As more and more homeowners are turning to solar energy to either combat constantly rising electricity costs or to have a positive impact on the environment or even a combination of both there is a lot to learn. The homeowner enters a jungle of information, often overwhelming with both good straight forward information, but also confusing and misleading information.
The research is often complicated by ads, a lot of the information about inverters is written by the inverter manufacturer comparing their say string inverter to another company’s micro-inverter or visa versa. The problem many homeowners have that the information is confusing, overwhelming and one sided. Let’s dive into sort of a review and comparison of some of the top inverters in the business today.
How to Choose the Best Solar Inverter for Your Home
My hope is that I can help you learn more about the popular inverters by giving you information from an installer’s experience point of view. We don’t have any affiliation with any of the inverter manufacturers and therefore simply use our experience to guide you.
You see, here at Solartime USA we offer several equipment options and thus have experience with string inverters as well as the popular micro-inverters.
We have been in business for over a decade and have experience with the different types of inverters, we offer any type of inverter that you prefer, of course we gladly advise you according to our experience.
Let’s dive into what the inverter does, it is a critical part of any solar system since it is needed to convert the direct current (DC) electricity that your solar system generates into alternating current (AC) that is used to power your home’s appliances.
Solar Inverter Types
Now let’s look at a couple of different inverter types for starters.
String Solar Inverters
You have likely heard of string inverters and micro inverters. Where string inverters simply put consist of a string of solar panels connected to an inverter, you can picture it sort of like a string of light bulbs connected to each other through a string. In the case of solar panels each panel in the string sends the produced energy into the inverter via the string. This type of inverter is very popular and the most common inverter world-wide.
The micro inverter, which has become very popular in the US in recent years means that each solar panel has its own inverter, a micro version of the string inverter. The big selling point for micro inverters is that unlike a string inverter if one inverter goes out you only loose production on one solar panel, whereas in a string inverter if one panel in the string has an issue production of the entire string is compromised…I will dive into this very point a little more later on. Another thing to point out about micro inverters is the cost factor, micro inverters typically run about $1000 + than a string inverter on a typical 5kW residential solar installation.
There are also Hybrid/battery ready inverters which basically combines two separate components, the inverter as a hybrid grid-tied or a battery-based inverter into one single equipment piece. This type of inverter allows you to install your solar system, add battery storage now, or later. Whereas a traditional inverter would require the installation of a battery-specific inverter to convert back and forth between AC/DC current for battery storage and discharge.
Off-Grid inverters need a battery bank to function, as the name states using this type of inverter means you are not tied to your local utility’s grid power system. This, although a great idea is still a very expensive option, the battery storage needed is very costly and most utility companies buy back your over-produced energy. Some utility companies offer net metering meaning the buy back the energy at the same rate they charge you for the energy, but even at a slightly lower buy-back rate it is much more cost effective than purchasing battery storage.
Top 5 Solar Inverter Brands on the Market
So, now that we have a little more background on the different types of inverters let’s see what the top 5 best solar inverters for 2020 are:
- Fronius Inverters
- SMA Inverters
- Solar Edge Inverters
- Huawei inverters
- Enphase micro-inverters
Fronius has reached popularity for it’s unique snap-in design that makes installation and servicing easier, and has an integrated solar DC isolator which eliminates the need for an external isolator box and it features a built-in smart grid that integrates easily with even complex grids. This is a high-quality inverter with high performance, good monitoring and fantastic customer service and carries a 5-year warranty that can be extended to 10 years free of charge when the customer registers the inverter online, their efficiency is 97 to 98%.
SMA inverters by SMA Solar Technologies are a German manufacturer known for its proven track record of providing good quality, reliable solar products and inverters, they have manufactured solar components since 1981. SMA’s customer service is outstanding their inverters come with a 5-year warranty that, depending on the model has the option to be extended to 10,15 and 20 years. The warranty includes all the cost of shipping and on-site replacement in case of an unlikely event of failure. SMA has many web-based monitoring software packages for customers to use as well.
3. Solar Edge
Solar Edge manufactures a unique “intelligent inverter system”, it uses DC optimizers to perform monitoring at each plane level, and it maximizes power generation. The DC optimizers used by Solar Edge allow longer strings of panels and increases safety, reducing the effect of shading and panel faults. The initial setup and installation cost and time are higher compared to regular string inverter systems, solar edge inverters provide added benefits such as layout and design flexibility, shade tolerance, panel level monitoring and efficient troubleshooting. Solar Edge has 25 years of warranty on its power optimizers and 12 years warranty on all the inverters, which can be extended up to 20-25 years.
Huwai is one of the largest manufacturers of solar inverters globally and the very first residential inverter manufactured by Huawei is SUN2000L which is small and lightweight weighing only 10.6kg. Different size availability ranging from 2 to 5kW. Like Solar Edge HD wave inverter, SUN2000L uses optimizers for plane level optimization and monitoring, it can function with or without the optimizers. Optional optimizer technology, LTE communication, a built-in battery interface, innovative design, and a 10-year warranty and hybrid inverter with a built-in high voltage DC-coupling battery interface that is compatible with reputable LG Chem batteries however there is no backup power supply available yet.
Enphase, the most popular and reputable manufacturer of micro-inverters in the solar industry has its headquarters in the US and is considered a global leader in the micro-inverter industry. Like solar power optimizers, Micro-inverter works on panel-level resulting, improved performance, and safety. Micro-inverters are more efficient as compared to solar edge power optimizers due to their intricate design however micro-inverters have a high upfront cost. Although micro-inverters are popular, one of their drawbacks is that in case of a problem accessibility becomes an issue. Regular inverters can usually be accessed without inconvenience to the homeowner or any major issues for the technician, whereas microinverters mounted under a panel on the roof requires a lot more work to be done and the homeowner must be present to grant access. Enphase micro-inverter are not compatible with the Tesla Power wall, but it manufactures a battery product that can be used in conjunction with its micro-inverter. Enphase provides 25 years of warranty with its micro-inverters.
Reach Out to Solartime for Your Solar Installation Needs and Questions!
Here at Solartime USA we work with SMA a lot, we offer all inverter brands, however our favorite is SMA, we couple SMA inverters with optimizers for each panel, allowing your system to function as though it has microinverters with more stability, easier access in case of mal function and more cost effective than micro inverters. Our experience with SMA has been fantastic, the customer service is above par.
When you are looking for solar panel installation in Dallas, TX. it is very important to look for a local company such as Soalrtime USA. We are a turn-key Dallas solar company with the expertise and experience to give you solid feed back and help you make an informed decision and one that is with you through installation and way beyond. For help deciding on solar panels, inverters and everything else that comes along with going solar call (972) 675-7725 or contact us online. We are happy to help and make going solar a hassle free process for you, we’d love to have you become part of our Solartime USA family.