Micro-inverters vs String Inverters

Which is the best choice for you?

Deciding between micro-inverters or a standard string inverter is a major decision and can have a significant impact on the overall return on investment for your solar system. Before making a decision it’s important to understand the key differences between the two inverters and the pros and cons of each.

String Inverters

String inverters are a central unit, usually installed on the side of your house. They convert all the electricity from the Direct Current (DC) produced by solar modules into the safer Alternating Current (AC) used in our homes. String inverters are by far the most simple, cost effective and established choice on the market when shading on your property does not pose a major issue.

Micro-Inverters

Micro-inverters are installed on each individual solar panel, handling the DC to AC conversion on your roof at the point the power is generated. As each panel has it’s own micro-inverter the output of each panel is independent and the PV system can produce more electricity in conditions in which a system equipped with a string inverter simply can’t. These conditions include when a solar system’s panels are partly shaded from the sun due to tree branches or a chimney. 

Shading is all too common and on many roofs can be simply unavoidable. In these occasions, micro-inverters can often make financial sense.

Safety is another advantage to micro-inverters as you don’t need to worry about potentially dangerous DC cabling, and electricity, running through roofs and walls, which can be a nightmare for DIY enthusiasts.

Micro-inverters also allow for a solar system to be monitored at the individual panel level. Module-level monitoring means that any potential faults or under-performance of a particular module can be picked up quickly and repairs or replacements can be made. In high-temperature environments, micro-inverters can also often deliver more reliability and have a superior safety record than string inverters.

While prices will vary from different brands and models micro-inverters are the most expensive option on the market. 

micro inverter infographicstring inverter-infographic

 

It pays to get a second opinion

The decision between going with micro-inverters or a conventional string inverter is not an easy one, and it depends on the requirements of the homeowner, the roof itself, the individual installer and budget. Before making a decision we strongly suggest getting multiple opinions from different installers on the cost differences and projections.

Quoting customers for a more expensive micro-inverter system when the situation doesn’t call for it is a common way to increase the value of a sale. Getting multiple quotes from different installers will allow you to gather a second and third opinion on whether a micro-inverter is indeed the best option for you.

Also be aware that different installers charge different prices, even for the same product. Installers all buy their products from different places, have different margins and offer varying levels of service. The price you are quoted, even for the exact same product, can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on who you talk to.

The best way to make sure you get the right panel for you at the best price is to compare quotes from top installers with experience in your area.

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.