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Optimizers for solar panels: ¿Is it worth the money?

Optimizers for solar panels

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the specific needs of your solar panel system, the climate in which you live, the type and size of your solar panels, and your overall electricity needs.

In general, solar panel optimizers can increase the efficiency of your solar panel system by up to 15%, which can save you money on your electricity bills. However, solar panel optimizers are not always necessary, and they can be quite expensive.

Optimizers for solar panels

If you are unsure whether or not solar panel optimizers are right for you, it is best to consult with a solar panel specialist to determine if they are worth the investment.

In this article we will analyze whether it is worth investing in Optimizers for solar panelsPower optimizers are an interesting compromise between an inverter and a set of microinverters.

Although photovoltaic panels are casting the occasional shade, for example by falling leaves, this  egularny year  , the daily shade is the worst enemy of photovoltaic modules  . Not only does it reduce the efficiency, but it also increases the temperature and wears down the bypass diodes. You can read about Performance of photovoltaic panels

Power optimizer is an electronic device whose main task is to reduce the mismatch between current and voltage in a string of photovoltaic modules connected in series. It turns out that optimizers are useful in many situations. How and what are they used for?

Related:

What is a power optimizer?

How to choose the right inverter for my isolated solar installation?

Negative effects can be reduced by using Optimizers for solar panels. By reading this article, you will learn more about its working principle, prices and popular brands

How do Solar Panel Optimizers work ?

Power optimizers are small boxes with electronic components connected to individual installation modules. They  control the parameters of the current  generated by a given photovoltaic module so that it does not block the others, nor is it itself blocked by other modules. However, these are not standalone units like microinverters, but rather work in conjunction with an inverter. Therefore, they do not give as much freedom when designing the installation.

SolarEdge optimizers work a little differently than Tigo or Huawei optimizers. We will discuss these details later.

When is it worth investing in Solar Panel Optimizers?

First, let’s describe the  main problem with optimizers. – these are boxes full of power electronics, mounted on the ceiling, that is,  in a place that is difficult to access and exposed  to extreme temperatures, humidity, rain, etc.

While spotting a faulty optimizer is easy, replacing it is not. And while optimizer warranties are long, lasting up to 25 years, they  don’t include labor costs –  that is, optimizer replacement – just hardware cost. And any inspection of the roof should be avoided, because you don’t want anyone walking on the roof, unscrewing the modules (or worse yet, walking on them!) To get to the faulty optimizers underneath.

Just investing in Optimizers for solar panels gives you additional capabilities, but  more can go wrong  .

So why not save money and buy a regular series inverter?

We will discuss the main arguments of the sales representatives.

The optimizers for solar panels help you deal with shadow

This is  true  .

According to  instructions  from PVWatts, the US program to simulate the efficiency of a photovoltaic plant, optimization at the module level  reduces shading losses by 25-40%  .

In addition, the regular shadow cast by nearby objects can cause PV module failures – faster wear of bypass diodes and the formation of hot spots. Optimization reduces risk, but does not reduce it completely.

In any case, if the installation site is  shaded regularly  (and we are not talking about shading for an hour at 7am)  , the investment in optimizers is justified  . But it is  better to avoid the shade  anyway  How? For example, buying panels with greater efficiency (SunPower, LG, REC), making the installation smaller or eliminating the object that casts a shadow.

Optimizers increase fire safety

And this is  true  for some brands and solutions.

The point is that the direct current produced by the modules sparks easily and in a standard installation, even if you turn off the inverter, the voltage will still be present on the wires running through the ceiling. Although a  well-done installation will  almost certainly  not cause a fire  , it can increase the fire and make a rescue operation more difficult.

So if  security  is your  top priority  or you have a thatched roof,  consider SolarEdge optimizers  or any  microinverter  . Tigo does not offer this type of safety switch as standard.

Optimizers ensure the monitoring of the operation of each module

So you will quickly find out when one of them stops working, and in short,  there is no point in buying optimizers for the monitoring function  . Why?

First of all, what do you need it for? Most would say to be able to quickly detect which modules are not working. However, it doesn’t make sense for two reasons.

