Ever wondered how energy is created and how it powers your home?

Traditional power sources utilize energy from coal, gas, or nuclear power. Whereas, alternative energy sources utilize natural resources such as sun, wind, or even water! With solar panels, the utilization of coal, gas and even nuclear energy are no longer needed to power your home! So, how do solar panels actually turn sunlight into energy?

As any homeowner from Pensacola to Petaluma likely knows, the process begins with solar panels collecting energy from the sun’s rays. Beyond that, however, you may have little knowledge about what happens to that energy, how solar panels connect with your existing energy system, or how solar power translates to usable electricity.

This transition is accomplished with a very important component of your solar energy system – the solar inverter.  So, what is a solar inverter and what does it do? What types of solar inverters are available and how can you make the right choice for your home and your needs?  Here’s what every homeowner should know about solar inverters.

What is a Solar Inverter?

A solar inverter is an essential component that connects your solar system and your home’s existing electrical system.  The purpose of an inverter is to take the direct current (DC) produced by your photovoltaic solar panels and convert that energy into an alternating current (AC).  Once this conversion is complete, the energy can then be utilized to power the electronics and appliances in your home. It’s the one component that ties your entire solar system together!

Modern inverters can do much more than performing simple conversions.  Depending on the model, the homeowners can utilize a variety of added features and benefits!  In fact, many come with advanced utility controls, applications, and data monitoring capabilities to help optimize your system. You may also have access to extra features like custom system design engineering, for example, not to mention ongoing maintenance, optimization, and repair services from the manufacturer or installer.

CleanPowerSF & Hetch Hetchy Basic$200/kW. Cap: 4.0/kW per meter.
Business:$200/kW. Cap: $10,000 per meter and $50,000 per service site.
Nonprofit/Municipal:$1,000/kW. Cap: $50,000 cap per service site.
Nonprofit Residential:$1,000/kW. Cap: $50,000 per service site.
Multi-Unit Residential Virtual Net Metering:$200/kW. Cap: $200 multiplied by the number of assessed units at the building plus $10,000. Under no circumstances will a building receive more than $50,000.
Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEM-A):$200/kW. Cap: $10,000 per meter and $50,000 per service site.

Different Types of Solar Inverters

Considering that the basic function of a solar inverter is simply to convert DC to AC power, you might be surprised to learn that there are several types of inverters to choose from!  Here are some pros and cons from three different types of inverters: There are approximately three different types of solar inverters and have pros and cons.

String Inverter

String or centralized inverters are the most common. You can usually find them and are found in small-scale solar power systems.  These type of inverters work by stringing together a series of solar panels and sending all the power to a centralized inverter for AC power conversion, which is circulated throughout the home.  The upside of this type of inverter is simplistic and incredibly affordable.

The downside to string inverters is that they are limited by the efficiency of your solar system.  If one or more solar panels aren’t producing as much power as others, the system’s production will be limited.  Whether you live in Phoenix, Petaluma, or other predominantly sunny climates, this issue shouldn’t be a problem. However, homes in cloudier areas that rely on the optimal use of sunlight, may not see as much production from their panels as other sunnier counterparts.


Microinverters are another type of inverter and offer an interesting alternative that utilizes smaller inverters, which then attach to each solar panel.  This type of inverter delivers optimal performance to each solar panel by converting DC to AC power at the source before funneling it into the home. This makes it easy to monitor the output of individual panels to spot problems.  However, the cost and maintenance associated with microinverters can be quite overwhelming. Often times they cost a considerable amount more than other types and require persistent consistent maintenance.


Power Optimizer

Power optimizers, on the other hand, provide somewhat of a middle ground between the two previously stated models.  With power optimizers, each solar panel is fitted with its own optimizer but the energy is routed to a single inverter for conversion.  The benefit is you can easily monitor and optimize the performance of every panel, paired with the convenience of a centralized inverter.

Optimizing Solar Power

Choosing the best inverter option for your home depend on several factors.  This includes your budget, the amount of sunlight in your region, the layout of your roof ( flat, south-facing versus north-facing, gabled roof) and so on.  The good news is, your preferred local solar provider can help you to weigh your options and choose the best inverter for your Portland, Pittsburgh, or even Petaluma home.  Get in contact with yours today!