Best Solar Inverters in Australia
Choosing the best solar inverters in Australia among the many available ones is crucial for your solar system’s overall output. The solar inverter is the second most vital part after the panels in a solar PV system. The primary job of any solar inverter is to convert DC power by solar PVs into AC power for home use. Inverters also help consumers to measure their overall power consumption.
Most people don’t know that the inverter is the part in a solar system that is most likely to fail in its 10~15 years of life. That’s for, like panels, they work around 10 hours a day and convert thousands of watts of DC power. Usually set outdoor, inverters may also bear rough climates, dust, heat, rain, etc.
When it comes to inverters, there are dozens of brands and hundreds of models to choose from. Even with some know-how, cutting through the noise and choosing the best solar inverters is hard. Let alone, you need to buy solar once in your life, and you are new to it.
Types of Solar Inverters
There are three main types in which you can classify solar inverters, and these types are as under:
- String Inverters
- Micro Inverters
- Hybrid inverters
All the types of inverters have one primary function; to convert DC power into AC power. However, converter types base on the method for power conversion and position in a solar system. Here we will discuss all three types of inverters one by one.
Multiple strings from solar PV panels are attached to the inverter, as you can assume by the name. String inverters are the most common and cheaper than the other types. Depending on the home solar system size, one or a max of two strings inverters are usually needed. String inverters come into a single box the size of a travel bag. The install location is near the fuse box and meter.
Pros and Cons of String Inverters
- Easy maintenance
If your solar system is not doing well, the problem is likely within the inverter. As you need only one inverter for most home solar systems, finding and solving a problem is very easy.
A string inverter costs much less than many Micro Inverters. Also, the labour hours for setting solar inverters are very much. That makes inverters much more affordable than others.
- Less Wiring:
Due to the fewer connections of your solar panels with the inverter, wiring cost is low. So as the chances of wrong wiring are also very few, then there are with the Micro Inverters set up.
- Partial shading:
The main issue in string inverters comes due to partial shading on solar panels. Though only one of the solar panels is in the shade, output from all panels affects at the same rate. That’s because the solar panels are connected in series.
- Solar system expansion:
A string inverter needs power near its capacity to perform best. For example, for a 5 kW inverter, you should install panels with a power output of about 5 kW. Suppose you need to expand your solar system and need more solar panels. In that case, you may need an additional inverter and route all panels to it.
- Shorter Lifespan:
String inverters usually have a short lifespan, around 10 to 15 years. As compared, