The efficiency curve as seen in Figure 2 tells you in detail how an inverter will perform with your solar array at different output levels. This, in combination with the knowledge of how well your solar panel array performs throughout the day, will enable you to most accurately understand your inverter’s performance. Understanding your inverter’s efficiency curve will be especially relevant in case if you have oversized your inverter with the solar array output. Let us look at the different kinds of inverters available.
String inverters have been there a long time in the market and it is one of the oldest available options to date. These kinds of inverters are connected to multiple strings of solar panels. This kind of inverter is capable of handling multiple strings of solar panels. For commercial and residential applications, string inverters are typically rated between 1 to 100 kW. Peak efficiency is usually in the order of 96% or 98%. The size of the string inverter in kilowatts (kW) and the wattage of the solar panels you use will determine how many panels you can string to one inverter without wasting energy. String inverters are effective and affordable solutions for small-scale solar systems. When the panels have little to no shading, string inverters are best suited for these kinds of systems.
Microinverters or solar micro inverters in contrast to string inverts are connected to a single solar module to convert DC to AC. One of the main advantages over the conventional inverter is small amounts of shading, debris, or even a complete module failure, do not disproportionately reduce the output of the entire array. Each microinverters have maximum power point trackers in it (MPPT) which optimizes the power output of the solar panels. Monitoring and maintenance are easier as many microinverter producers provide apps or websites to monitor the power output of their units. Disadvantages include still a relatively new technology and there are only a small number of manufacturers. More expensive than string inverters and potentially only useful in situations where shading is a major issue.
Central inverters are high-capacity inverters designed to be used with large power station-sized solar systems like in a solar farm. It is like a large string inverter designed to handle more power and offer efficiencies/economies of scale. Central inverters are not used for residential solar systems as the name suggests all the module strings are merged to this one single inverter. Some of the advantages include low cost, more reliability as they are placed in protective environments and can produce much higher power. The main disadvantages include that since central inverters have a high rating of DC Voltage, it possesses a high-risk factor. It is also not easy to replace.
Generally, grid-tied inverters are designed for outdoor use, although most off-grid inverters are not weatherproof and are generally mounted indoors, close to the battery bank. As a rule, inverters designed for outdoor use may be installed either outdoors or indoors, however indoor inverters can only be installed indoors. The great majority of grid-tied or string inverters available today are designed for outdoor installation. All major manufacturers have their products protected from wind, rain, snow, or additional protection against corrosion dust, etc. When choosing the site for installing an inverter, it is essential that the environmental conditions specified by the manufacturer be maintained. There are both temperature and humidity requirements for these devices. The ideal installation site for inverters is cool, dry, dust-free, and indoors. However, there are a growing number of applications for which this is impractical or undesirable. With an appropriate system design, an outdoor inverter installation can be a reasonable and successful option.