Homeowner Edition; 1.5 kW – 5 kW Inverters.
Baffled by choices? It’s especially tough when comparing quality and cost. Below is the Solar Review 3 best solar inverters of 2018 considering; specifications, adaptability, design, reliability and performance. As a bonus, the very close runner-up with one major advantage over all three.
In addition, discover which of the 3 best solar inverters of 2018 will best suit your particular scenario. The right solar inverter selection is pivotal, need to know information before committing to solar of any kind. After all, it defines how your power will be delivered and utilised.
As the world’s largest and longest-serving solar inverter manufacturer, SMA continues to build reliable quality solar inverter hardware under 2 main variants in the 1.5kW – 10kW range. The SMA Sunny Boy for single phase applications and the SMA Sunny Tripower for three-phase applications. 2018 is almost certain to become the year of the optimised solar panel if 2017 wasn’t that already. Considering SMA recently acquired a large stake in Tigo Energy, an SMA system owner can integrate Tigo monitoring capabilities through SMA Sunny Portal, arguably one of the best solar inverters supplied monitoring software available.
Or more to the point, the false news; SMA inverters are now made in China – FALSE. Only one variant is. The SMA Sunny Boy AV-40 range. A correspondence from SMA Australia to Solar Review stated: “all SMA solar inverters are designed and made according to the German quality standard irrelevant of the assembly location”. The good news is, the SMA Sunny Boy AV-40 range is one of the more advanced solar inverter technologies available for reliability, compatibility, communication and expansion. Almost every SMA Solar Inverter model remains to be made in Germany. Download the proof >
To back the claim of German product quality irrelevant of assembly location, SMA recently increased the product warranty of Sunny Boy solar inverter variants in Australia to match Fronius’s much adored 5+5 year product warranty. It’s important to mention that like the Fronius warranty, the additional 5-year product warranty is via activation and the system must be connected online to receive firmware updates during the 10-year period. The additional 5-years is a parts only warranty and applicable for activation until the 31st January 2018, expect this to be extended though as homeowners begin to expect a 10-year solar inverter warranty as the new normal for premium equipment.
SMA manufactures everything you need to control your future self-generated energy supply and recently took a major step, upscaling manufacturing capacity to satisfy an increased global demand. The investment in Tigo Energy has ensured SMA remain at the forefront of energy control with its already superior product range.
SMA represents good value for German quality standard solar inverters. As the world’s largest solar inverter manufacturer by reach, SMA continues to innovate with change. An investment into an SMA inverter for your future energy supply will not disappoint.
The must have inverter of 2017. An early adoption of Wifi connectivity, potentially the widest operational voltage window (SuperFlex design) and superior resilience in the Australian conditions, the Fronius suite of solar inverters has been the standout performer of recent years for both installer and homeowner.
- Reduce the size: The Fronius range of solar inverters are larger than the next generation, although the size allows for better ventilation, in 2018 the public will begin to expect sleeker, minimalist technology options from inverter manufacturers.
- Delete the screen: With the rise in WiFi connectivity of smart devices, LCD displays are already becoming a feature of the past. A major weakness for solar inverters are LCD screens often suffering premature failure due to fluctuating and unstable installation environments.
- Eliminate the moving parts: Although convection cooling is integrated within Fronius solar inverters there are still internal fans. Along with smaller, smarter technology, consumers will begin to expect almost no noise and virtually zero maintenance beyond 2018.
Expect Fronius’s 5+5 year product warranty to remain. Each year for the last 2-years. Fronius continue to rebuff the extended warranty offer. A major contributor of Fronius’s recent success. If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. Fronius won’t rush upgrading the Galvo, Primo and Symo inverters to compete with the new wave. Quite simply each model is proven to be the most reliable solar inverter technology on the market. The size and fan isn’t an issue for most as solar inverters are often installed out of the way in garages. Many people still love the ability of interacting with a device locally, therefore the display can be viewed as an advantage. Plus a recent affiliation with SolarWatt in 2017 now ensures that Fronius inverters are battery ready without the need for expensive hybridising of single phase variants.
Fronius have more recently begun expanding the intelligent side of their offerings. The Fronius Smart Meter is a household must have for monitoring energy import and export in conjunction with solar power production data through the Fronius Solar.web portal. To better optimise storage electric hot water run times in conjunction with excess solar energy production Fronius have recently developed the Fronius Ohmpilot. To be released in 2018, anticipate the arrival of the Fronius solar panel optimiser.
Huawei will shape the next generation of solar inverter technology. With products of such refinement, the manufacturing location is irrelevant. Huawei’s technical specifications alone are enough to make an industry professionals eyes water. Huawei is a mega global electronics manufacturer and if you haven’t heard of the Huawei name before in relation to solar inverter technology it was the worlds largest solar inverter manufacturer by volume in 2017.
