Are Solar Panels AC Or DC? | Everything You Need to Know

"Are Solar Panels AC or DC" feature image, with the text "AC vs. DC" in bold text over a background of solar panels

For a lot of us, part of deliberating how solar energy can be integrated into our homes is wondering if solar panels are AC or DC. It is, after all, crucial to how our appliances work, not to mention our own safety.

To cut to the chase, solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity. However, most household appliances and the electrical grid operate on alternating current (AC). Therefore, a conversion process within any residential solar system is necessary.

This brings us to the pivotal role of an inverter, and that’s only part of what we’re discussing today! That being said, listed below are the topics I’m covering. You can tap on any of the bullets to skip sections, but I recommend reading from the top. Let’s dive in!

Do solar panels produce AC or DC?

As stated, any solar panel will inherently produce DC power. This happens when sunlight interacts with the semiconductor in solar cells, stimulating the electrons and creating a flow of DC energy. This is how solar panels generate electricity.

The problem is that your home and the electrical grid are designed to use AC voltage, not DC. The solution? Convert the direct current (DC) from your solar panels into the alternating current (AC) that you and I use at home.

“How?” you ask. Well, through an inverter. The inverter converts DC power from your solar panels into AC.

This enables your solar energy system to power your appliances, lights, and other gadgets. You could even send your excess electricity back to the grid for credits (via net metering), saving you even more money.

What is the difference between AC and DC?

  • Direct current (DC): This power is characterized by a unidirectional flow of electrons, hence why it’s called “direct current.” DC is also the initial form of electricity that your solar power system generates.
  • Alternating current (AC): This type of power is defined by electrons that periodically reverse directions. Again, this is why it’s called an alternating current. It’s the preferred type of electricity for household and grid applications because it’s more efficient at traveling long distances and more adaptable to voltage changes.

So, to summarize, DC power is unidirectional, while AC electricity periodically reverses directions. Direct current is what solar panels originally generate, but it gets converted to alternating current soon after.

This circles us back to inverters.

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Types of solar inverters

Again, inverters are responsible for the DC to AC conversion that needs to happen. There are different types you can choose from, too. We have another article discussing them in full detail, but here’s a summary of the main types used in Australian homes:

  • String inverter: This is the most common type of inverter installed in homes. It’s also the most affordable and easiest to install and service. However, your PV system could suffer efficiency losses if even one solar panel isn’t performing optimally.
  • Micro inverters: These inverters are attached to individual panels. This means converting DC to AC is done individually rather than as a whole. This also means that suboptimally performing modules won’t affect the efficiency of the others. It’s more expensive, though.
  • Power optimizers: These are upgrades to the regular string inverter system. Power optimizers are also installed on every solar panel, so the inefficiency of one won’t affect the rest. It’s more expensive than just string inverters, but they’re also cheaper than micro inverters.

Other types you might come across include hybrid inverters, which are great if you also plan on installing a battery storage system, and a central inverter, which is generally used in larger systems.

There’s more to just choosing a type, though. You’ll have to balance your inverter and solar panels’ capacities, too.

Balancing inverters and solar panels

The output of your solar panels is measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). Each solar panel has a specific rating that tells you how much electricity it can produce under ideal conditions.

Inverters, on the other hand, have capacities that are also rated in watts or kilowatts. This capacity tells you the maximum amount of DC power it can convert at any one time.

Balancing both of these is important if you want to get the most of both. Too many solar panels and your inverter might not be able to handle all the electricity, resulting in excessive solar clipping. Too large of an inverter, and you also end up spending more money than necessary.

Each home is going to have specific needs, though. Ratings can only tell you so much without considering other factors such as roof orientation and shading. You can plan this yourself, of course, but if our network of pre-vetted professionals does it for free, then why not ask them for quotes?

Now, before we wrap this up, let me briefly introduce AC solar systems. This is the counterpart to the typical DC solar system.

What are AC solar systems?

Long story short, AC solar systems negate the need for a separate inverter.

This is a modern take on solar panels, whereby, instead of having large-capacity modern inverters, each solar panel now comes with its own microinverter that can convert DC directly from the panel.

This setup enhances efficiency by reducing energy loss over the long wiring of DC cables and offers improved performance under shaded conditions or when individual panels are oriented differently.

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Where can we utilize AC solar panels best?

AC solar panels are ideal for installations where efficiency and system simplicity are crucial. These panels excel in areas with partial shading or complex roof layouts because each panel operates independently, maintaining efficiency despite variable sunlight conditions.

AC solar systems are also well-suited for grid-tied systems, enabling easy energy feedback into the grid and compatibility with battery storage systems.

With all this said, it’s also important to note that traditional string inverters are still widely used and can be more cost-effective in large, unshaded installations. If you’re not sure which one is better for you, don’t be afraid to consult our installers. We’ll get you 3 FREE quotes!


In a nutshell, DC voltage is what solar panels originally produce. Your system’s inverter then converts this to AC power that the grid and your appliances use.

There are also multiple types of inverters that do the job, each with its own set of pros and cons. You will also need to balance the output of your solar panels with the capacity of your inverter to get the most out of both of them. This, in turn, saves you more money.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be better prepared to plan for your solar system. If you need more help, though, our network of pre-vetted solar installers is always ready.