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Written on June 4, 2024
Microinverters and DC Optimisers

Microinverters VS DC Optimisers: Which is Better?

When considering a solar power system for your home or business, choosing the right components can feel overwhelming. Two popular options for managing the energy produced by your solar panels are microinverters and DC optimisers. 

At Lenergy we only use Microinverters or String Inverters, but the truth of the matter is, neither of these might not be the best fit for your solar installation. Both Microinverters and DC Optimisers have their unique advantages and potential drawbacks, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision that maximises efficiency and value for your specific setup.

With years of experience in solar energy solutions, we aim to provide clear and unbiased information to guide you through this decision-making process. In this article, you will learn about the differences between microinverters and DC optimisers, compare their performance and costs, and explore which option might be best suited to your needs.

Efficiency and Performance Comparison:

Microinverters are small devices installed on each individual solar panel and they convert the direct current (DC) produced by the panel into alternating current (AC) right at the source. By converting DC to AC at the panel level, microinverters can increase the overall energy yield, especially in installations where panels are oriented differently or subjected to varying shading patterns. AC wiring is typically simpler and safer than DC wiring, reducing potential safety risks of having high voltage DC current running across your rooftop.

Microinverters excel in optimising the performance of individual solar panels because each panel operates independently, so the overall system can perform better in conditions where shading, dirt, or obstructions might affect one or more panels.

Additionally, microinverters often come with advanced monitoring capabilities, allowing you to track the performance of each panel in real-time, which helps in identifying and addressing issues promptly. 

Ultimately Microinverters are a neat little package that do everything at the panel for you. 

The downside? Microinverters can be more expensive upfront compared to central inverters or DC optimisers.

microinverters vs dc optimisers

DC Optimisers
DC optimisers also enhance the efficiency of solar panels by adjusting the DC output before sending it to a central inverter. While they don’t convert DC to AC at the panel level, they do improve the overall system performance in several ways.

DC optimisers, similar to microinverters, maximise the performance of each panel individually, effectively mitigating the impact of shading and panel mismatches on the entire system. This panel-level optimisation ensures that each panel contributes its best possible output, enhancing the overall functionality and reliability of the solar array.

By ensuring each panel operates at its maximum power point, DC optimisers significantly boost the overall efficiency of the solar array. This is particularly beneficial in conditions where shading is intermittent or minor, as it allows the system to maintain high performance even when some panels are partially obstructed.

The DC to AC conversion in systems using DC optimisers happens at the central inverter. This centralised inversion allows the system to benefit from the efficiency of a single, high-performance inverter. 

The not so good news is:  If the central inverter fails, the whole system can be affected and in scenarios with complex roof designs or significant shading issues, DC optimisers might not perform as well as microinverters.

microinverters vs dc optimisers

Microinverter VS DC Optimiser, Comparative Analysis:

  • Shading and Orientation: Microinverters generally perform better in installations with significant shading or varying panel orientations. Their independent operation ensures that one panel’s issues don’t affect the others.
  • Energy Yield: Both systems can increase energy yield compared to traditional string inverters, but microinverters tend to provide a slight edge in scenarios with partial shading or complex installations.
  • Monitoring and Maintenance: Microinverters offer superior monitoring capabilities, making it easier to pinpoint and address specific panel issues. DC optimisers also offer panel-level monitoring but are dependent on the central inverter for overall system performance.
  • Cost Efficiency: DC optimisers typically have a lower initial cost than microinverters, which can be a deciding factor for budget-conscious installations. However, the higher efficiency and energy yield of microinverters can offset the initial investment over time.
  • Safety: Microinverters offer safer installation and maintenance conditions by using lower voltage AC wiring throughout the system. DC optimisers use higher voltage DC wiring, which can pose greater safety risks.
microinverters vs dc optimisers

Suitability for Different Scenarios

Microinverters are particularly well-suited for certain types of installations and conditions.
Here are some scenarios where microinverters might be the better choice:

Complex Roof Designs:

  • Varied Orientations: If your roof has multiple angles or orientations, micro inverters can optimise each panel individually, ensuring maximum energy production regardless of the panel’s position.
  • Shading Issues: In environments where shading from trees, chimneys, or other buildings is a concern, microinverters allow each panel to function independently, minimising the impact of shading on the overall system performance.

Smaller Installations:

  • Limited Space: For smaller installations where every panel counts, microinverters can maximise the efficiency of each panel, making the most out of limited space.
  • Future Expansion: Microinverters make it easier to expand your solar system in the future. You can add more panels without worrying about matching the string inverter’s capacity.

DC Optimisers
DC Optimisers are also advantageous in various scenarios, particularly for larger systems and installations with less complex shading issues:

Larger Installations:

  • Cost Efficiency: For larger systems, the lower initial cost of DC optimisers can be a significant advantage. They offer many of the benefits of panel-level optimisation without the higher cost of microinverters.
  • Centralised Management: Having a central inverter can simplify system management, making it easier to monitor and maintain large arrays.

Uniform Roof Designs:

  • Consistent Sunlight: In installations where the roof has a uniform design and receives consistent sunlight throughout the day, DC optimisers can enhance efficiency without the need for the higher cost of microinverters.
  • Minimal Shading: For environments with minimal shading, the benefits of micro inverters are less pronounced. DC optimisers can provide sufficient optimisation without the added expense.

Comparative Analysis

Flexibility and Scalability:

  • Microinverters: Offer greater flexibility for expanding systems and adapting to complex roof designs. Ideal for installations that may need future modifications or expansions.
  • DC Optimisers: Suitable for large-scale installations with a consistent design. Easier to manage and maintain in large arrays due to the centralised inverter.

Performance in Shading:

  • Microinverters: Perform better in shaded environments due to their ability to optimise each panel independently.
  • DC Optimisers: Still provide improved performance over traditional string inverters but may not be as effective as microinverters in heavily shaded conditions.
microinverters vs dc optimisers

So, What Will It Be?
Only you know your priorities for your solar installation. Consider your specific needs, installation environment, and long-term goals. Both technologies offer significant advantages and excel in different scenarios.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific circumstances. If you prioritise flexibility, individual panel optimisation, and future scalability, microinverters may be the right choice for you. If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution for a larger, uniformly designed installation, DC optimisers could be the better option. 

If you think a microinverter system may be the right choice for you, we would love to answer any questions you may have!