The renewables market continues to go from strength to strength, with solar micro inverter installations set to expand rapidly. By 2023, the micro inverter market is expected to grow to $5.88 billion to become the leading choice for solar installs.
In this article, we will outline what micro inverters are and their benefits. Then compare them to string inverters and discuss the market-leading Enphase micro inverter.
What Are Micro Inverters?
Micro inverters convert the direct current (DC) generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) that can be used by a household or business. A solar micro inverter is connected to each panel, unlike string inverters which require every panel to connect to just one central inverter.
The popularity of micro inverters has continued to increase in large part because they overcome the efficiency issue associated with string inverters. A small amount of shade can disrupt the performance of an entire string inverter setup, as the system only works as well as the least efficient panel. But with micro inverters they operate individually, therefore if one panel is blocked by debris the rest of the panels still perform at maximum capacity.
String Inverters VS Micro Inverters
Solar installations that use micro inverters have a host of benefits over string inverter setups. Micro inverter systems have less down-time because there is no single point of failure. Each panel converts the power individually and is not impacted by the performance of other panels. This also means the output of the system is higher overall. In contrast, if one panel is covered by just 9% of shade in a string inverter setup, it can reduce the output of the entire system by more than 50%.
Micro inverters perform exceptionally well over a wide temperature span, ranging from -40°C to 85°C. But string inverters have a far narrower temperature range from -25°C to +60°C, with the performance beginning to degrade well before the extreme ends of this range. This is an essential factor for anyone living in areas that experience hot summers as it can have a significant impact on the lifetime performance of your installation.
When considering the cost of installing solar, it is important to discuss the initial setup amount vs. lifetime cost. While string inverter setups are initially cheaper, as much as half of the lifetime cost of a solar installation will come from having to repair the string inverter when it fails. Therefore the amount you pay throughout a micro inverter lifespan is significantly less than a string inverter because they are far less likely to fail.
Also, as micro inverters continue to increase in popularity, the initial cost is now very well priced compared to good quality string inverters to the point where nearly all our customers are choosing micro inverters.
With micro inverters, you also benefit from the added flexibility that comes with each panel not having to be directly connected. This means that you can spread panels across multiple roof areas and organise them so that output is spread out across the day to match your energy consumption in the home. With a string inverter setup, all panels must face the same direction with a single productivity peak around midday. Some string inverters allow for two strings, and generally each string needs to have 7 or 8 panels so a split system isn’t possible on smaller system sizes.
Splitting your panel array can sometimes come with extra installation costs so it is worth speaking with a Solaray representitive to discuss the best design for your home.
Advanced System Monitoring
Another key benefit of a micro inverter setup is the ability for us as your installer to monitor individual panels. This makes it easy to identify and replace faulty panels, as well as spot any significant issues with the system. Enphase micro-inverter systems come with software that makes tracking your statistics effortless. The monitoring platform also features status alerts to identify faults in the system immediately.
On the other hand, string inverter installations only allow for overall system monitoring and it can often be impossible to identify any issues without a service check or a higher than expected power bill. Therefore performance issues can be harder to diagnose and fix, making the Enphase monitoring a complete game changer.
Safety is paramount with any electrical installation, and solar is no different. Enphase micro inverters are incredibly low in voltage, between 48-60V, which is less than a desk fan. This means there is no risk of electrical shocks. In contrast, a string system has ten times the voltage at 600V or more. This means that DC isolators and special switches are required to mitigate the risk of arc faults and electrical shocks.
Want to find out more? The 10 key benefits of Enphase Micro Inverters
Why Enphase Is The Best Micro Inverter
Founded in 2006, Enphase is the market-leading manufacturer of micro inverters. They have produced well over 20 million microinverters and currently have 820,000 installations under their belt. Enphase is a pioneer of the technology and is leading the charge against string inverter systems.
Each generation of micro inverters from Enphase is put through 1,000,000 power-on hours of testing before being released. They are also cycled through temperatures ranging from -40°C to 85°C over 1000 times to prove their robustness. There isn’t another provider of micro inverters which does such extensive testing on their product range.
Enphase offers a ten-year warranty as standard. It is a full replacement warranty, so you are not out of pocket in the event of a failure. The systems that Enphase have designed mean that their micro inverters are ideal for anyone who is considering the inclusion of batteries in their solar setup, and it is easy to add additional panels to your array if you want to increase your production when you add batteries.
Solaray has been at the forefront of the solar revolution for years, and we are the leading solar company in Sydney and Melbourne. If you are considering a solar micro inverter installation, we are the largest & most experienced Enphase installer in Australia.
The Reliability Of Micro Inverters
All inverters have an optimum operating temperature, and they become less efficient when presented with temperatures outside their ideal range. A solar micro inverter can operate from -40°C to 85°C. In product testing, Enphase cycle their micro inverters over 1000 times through this temperature range without any significant drop in efficiency.
The robustness of micro inverters like those from Enphase is outstanding. Before their release, Enphase put each generation of their inverters through 1 million power-on testing hours. They also produce between 1-3% more energy than string inverters, which over the lifetime of the inverter is a remarkable difference.
Their research has also shown that micro inverters are far more reliable than their string counterparts, which has now been proven across Australia over many years. With 50% of all lifetime solar maintenance costs coming from string inverter failure, the reliability of micro inverters is excellent for anyone looking to reduce the overall cost of their installation. You can read more about that here: the reliability of Enphase micro inverters.
Which type of inverter is the most efficient?
Without doubt, an Enphase micro inverter installation is far more efficient when compared to a typical string inverter setup. With a micro inverter, you achieve higher rates of output. Each panel works independently, and the yield is not negatively affected by any shade or debris that could be blocking one panel. Also, the temperature range that a micro inverter can operate efficiently in far exceeds that of its string inverter counterpart.
The 7th Generation IQ7 & IQ 7+ from Enphase contains the most advanced micro inverter technology in the world. It has a 96.5% efficiency rating, which means it loses just 3.5% efficiency in the form of heat. It is compatible with all high powered solar panels to help maximise performance and smart grid ready for a seamless setup.
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