system that combines the best of both traditional inverters and micro inverters. Systems with power optimizers are more efficient than a traditional inverter,3 and can monitor each solar panel rather than just the system as a whole. This multi-point monitoring helps identify exactly what might be causing a system to lose efficiency, and can automatically make adjustments to maximize power generation.
We provide you with an intelligent inverter solution that optimizes your system, and maximizes power generation, all while lowering the cost of energy produced by your solar system.