For any solar system to power a building, it must convert the electricity produced from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC). To facilitate this process, your solar provider will install your solar panels along with an inverter.
It is the inverter that does all the work of converting the power produced by your solar panels into the form of electricity that your residential or commercial property can use.
Choosing the right inverter technology can make all the difference in ensuring you enjoy full capacity power. This brings us to the big question: do Tesla solar panels have micro inverters?
Do Tesla solar panels have micro inverters?
No. Tesla solar panels DO NOT have micro inverters. Instead, they use a central string inverter to convert Direct Current into Alternating Current. The inverter used by Tesla consists of a central inverter box with multiple strings that connect to each solar panel.
Each string funnels the direct current produced by your solar panels directly to the central inverter box where it is converted into alternating current to power your property.
Until recently, Tesla relied on solar inverters from other providers, particularly SolarEdge, since their units came with optimizers.
But in January 2021, Tesla launched their own solar inverter to compete with the top players in the industry.
The inverter, which is a standalone string inverter, connects easily to Tesla’s rooftop solar tile system and it is compatible with Tesla’s Powerwall batteries.
What makes this string inverter by Tesla different is that it integrates easily into an existing solar ecosystem.
Moreover, it has its own monitoring system and it is compatible with the Tesla app designed for all their connected products.
The inverter is also compliant with Rapid Shutdown requirements as stipulated by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for added safety.
The Tesla solar inverter is available in two different sizes, including 3.8 kW and 7.6 kW. These two models are designed for standard solar system sizes.
However, they are stackable and it has four maximum power point trackers (MPPT), which means you can add as many as four other independent inverters to meet the output of your solar system.
Read: Does Sunrun Use Microinverters? (Alternatives)
What are micro inverters?
A micro inverter is a plug-and-play device that converts direct current into alternating current. Unlike traditional inverters that connect the entire solar system to a single converter box, micro inverters are installed on each solar panel.
In essence, each solar panel has its own inverter installed underneath it. The output of each microinverter is then combined and fed to the electrical grid.
Micro inverters isolate each panel in a solar system from one another. This means if one panel fails due to shading, snow, debris, or other malfunctions, then the entire solar system does not have to stop generating electricity.
The micro-inverters underneath the other panels will continue drawing power and converting it into electricity.
Micro inverters vs. String inverters
In case you didn’t know, your home or property can only run on alternating current but all solar panels can only produce direct current.
This means you need an inverter to convert the direct current into alternating current, thus allowing connections to the grid.
You have two options when it comes to choosing the ideal inverter. You may go with central string inverters or opt for micro inverters.
The difference between micro inverters and string inverters is like day and night. A solar system using micro inverters will have the same number of inverters as the solar panels.
For instance, if your home has six solar panels, then it will have six micro inverters installed underneath each panel. Conversely, solar system that uses a string inverter will only have one inverter for multiple solar panels.
All the solar panels in a string inverter system connect to one inverter.
With a micro inverter, each panel works independently while with a string inverter system, all panels are connected to each other through a single inverter.
If one panel fails, a solar system using micro inverters will continue operating as usual with the rest of the panels performing at full capacity while the one using a string inverter will stop working completely or experience a drop in performance.
What are the pros of micro inverters?
- Uninterrupted performance
The main benefit of using a micro inverter system is the uninterrupted performance. In case one solar panel fails or is affected by obstructions, you can expect the rest of the solar panels to continue performing at their fullest capacity.
Moreover, solar systems using micro inverters yield more electricity since the output of all micro inverters are combined before being fed into the grid.
- Easy system expansion
Expanding an existing solar system can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are using a single string inverter. You have to disconnect and detach all the panels before adding your new panel to the system.
However, this is not the case with micro inverter system. You can easily add a panel and micro inverter pair to the system without having to disassemble everything.
Then again, micro inverters are suitable for challenging solar installation. For instance, if you want to install tilted solar panels with some facing west and others south, then using a micro inverter system is your ideal option.
- Rapid shutdown compliance
One of the safety requirements of the National Electrical Code is that all solar systems must have rapid shutdown capability.
This ensures that first responders, fire fighters, and service professional are safe from high voltage in case they need to access the rooftop. The good news is that micro inverter systems comply with these requirements.
- Panel level monitoring
With a micro inverter system, you are able to monitor the output of each, individual solar panel. This makes it easy to know which solar panel is malfunctioning or which one requires servicing.
- Extended lifespan
Unlike standard string inverters, which have warranties that last for only 12 years, micro inverters come with 25-year warranties. The long warranty period clearly shows that micro inverters are built to last!
What are the cons of micro inverters?
Micro inverters do not come cheaply. The fact that each panel has its own micro inverter further inflates the entire cost of installation even for a standard residential solar system.
- Redundant hardware
The amount of hardware that you have to install when using micro inverters might seem redundant since each panel has its own inverter installed underneath it. This might not be the ideal option if you have a small rooftop.
Moreover, micro inverters can sometimes act as lightning rods and might pose a great risk if you reside in storm-prone areas.
- High maintenance
Maintaining a solar system that uses micro inverters can be a huge challenge. If one of the inverters fails, you may have a hard time detecting it. Servicing or replacing the malfunctioning inverter can also prove to be a problem.
Are micro inverters better?
Micro inverters are certainly better in terms of functionality and performance. However, the high cost of installing and maintaining the inverters does not help matters.
If you have multiple inverters in your solar energy system, then you might struggle to maintain them all and keep them in top shape.
Moreover, you can only access panel-level data rather than the high level of monitoring that you need. For this reason, it is always a good idea to explore what single string inverters like Tesla have to offer.
Can micro inverters be used off grid?
Yes. Micro inverters can work off grid. However, for the inverter to be used off-grid, it must store energy in batteries. In essence, the electricity generated by your solar panels is captured and stored in a battery backup system.
When there is any interruption of power supply from the grid, the micro inverter will automatically switch to off-grid mode and convert power from the local load or the battery backup system and ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity to your home.
Popular solar panels with string inverters
Tesla Solar Single Inverter
The Tesla Solar Inverter combines the premium features of both string and micro inverters to produce a distinct inverter to fit your power needs. It is available in two different sizes of 3.8 kW and 7.6 kW, and you can install in indoors or outdoors depending on your installation preferences.
The inverter is also compatible with the popular Tesla Powerwall for off-grip performance and Tesla app for easy monitoring.
Popular solar panels with micro inverters
Enphase Solar Micro Inverter
Enphase micro inverters are a great option for those looking for higher performance and unmatched reliability. The inverter works with high-power and bifacial solar panels, making it the perfect choice for any home or commercial solar system.
Given that the inverters are plug-and-play, they do not have a complex installation process and they plug in directly into the Engage cable.
Tesla solar panels do not use micro inverters. However, this does not take away the advantages that Tesla single solar inverters have to offer.
The company has incorporated the benefits of both string and micro-inverters to produce an inverter that is affordable, effective and easy to monitor.
Above all, their inverters are rapid shutdown compliant, so you can rest assured that they are safe to use with most types of solar systems.