Solar Inverters: What You Need To Know

solar inverter

As soon as you start shopping for a solar system, you’ll find lots of different prices with a lot of different brands.

With prices for the same size system varying up to $3000, things get confusing quick.

You’ll start seeing brands such as Fronius, SMA, Solaredge, Solis, Solax, Sungrow, plus another dozen or so.

The hard part is knowing which is the best for you. 

Everyone selling an inverter will have a slightly biased opinion but oftentimes, a good one. (As long as they are honest)

Solar Brands: Separating The Competition

Most people will see Fronius mentioned a lot. Apart from its catchy name, it’s also one of the top brands in the world. 

But, that doesn’t mean you need it and it doesn’t mean the others aren’t quality. 

Here are some popular brands that are circulating at the moment. We’ll highlight who we use and why. The brands we don’t recommend have failed to meet our standards. 

Fronius: 

This is like buying an iPhone. They’re expensive but high quality. The company will honour your warranty and isn’t going away. They also pack loads of great features. Noone regrets buying a Fronius. 

SMA:

This is your Samsung. Those that have them, swear by them. Not only are they packed with great features, but they have also been around for a long time. They’ve cemented their place in the industry and are very efficient inverters. The customer service in Australia is also very helpful.

Solaredge: 

These are like buying a Google Pixel. Extremely innovative with a price tag to reflect that.

Anyone that uses Solaredge is committed to getting the most out of their inverter and likes the extra features this inverter comes packed with. A lot of Solaredge customers would never consider switching brands.

These are the 3 brands we use. A quick Google search of these brands and you’ll understand why. 

Below are a few popular brands that we don’t use.

Solis: 

This is like buying a Xiaomi mobile phone. It seems like a bargain and the brochure looks great but once you buy it, you understand why it was so cheap. Similar to the mobile phone, these systems can get warm and are not very efficient. If you’re on a strict budget, then this system might work for you. It comes in nearly $2000 cheaper than the brands above. 

Solax:

Solax is another that comes in $2000 cheaper but it can be gamble buying this one. While it may have some good features, don’t expect this inverter to last as long as the top 3 brands. Getting the installer to honour your warranty can be tough (same with Solis). A lot of the installers that sell these inverters tend to go out of business faster than most. If the installer has gone out of business, you’ll need to contact Solax directly.

Goodwe:

This is another cheap brand. Although not as cheap as the Solis and Solax, it’s still significantly cheaper than the top brands. This is similar to buying an Oppo smartphone. It’s affordable yet packed with features. It’s a brand that’s constantly improving but doesn’t have the confidence of most solar installers yet. Those that use it are often happy with their purchase but Goodwe still has lots of room for improvement. 

Let’s Get Technical: 

It’s great to make simple comparisons like above but if you want to know more, then keep reading. 

Types Of Inverters:

String Inverters: These are the most common ones and are used in most home systems. The term string refers to connecting multiple panels to one inverter.

Central Inverters: These are used on large solar farms or systems over 500kW.

Microinverters: These are tiny inverters attached to each panel. They optimize each panel to deliver more energy, especially in shady conditions.

Hybrid Inverter: This is an inverter that connects your panels to a battery system.

Battery Inverters: If you want to add a battery to your current system, you’ll need a battery inverter. 

Cost: 

As inverters are bundled in with panels to create a price for an entire system, it can be hard to tell the true cost.

If you want a high-quality inverter, they start at $2000. Basic ones start at $1000, and the nasty ones are less than $1000. Don’t buy the nasty ones. The cheap ones are often sold in a system for $3000. They don’t last just like the dodgy company selling them.

Is It CEC Approved?:

The Clean Energy Council does a good job filtering out a lot of rubbish but they aren’t perfect. They do their best but some systems in their list would never be on ours. The cheaper systems we listed above were approved by them, but wouldn’t be approved by a lot of installers. 

The systems have met a basic standard to be approved. At the end of the day, some people want a cheap system so the CEC caters to that.

The CEC inverter list is a place to start but not a list to live by.

What Size Inverter Do I Need?:

Most people would think a 6kW system would use a 6kW inverter. Sounds logical right?

Well, a 6kW system of panels very rarely produces 6kW of power. For this reason, most systems are fitted with a 5.5kW inverter.

If you were thinking of adding more panels in the future, a larger inverter might work for you. We sometimes advise those getting smaller systems to get a larger inverter because they are often the same price. This way they can upgrade later for a far cheaper price.

As a general rule, the inverter should closely match your system. Always remember to get more than 1 quote. Some installers are great at installing but not good at explaining things. Multiple quotes will get you the best price and more knowledge.

Can It Survive The Elements?:

An inverter is a complex unit of lots of little electrical parts that are prone to corrosion if not protected properly. In Queensland especially, ensuring your unit is protected from the elements is vital. Salt corrosion is a big issue if you live near the coast. Always ask your installer if your unit will be safe.

Does It Have A Solid Warranty?:

Warranties on inverters are often between 5-10 years. Most start at 5 with options to purchase a longer warranty. The life of an inverter is often between 15-20 years. 

Although a warranty is important, consider the company you’re buying it from. The installer is responsible for honouring the warranty on the inverter and if they don’t exist, contact the manufacturer.

For peace of mind, buy from an installer that has stood the test of time. Pulse has been going strong for 23 years. We’re likely to be going for another 50. By choosing a company like us, you know that if you need to make a claim, we’ll answer the phone.

Conclusion:

Like anything, you get what you pay for. We never suggest getting the cheapest inverter. We stand by our choices because we have a standard to uphold and a reputation we care about. Always choose an inverter with a good warranty, weather-proof, and costs around $2000.

Take a look at our current deals on solar.

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