First of  all, the optimizer will break faster than the solar panel  . Panels are simpler, more durable, last much longer on the market, and generally reliable. The optimizers are still new. Mounting multiple complex devices to monitor the operation of single devices will  cause  failure  rather  than prevent it.

Second, you can control all the panels to function by looking at the voltage of a given string, which is possible with any conventional inverter. Installation voltage is subject to changes much less than, say, wattage. So if at 12 o’clock your installation usually gives 400V, and one day it starts giving 370V, a module has just stopped working.

Energy optimizers increase plant efficiency

In short,  no, they do not increase too much  , especially if there is no shading.

I mean, okay, according to the aforementioned instruction, they limit the losses associated with the shadow. However, if there is no shadow  , the Optimizers for solar panels can give you at most 2-3% more performance by accentuating the small differences between the power of the individual modules, and since each optimizer consumes some power, however, the difference it could be about 1%. It is not worth the price  and hassle.

Power Optimizer Price

Power optimizers are generally (there are exceptions) cheaper than microinverters, with Tigo and Huawei systems being cheaper than SolarEdge, mainly due to the ability to  selectively optimize  only those modules that are shaded.

The   total  cost of optimizers depends on the number of  photovoltaic panelsIn the case of an installation with 16 solar panels, the investment increases to 4,000 PLN. So are power optimizers worth the extra money? It depends, of course, on the circumstances. Consider some scenarios:

  • An unshaded installation  with cells of the same wattage, with all solar panels facing to one side, will have little benefit from energy optimizers. In this case, your purchase is not profitable.
  • An installation with changing shade  thrown through a chimney or pole requires power optimizers or microinverters to function properly. Shaded panels not only lose most of their power, but also quickly reduce the operation of the entire facility.
  • Installation with photovoltaic panels in different planes  here the devil is in the details, but I will try to simplify it: if you have an installation in two planes, a standard series inverter with 2 MPPT will work just as well as an inverter with optimizers. However, for complex 3- or 4-plane roofs, you probably need to invest in microinverters.

Now let’s analyze the main players in the market.

SolarEdge

SolarEdge has good products and excellent marketing.

Choose SolarEdge if:

  • You worry about the safety switch and monitoring
  • There is shading but not very extensive (there should always be 6 unshaded modules in a row)
  • You have an installation in up to two planes

For more details, see the  full SolarEdge review  .

You

Tigo is a brand that produces only Optimizers for solar panels for many years. They have a very good reputation in Australia, one of the oldest and most demanding markets in the world for photovoltaics. Tigo inverters can work with any inverter and it is possible to  selectively optimize  only those modules that are shaded. With the Tigo, you don’t have unnecessary elements on the roof that don’t make a difference in performance, but can break.

Also, Tigo’s optimizers work differently than SolarEdge. The latter work all the time: You only if there is shade. In my opinion, this translates to a lower probability of failure.

Reader question

Can Tigo optimizers be combined with modules of different power, for example 300Wp and 340Wp? You will find the answer  here  .

Unfortunately, additional functions such as monitoring or a safety switch require the purchase of additional equipment, and the guarantees for their operation are shorter.

Choose Tigo with selective optimization if:

  • You just want to counteract the effects of the shadow.
  • Especially when the shadow touches only a few installation modules (for example, it is cast by a chimney, tree, etc.)
  • You want a brand investor (Fronius, SMA)

We will write a full review of the Tigo in the future.

Huawei

Everyone knows about Huawei smartphones, but not everyone knows that this electronics giant is also the largest manufacturer of solar inverters in the world. These are the cheapest investors that can be included in the premium group.

Huawei also has  its own optimization system  . It differs from Solaredge in that you don’t have to install them on all modules, you can only install them on selected ones. It differs from Tigo in that it provides serial monitoring.

Overall, a very good option.

Choose Huawei if:

  • You want a Huawei brand investor
  • You have a hidden problem in your installation

We have reached the end of the article on Optimizers for solar panels, I hope the concepts are clear.