Will Huawei solar inverters be able to cope in the enduring Australian climate? Specifications are one thing but reliability and performance are another. Although unknown by the mass installations yet to occur in the performance category, expect Huawei to surpass. Huawei SUN2000 solar inverters are built with a ‘less copper philosophy’. Less copper ensures better efficiency via the Huawei patented 5-level topology. Reliability will remain to be tested by the numbers over time.
2018 will be the year of the Huawei lead new inverter technology revolution. Visually pleasing, compact, super-efficient solar inverters built to do more than simply convert solar energy into usable energy. Think of the solar inverter as the foundation to your energy smart home. The main device which will facilitate a communications gateway for associated energy dependent devices with ease.
Huawei will raise the bar of what is expected from a solar inverter technology with big features, including AC coupled LG Chem RESU HV solar battery inputs and options for LTE communication capabilities, putting an end to WiFi connection issues. As energy fluctuations occur frequently, eliminating WiFi dropouts (communication issues) ensures your technically supported system is up to date with live system warnings, often critical information, allowing your technical support team to respond accordingly should a system fault develop, in-turn mitigating the effects of system downtime.
In a similar fashion to solar panel technology, the basic principals haven’t changed, they are refined and improved upon to increase efficiency. Huawei has done this to the inverter market. With a suite of offerings, including solar panel optimisers (soon to be released) Huawei have developed an exceptionally refined product built with the home of the future in mind.
Technically speaking, Huawei solar inverters are nothing short of brilliant when compared to the current offerings on the market. Only time will tell exactly how brilliant the Huawei solar inverter range is and therefore, only one minor uncertainty from a perfect score.
With solar 3.0 (300Wp and greater) becoming the norm in 2018 and alternative inverter manufacturers developing DC solar panel optimiser technology for less than the cost of a micro inverter system, where will Enphase fit in? The good news, Enphase has superior advantages even if the initial outlay in cost seems more expensive.
Enphase has one distinct advantage above all other central/string inverter type solar power solutions. The simplicity of an AC installation. Where installations have difficult access points, multiple orientations (greater than two) or if there is no good location for a central/string inverter, Enphase is the ideal solution. Australia’s regulations surrounding DC cabling requirements can add significant cost to a central/string inverter system to be installed correctly. A cost which can ensure an Enphase micro inverter solution as a more viable option. View the ideal Enphase scenario below.
Similar to Huawei, Enphase have the option to be relieved from WiFi dropouts with an LTE communications option. Although slightly underwhelming, Enphase also have an available battery option ready to connect.
Like most things in life, one size does not fit all. Enphase is a superb option to cater for the really odd and difficult sizes of life. Trying to force a central string inverter system onto an installation which should be adopting micro inverters is much like forcing a square peg through a round hole. You can make it fit but corners will be cut to adopt the solution.
Which suits you?
Single or multi-level home with an abundance of available roof area for solar panels, simple access for installation, no shading, and the ability to add batteries easily in the future if need be.
Take your pick: Huawei, Fronius or SMA. With the lower purchase cost of a central string inverter technology and the need for module-level optimisation obsolete, a central inverter is an ideal investment.
SolarWatt MyReserve, LG Chem or Tesla Powerwall 2.
Single or multi-level home with minimal available roof area for solar panels or future solar panel expansion, difficult access for installation, partial shading, and the ability to add batteries easily in the future if need be.
Enphase. The best inverter technology for optimum performance in less optimum scenarios. Enphase microinverters also reduce installation cost in difficult scenarios.
Enphase AC Battery or Tesla Powerwall 2.
Single or multi-level home with enough roof area for solar panels, simple access for installation, partial shading, and the ability to add batteries easily in the future if need be.
SMA (with Tigo Optimisers) or Huawei (with Huawei optimisers). When it comes to shading, module level optimisation is the key.
LG Chem or Tesla Powerwall 2.
Here’s the great news. Each inverter technology listed above has earned the respect of professionals within the solar industry and is exceptional in its own right. Buying either will avail you from future disappointment. It’s important to remember that each property is unique as to the individual preferences of the owner. Therefore which should you choose? Cost will always play a part in any final decision. There is no point though outlaying hard earned money on a capital investment with a product which delivers below expectation.
Get the right tools for the job. Seek advice from a reputable source to accurately evaluate your scenario and present options which work both beneficially and financially as no two scenarios are ever the same.
Got a different perspective?
Or believe an alternative inverter technology should have made the list? Then share your thoughts with the world below.