Quick links to the 4 best inverter brands

Best solar inverters 2020

Updated: September 20, 2020

Our expert and consumer reviews of the leading brands of residential sized solar inverters show the best solar inverter to suit your home in 2020

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What does an inverter do?

Solar inverters are an integral part of every solar power system. They perform two key functions:

DC to AC conversion

All solar panels generate Direct Current (DC); a solar inverter is required to convert this into Alternating Current (AC), the form of electricity usable by your home.

MPP tracking

The operating conditions of solar panels - sunlight intensity and panel temperature - fluctuate throughout the day. This means that the possible solar panel voltage and current are always changing as well. In a process called Maximum Power Point (MPP) tracking, the solar inverter dynamically selects the exact combination of the two that will produce the most power.



Current-Voltage (I-V) Curve. This is an example of MPP tracking in action. Here, the solar inverter sets current & voltage to point b for maximum output.

Types of solar inverter

There are two categories to consider when deciding on the right solar inverter type: the solar inverter technology, and the type of solar power system the inverter is for.

Solar inverter technology

  • String inverter: A string inverter is a single, standalone unit that converts power from a whole string (or strings) of solar panels. String inverters are cheap and convenient, but tend to be the least efficient.
  • String inverter + power optimizer: Power optimizers are attached to each individual panel. They perform MPP tracking at the module level; the optimized DC power is then sent to the string inverter for conversion into AC power. Combining string inverters with power optimizers will increase your cost but allow your system to handle issues like shading better.
  • Microinverter: Microinverters are also attached to individual panels. They perform both MPP tracking and power conversion at the module level, allowing each panel to output usable AC power. They’re good at dealing with shade (like power optimizers), and have the additional advantage of making your solar system easy to expand. They are, however, the most expensive type of inverter.

Learn more: Inverter types compared

The type of solar power system the inverter is for

The solar inverter you choose will need to be compatible solar system type you are installing:

  • Grid-tied inverters are meant for grid-tied solar systems, the most common system type. They manage a two-way relationship with the grid, exporting solar power to it, and importing utility power from it as required.
  • Hybrid inverters are designed to work with hybrid solar systems (aka solar-plus-storage systems). They have the same functionality as a grid-tie inverter, but can also charge and draw power from a battery setup.
  • Off-grid inverters are used in off-grid solar systems, i.e. fully independent solar power systems, giving you back up power when the grid is down. An off-grid inverter requires a battery backup to function, and cannot be connected to the grid.

You can learn more about each solar power system type below

How do solar panels work?

Grid-tied solar system

Solar panels are mounted on your roof and wired together in groups called solar arrays. The power they generate flows into a solar inverter, where the direct current (DC) is converted into alternating current (AC). The electricity is then either used by your home or exported to the electric grid.

Off-grid solar system

Off-grid solar power involves meeting all your energy needs from the sun; there’s no utility to fall back on. The solar installation needs to power your home not just during the day, when the sun is shining, but after dark as well. This requires many solar panels, paired with a large battery system.

Hybrid solar system

In hybrid solar systems, rooftop solar panels are connected to both a solar battery and the electric grid. This reduces your reliance on the utility while also providing backup power when needed. Battery storage is still expensive but you may be able to reduce costs by using state incentives.

Top 4 inverter brands

Top rated grid tied inverters

Average inverter review score: 3.71

Average inverter cost per watt: $0.14

Top rated hybrid and off grid inverters

Top rated micro inverters and optimizers

Top rated string inverters

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