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Did you know that solar panels are not the only component of a solar system? One crucial part is the inverter, which converts the electricity produced by solar panels into usable energy for your home....

Did you know that solar panels are not the only component of a solar system? One crucial part is the inverter, which converts the electricity produced by solar panels into usable energy for your home. AC solar panels, equipped with microinverters, eliminate the need for a central inverter. However, they can be pricier than conventional panels. In this article, we delve into the workings of AC solar panels, their pros and cons, and highlight popular brands.

What are AC solar panels?

AC solar panels have microinverters attached to each panel. Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity, while most homes use alternating current (AC) electricity. The inverter converts DC electricity into AC power. With microinverters, the conversion happens at each panel, and the AC power is sent directly to your home. Installing microinverters individually is an option, but AC solar panels come with them built-in.

What brands of AC solar panels are available?

AC solar panels are increasing in popularity. Major solar panel manufacturers like Solaria, Qcells, SunPower, and LG offer AC module options.

Solaria PowerXT Pure Black

Solaria PowerXT Pure Black AC solar panel

Solaria has partnered with Enphase, a popular solar inverter manufacturer, to create AC modules. Solaria's Power XT Pure Black monocrystalline panels are known for their sleek, all-black look. They offer two options: a 355-watt panel and a 365-watt panel, both equipped with an Enphase IQ7+ microinverter.

Qcells Q.Peak DUO BLK-G6+/AC

Q CELLS Q.Peak DUO BLK-G6+/AC

Qcells is another reputable brand for residential solar installations. Their AC module is available in two power ratings: 340 watts and 345 watts, using the same Enphase IQ7+ microinverter as Solaria.

SunPower Maxeon 5 AC

SunPower Maxeon 5 AC

SunPower, known for high-efficiency panels, has partnered with Enphase to create AC solar modules. The Maxeon 5 AC offers a power range between 400 and 415 watts, with efficiencies up to 22.2%. Each module is equipped with an Enphase IQ7A microinverter.

The pros and cons of AC solar panels

AC solar panels come with advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look:

Advantages of AC solar panels

Easy installation

AC solar panels are known as "Plug and Play" because they are incredibly easy to install. Unlike conventional panels that require extensive DC wiring to connect to a central inverter, AC panels simplify the process, reducing labor and materials.

Reduces impact of shading

Shading on one solar panel affects the output of other panels in a system with a central inverter. AC solar panels overcome this issue. If one panel is shaded, the rest continue to operate normally. This increased independence ensures optimal energy production.

String inverter vs. AC solar panels

Better for complex installations

Conventional systems require panels to be installed in the same orientation for connection to a central inverter. AC solar panels can be installed anywhere on the roof, providing greater flexibility for complex installations that require panels on multiple roof planes.

Higher solar energy production

AC solar panels can enhance electricity generation. Microinverters attached to each panel maximize solar production through maximum power point tracking (MPPT), increasing the system's power generation by 5 to 10%.

Easy future expansion

Expanding a solar system often means adding more solar panels. With AC solar panels, there is no need to worry about overloading a central inverter. You can simply connect more AC panels without any hassle.

Microinverter connected in the factory

While traditional solar panels paired with microinverters offer similar benefits, AC panels have an advantage in terms of reliability. Because microinverters are factory-installed on AC solar panels, the risk of errors in the connection process is minimized.

Disadvantages of AC solar panels

Cost

AC solar panels are usually more expensive than conventional ones due to the inclusion of the inverter. However, the overall installation costs might be lower since they are easier to install, resulting in reduced labor expenses.

Exposed to elements

Having multiple inverters on the roof makes them more vulnerable to the elements. While microinverters are designed with this in mind, there is still a greater risk of weather-related damage compared to traditional systems.

Difficult to access for repairs and maintenance

In the event of a repair, servicing AC modules can be challenging. Identifying the faulty inverter among the many on the roof can be time-consuming. It may also require a professional to inspect each panel individually, adding to the cost and inconvenience.

Are AC solar panels right for you?

AC solar panels are ideal for homes with complex solar system designs, allowing for installation anywhere regardless of orientation. They are also beneficial if parts of your roof are frequently shaded, as the rest of the system will continue to generate energy unaffected. Most AC solar panels on the market are from reputable Tier 1 manufacturers, ensuring reliability and performance. However, keep in mind that inverters are prone to failure, and the presence of multiple microinverters may pose challenges for repair and maintenance. If you're considering an off-grid installation, conventional PV panels might be a better choice. To determine the right solar panels for your home, it's advisable to obtain quotes from local solar installers. This will not only help you identify the system that suits your needs but also find the most cost-effective option.

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