As the cost of electricity continues to soar, homeowners are continuously looking for more affordable alternatives. Solar energy has emerged as one of the best solutions to enjoying lower utility bills.
But before you call the installers, you need to know how solar power works. When solar panels absorb rays from the sun, they generate electricity in a form that is not usable in the home.
Your solar system comes with an inverter that converts the energy generated by the panels (direct current) to usable electricity (alternating current). Without an inverter, you cannot be able to use your solar system.
There are two types of inverters, including string inverters and micro inverters. Since Sunrun is one of the most popular solar providers, one may wonder what type of inverters they use with their solar panels. Let’s answer this question.
Does Sunrun use micro inverters?
Yes. Sunrun uses microinverters with the residential solar systems. However, the company does not produce its own micro inverters. Instead, they source their 7-generation micro inverters from a third-party company known as Enphase Energy.
Enphase Energy is a reputable company that delivers reliable and innovative energy management products.
In 2019, Sunrun and Enphase Energy entered into a strategic supply agreement with the latter agreeing to provide high-quality IQ micro inverters to Sunrun for their residential solar business.
The micro inverters supplied by Enphase Energy are among the best in the industry. They boast of unique software-defined architecture with advanced remote monitoring capabilities for the ultimate solar performance.
These 7-generation micro inverters go through rigorous testing to guarantee their quality and performance under all types of elements such as salty air, high humidity, extreme cold, intense heat, and harsh weather.
Backed by a 25-year warranty, you can always be sure that the microinverters are built to last and the manufacturers have so much confidence in their products.
And in case you didn’t know, you have the option to choose Sunrun solar panels that come with power optimizers instead of micro inverters.
Sunrun solar panels also have optimizers after the company entered a similar supply agreement with SolarEdge in 2021 for the latter to provide them with the same.
Power optimizers work the same way as micro inverters but they channel all the output energy from the individual panels to a central inverter for conditioning before it is transformed into usable AC energy.
What are micro inverters?
Micro inverters are small devices that convert direct current produced by solar panels into alternating current that is usable in the home. The inverters are installed beneath individual panels for maximum performance and control.
Many people don’t know this, but the electricity generated by solar panels cannot be used in its natural form. Solar panels produce direct current (DC), which is not usable in its current form.
It has to be converted to alternating current (AC) for it to be usable in your residential or commercial property. The gadget that performs the conversion from DC to AC is what we call an inverter.
There are two types of inverters; string inverters and micro inverters. Both inverters do the same job but they have different mechanisms. String inverters are connected to multiple solar panels with the overall output of the solar system equal to the worst performing panel.
Micro inverters are the complete opposite of string inverters. Instead of connecting to multiple solar panels, each individual panel has its own inverter installed underneath it.
As a result, micro inverters are more reliable and easy to control or monitor. If one of the solar panels fails due to a malfunction or obstruction, the rest of the panels will continue generating the same amount of energy without much issue.
Are micro inverters better?
Micro inverters are certainly better and they offer more advantages than conventional string inverters. Unlike string inverters that rely on the performance of the worst performing solar panel to determine the overall output, micro inverters operate independently, meaning each individual solar panel can perform to its full potential.
Even if one panel fails due to shading from snow, clouds, or leaves, the performance of your solar system will not dip.
Here are additional reasons why micro inverters tend to be better:
Solar panels might look harmless, but the power generated is enough to cause serious damage or even death. During the conversion process, one may be exposed to high voltage direct current before the inverter turns it into the safer alternating current.
Micro inverters convert direct current instantly into alternating current thus eliminating exposure to high voltage electricity.
Micro inverters are more reliable compared to string inverters. The independent functionality of each inverter creates a more reliable solar system. In essence, your solar system will not have any single points of failure.
In case one solar panel malfunctions, the rest of the panels will remain active and continue producing energy as usual at their fullest capacity.
When using a micro inverter system with your solar panel, one thing will always be for sure – higher production.
Micro inverters rely on the performance of individual solar panels rather than the entire solar system. The system relies on individual output, meaning any malfunction on one panel will not affect the other panels.
This ensures that your solar system will continue working at full potential even if one panel fails.
Easy Installation and Expansion
Micro inverters are ideal for roofs that have challenging situations such as shading and obstructions.
You can also easily install micro inverters in tilted solar panels that face different directions. If you intend to expand your rooftop solar system, you do not have to disassemble everything and start from scratch.
Microinverters allow you to add individual solar panels into the system without much trouble.
Another great advantage that micro inverters have to offer is that you can monitor the performance of each solar panel, separately.
A micro inverter system allows you to identify the least performing panels in the system easily.
Besides, you can pinpoint system failures and other malfunctions remotely via the appropriate smartphone apps without having to climb the rooftop.
Micro inverters come with some of the longest warranties. You can expect your micro inverter to come with a warranty of up to 25 years.
This is a clear indication that microinverters are built to last and manufacturers have confidence in their products.
In contrast, string inverters have a warranty period that ranges from 5 to 10 years.
Can micro inverters be used off grid?
Yes. You can use micro inverters with your solar panels off grid. Nevertheless, for the micro inverter to work off-grid, you must install a battery backup system to store the energy produced by your solar system.
The battery backup system should be able to capture and store some of the excess energy produced by your solar panel or from the electric grid for later use.
Being off grid means disconnecting completely from the main power source. This is only possible if you have dozens of solar panels installed in your home along with a high-capacity battery backup system.
In case of a power outage, the micro inverter should be able to automatically switch to off-grid mode and convert power from the local load or the battery backup system into usable electricity.
The only issue is that you can only use your micro inverter and battery backup system off grid for a short while on non-sunny days, at night, or during power outages. This is because most battery backup systems do not have the capacity to store a lot of energy that can last for long.
Popular solar panels with string inverters
If you prefer using a string inverter with your solar system, then look no further than the SMA Sunny Boy String Inverter. This premium inverter comes with distinctive features that guarantee a dominant performance.
One of the key features is the SMA ShadeFix optimization that provides maximum reliability and guarantees superior energy production.
Unlike other string inverters, the SMA Sunny Boy is rapid shutdown compliant for enhanced safety. It is also AFCI compliant and it allows for automatic resetting whenever needed.
Sunrun Alternatives: Popular solar panels with micro inverters
The Enphase IQ7X-96-2-US is one of the latest micro inverters in the market. The inverter is very simple to install despite its advanced features and performance.
It offers the highest maximum input DC voltage and it has a power factor setting of 1, putting it a class above the rest. It also has one of the highest CEC efficiencies at 97.5 percent and you can use it in wet locations without a dip in performance.
What is even more amazing is that this micro inverter is compatible with most types of solar panels, including Sunrun panels.
Sunrun solar panels use micro inverters and they are a popular choice for those who want to create a more reliable and effective solar system for their homes.
Although a bit pricey, micro-inverter systems guarantee uninterrupted performance even if one or two panels go out due to shading or other malfunctions.
The rest of the remaining panels will continue functioning at full potential, ensuring there is no dip in performance.