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ac solar panels

When buying a turnkey solar installation, a portion of your total cost is attributed to the labor required to set up your system. Manufacturers constantly innovate new technology to reduce installation time, work, and expenses. As a result, one type of solar panel is becoming increasingly popular throughout the solar industry: the alternating current (AC) module, or AC solar panel.

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AC solar panels (also known as AC modules), sometimes called "plug and play" modules, are solar panels that already have an integrated inverter. Manufacturers and distributors ship these solar panels with a microinverter already attached to the back of the panel.

Inverters are critical components of solar panel systems because they convert direct current (DC) electricity produced by solar panels into usable AC electricity for your home's use. AC modules convert the electricity to AC at each panel rather than traveling from the meetings to a central inverter. This conversion also happens at the panel site when you buy and install solar panels and microinverters as separate components. Still, many installers prefer AC modules because they're easier to store, transport, and install on rooftops.

Because the inverter is integrated into the panel, AC solar panels typically cost more than traditional inverter-less solar panels. That said, there are many benefits associated with installing AC modules that can make the initial investment worthwhile.

Easy installations

One of the most valued benefits of AC modules is the ease of installation. Because the inverter is already merged with the panel, installers don't need to spend time and energy carrying extra materials to the roof or manually connecting the individual components.

Additionally, installers can avoid spending time on DC wire management when installing AC solar panels. When solar companies pair solar panels with a central inverter, they need to secure all the wires and cables that connect them to the inverter(s) and ensure they're protected from the elements. "Plug and play" installations minimize wiring, contributing to much shorter installation times and thus potentially cutting down on overall labor costs.


AC solar panels typically have 25-year warranties for the panel and inverter components. This is not always true for other types of installations - while most solar panels have a production warranty of at least 25 years, many inverters today only have warranties that last 10 to 15 years. You'll get at least 25 years for both with an AC module. Though these panels often come with two different warranties from the individual component manufacturers, one manufacturer is usually designated as the point of contact for customer support should any maintenance issues arise.

Module level performance

Have you experienced turning on your Christmas lights in early December only to find out they're not lighting up? This can happen if only a single light on the string is broken. A similar problem can occur when your solar panels are hooked to a string inverter. If one panel on the string isn't producing electricity because of shading or a product defect, it will affect the performance of the other panels on that circuit.

Fortunately, you won't experience this issue with AC solar panels; because the inverters work independently of the rest, one inadequate solar panel won't impact the production of the rest in the array.

Because the panels operate individually, it also means that you can monitor the performance of each unique panel rather than evaluating the system's production as a whole. In some cases, this can mean quicker maintenance: if your solar panel system is underperforming, you can easily see if it's one particular panel causing the issue.

There are a few prominent solar equipment manufacturers currently offering AC modules - here are some of the more popular options:

Enphase AC Modules

Enphase, the most popular microinverter manufacturer in the solar industry, launched a series of AC modules with several different panel manufacturers, dubbed Enphase Energized modules. All of the panels use Enphase IQ microinverters that are pre-attached to different solar panels.

Enphase has partnered with several solar panel manufacturers to produce these AC modules, including Solaria (Power XT AC modules), Jinko Solar (Eagle AC), and LG (NeON 2 ACe). In early 2018, Panasonic partnered with Enphase to manufacture a new AC Series as part of its product offerings.

SunPower Equinox

SunPower developed residential AC solar panels for the SunPower Equinox system, the company's all-in-one home solar solution.

Previously, the company used its microinverter brand in these modules. However, in the summer of 2018, Enphase acquired SunPower's microinverter arm, further positioning itself as a leader in AC solar panels. SunPower's AC Modules will include their custom line of microinverters from Enphase.

As far as solar goes, there is never one size fits all: while there are several benefits to installing AC modules, there are other good options to consider when choosing your solar equipment.

If you have an easy solar installation that receives optimal amounts of sunshine and no shade throughout the day, a traditional string inverter is a perfectly suitable, lower-cost solution for your solar panel system.

Alternatively, if your primary motivations for installing AC solar panels are the module-level performance characteristics, it's always worth comparing AC module options with DC solar panels paired with microinverters or innovative modules (panels integrated with power optimizers) with these capabilities.

The best way to ensure you get the right solar equipment for the right price is to shop around. By registering on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive up to seven quotes from pre-screened local installers to compare. If you'd like to see offers including AC modules, note it in your account so installers can quote accordingly.

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