Can You Use a Solar Panel Without an Inverter?

Solar panel inverters convert the energy gathered from sunlight into usable energy in our homes. Solar panels collect energy from the sun and inverters convert the energy into alternating current energy that powers your home’s appliances and electronics.

Solar panels cannot operate without inverters. Solar panels collect direct current energy that must be converted by an inverter to be used by the appliances and electronics in your home. 

To safely power your home with solar power, an inverter must be present in the system. Inverters convert electricity from solar panels into usable currents for appliances.  Read on to discover how solar panels use inverters and what types of inverters are on the market.

How Do Solar Panels Use Inverters?

Solar panels are composed of smaller units known as photovoltaic cells, which collect particles of light from the sun, and then separate electrons from atoms to generate an electrical current. The photovoltaic cells in a solar panel are made of two slices of silicon, which establish an electrical field between the slices using the particles collected from the sunlight.

More information on solar panel types: Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels – What’s the Difference?

In this process, the electrons that are knocked free of atoms produce direct current or DC energy. This is the point where your solar energy system’s inverter comes into play. Homes use alternating current or AC energy, so the inverter’s job is to convert direct current energy into alternating current energy. Without an inverter present to do so, the energy collected from your solar panel will be virtually useless to your home. 

What Is Direct Current Energy?

The direct current energy that is fed into the inverter is produced from the separation of electrons from atoms. Some small devices use direct current energy or an unbroken electrical current where all the electrons used to create the circuit move in the same direction. Small devices that pull power from a battery and feed it directly into a switch where electrical energy is transported use direct current energy. 

What Is Alternating Current Energy?

Larger appliances found in homes use alternating current energy, where energy comes from an outlet in your home and changes direction multiple times to power the appliance. These direction changes or cycles are represented by Hertz or Hz. When an appliance uses electric current energy, the number of cycles per second (Hz) represents the amount of electricity consumed by the appliance. 

What Types of Inverters Are Available for Solar Panels?

No matter the type, an inverter’s job is to convert the direct current energy collected in solar panels to the alternating current energy used in your home’s appliances. There are a few types of inverters that can do this job, so let’s look at each one and its advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Panel Systems Using String Inverters

String converters, also known as central inverters, are used in smaller systems. Imagine the solar panels on your home wired together in a string formation, all wired to the central inverter. The main inverters are string inverters. Energy collected from each solar panel moves in one direction, all to the string inverter usually mounted on the side of your home. 

String inverters are the most inexpensive option for your home while being extremely durable. Because they are typically mounted on the side of your home or in your garage within reach, they are the easiest to service and maintain. One disadvantage of string inverters is that if one solar panel isn’t collecting energy at a rate as high as the rest in the string, the entire string of panels can be affected. String inverters are fine for homes that have consistent roofing patterns with access to consistent sunlight. 

Solar Panel Systems That Use Microinverters

Microinverters are the opposite of string inverters. Instead of solar panels being connected in a string formation with a centralized inverter, each solar panel is connected to a small inverter. Microinverters immediately convert the direct current energy of each solar panel directly into the alternating current used in your home. The energy current is sent directly into your home rather than to a central inverter. 

Microinverters have the benefit of optimized performance, especially on complicated roofs with areas of frequent shading. They can convert the energy from a high-performing panel at an optimized rate to make up for frequently shaded panels. Microinverters are significantly more costly than string inverters and require higher maintenance, as there is a higher number of inverters and they are kept on the roof.

Solar Panel Systems That Use Power Optimizers

Power optimizers are a middle ground between string and microinverters. Power optimizers are similar to micro inverters as they are mounted on the roof alongside each solar panel to collect the energy immediately. The difference comes after the energy is collected by the power optimizer. Power optimizers don’t convert direct current energy into alternating current energy directly on the roof. 

Once energy is collected, it is sent to a central inverter to be converted into alternating current energy. These central inverters are typically mounted in easily accessible areas. Power optimizers come with similar disadvantages to microinverters in that they require more maintenance when mounted directly on the roof with each solar panel. The central inverter is still in an easily accessible place, making maintenance on that portion of the system much more accessible. 

Which Inverter Do I Choose For My System?

Which inverter you choose depends mostly on the layout of your roof and the ability to maintain the system easily. Not all homes are suitable for string inverters, and likewise, not all budgets can make room for the higher-priced microinverter systems. Maintenance and energy collection optimization are your main concerns when choosing an inverter for your solar energy systems. Let’s look at these variables and how they can influence your decision. 

The Layout of Your Roof May Not Support String Inverters

The layout of your roof, as well as how the sunlight hits it, may not support string inverters. Shade on one panel of a string inverter system can impact the amount of energy collected from the rest of the panels in the string. If you have a highly complicated roof pattern that has several consistently shaded areas, you may need to go with a microinverter or power optimizer system for solar energy.

High-Sloping Roofs May Make Maintenance Difficult

If you have a very high roof or one with a steep slope, you may find more benefits in the long run from a string inverter system. Since microinverters and power optimizers are mounted directly on the roof next to each solar panel, maintenance on any of them may prove to be extremely difficult. If your roof is exposed to consistent sunlight, a string inverter system will make maintenance more accessible by placing the inverter on the side of your home. 


Solar panels collect energy from the sunlight to produce a current that can power your home’s electricity and appliances. Inverters must be present to convert the direct current energy collected from the solar panel into the alternating current that powers your home. Without an inverter, many of the appliances in your home could not be powered by solar energy without modification.

Inverters come in three types:

  • String Inverters
  • Microinverters
  • Power Optimizers

String inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers are different forms of converting the energy collected from the sun into energy that can be used in your home. Each type comes with specific advantages and disadvantages that can be deal-breakers for some roof types. No matter what kind of inverter you choose for your system, the step to solar energy can be costly but beneficial.

More context and examples of solar inverters can be found in my post here: What is a Solar Inverter and How Does it Work?


Max Peters

Hi! I'm Max and I am passionate about off-grid solar technology and adventure! I'm using my knowledge of solar generators, solar panels, and everything in between to provide you with the best tools to keep you powered while off the grid. Read more about me here: About Max Peters."

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