Microinverters, string inverters, and string inverters with DC optimizers -- oh my! With all the solar technologies out there and not a lot of straightforward information, deciding on the right solar option can be confusing. We're here to break down some key differences for you (in a way you won't need an engineering degree to understand). Once you've got it down,
you might find the choice is simpler than you thought.
Think of solar panels like bulbs in a string of holiday lights. In conventional inverter systems, when one panel fails, the whole system goes out. Or when one panel’s output drops -- thanks to fallen leaves, a passing cloud, or some other unavoidable factor -- the system’s overall performance drops to match that lowest-performing panel. With microinverters, each panel operates independently -- so no matter what happens to any one panel, the rest of your system keeps shining bright.
Chart showing Enphase microinverters on right with one shaded panel that still produces 50% and the other three panels produce 100%; string inverters are shown on right and when one panel is shaded, all four panels reduce energy production to 50%
Whether it's a leaf, dirt, or a cloudy day, obstructions happen. All the time, to every system. With microinverters, only the individual panel is affected, while the others keep performing to their fullest. At the end of the day, that means more solar power and greater energy savings from the same panels.
A string inverter system can only perform as well as its lowest-performing panel. So if shade or a pile of leaves hinders one panel's performance, every other panel operates at the same diminished capacity. That means every little obstacle has a big impact on your energy production -- and takes a bite out of your potential savings.