The title for best grid-tie solar inverter has never been closer as many of the top manufacturers release advanced new models with clever online monitoring and smart grid capabilities. The hype around home battery systems has also been huge but it is early days for batteries and most solar installations still need a dedicated solar inverter. Even the much anticipated Tesla Powerwall 2 with its inbuilt inverter requires a separate solar inverter to work with a solar array.
This review is focused on string solar inverters which are the most common type of inverter used in Australia and Europe. Micro inverters are also popular, especially in north America, and although slightly more expensive they do have some advantages over string inverters. Learn more about micro-inverters here.
Basic layout of a string solar Inverter system
The solar inverter is the most sophisticated part of any grid-tie solar system and unfortunately it is also the part most likely to have issues. This is not surprising considering string inverters are generally located outside under harsh weather conditions including rain, humidity and extreme heat, all while generating thousands of watts of power for up to 9 hours a day. This is why it’s important to use a quality inverter and mount it in a sheltered location if possible.
Due to the harsh environmental conditions it is likely that many inverters will experience a fault at some point during their lifetime, which should be 10-20 years. Solar panels can also develop problems over time which can result in poor performance but unlike a faulty inverter this will generally not result in complete system shutdown. With this in mind it is worth while paying the additional cost for a reputable manufacturer (one which has been in good business standing for 5+ years and with extend warranties if available.) SMA has ranked on top of the list for many years due to the low failure rates and high quality service as they usually ship replacement units in 3-5 business days. Many of the lesser known ‘value’ brands will only repair a faulty unit if it is shipped to them (at the owner costs) and returned which often takes several weeks and sometimes months. This will have a much greater financial impact due to system downtime.
SELECTION CRITERIA for Best Solar Inverters 2017
- Quality & Reliability
- Service & Support
The above criteria was used to determine the best solar string inverters available on the market together with continuous feedback from solar installers and industry specialists. Note this comparison is focused on the common grid-tie solar ‘string’ inverters (single phase) although the larger commerical 3-phase inverters from the same manufacturers are equally well regarded.
TOP FIVE BEST SOLAR INVERTERS 2017
- Fronius – Primo & Galvo range
- SMA – New Sunny boy range
- SolarEdge – SE range
- ABB – New UNO range
- SolaX Power – New X1 range
One of the biggest surprises among the previous top inverter manufactures was the decision by Bosch to pull out of solar altogether. The Bosch solar inverters were impressive with a high build quality and unique features so the reason behind Bosch’s decision to pull out of solar is unknown.
Another surprise was the decision by SMA to manufacture the new range of sunny boy AL & AV inverters in China. SMA was traditionally the standard against which other inverter manufacturers were measured so it will be interesting to see how the new SMA inverters hold up to the competition. This may prove more difficult as SMA has also taken the risky move of not including a display panel on the new inverter range and instead relying on wifi communications for setup and monitoring.
At present there are only four ‘Premium’ inverter manufacturers on the market – SMA, Fronius, SolarEdge and ABB.
SolaX Power is a relatively new Chinese manufacturer and as yet only produce value level inverters, although the new model range soon to be released could move them closer to the premium level.
Fronius Inverters have surged in popularity since the release of the snap-in design around 2 years ago. The high-end Austrian manufactured inverter range has definitely become the inverter of choice for many domestic and commercial solar installations. Although customers are also raving about the performance and monitoring features, plus the reliable customer service from Fronius in Australia. Although the high demand for these premium inverters has resulted in some supply issues and quality problems were recently raised possibly due to rushed testing/inspections during manufacture. Although any issues have been promptly corrected, and with the 10 year extented warranty period the Fronius range is now considered the industry leader.
One of the clever features is the integrated solar DC isolator which means an external isolator box is not required, resulting in a much neater installation. Also the unique snap-in design makes servicing and installation very simple.
Wifi monitoring comes standard with all inverters via the Fronius Solar.Web. The addition of a separate Fronius Smart meter enables monitoring of energy generation and consumption and can be used as a complete home energy monitoring system. A free solarweb smart phone app is also available for android of iOS.
See full Inverter specifications here
Best Solar Inverters 2017
Source: Clean Energy Reviews http://www.cleanenergyreviews.info/blog/best-grid-connect-solar-inverters-sma-fronius-solaredge-abb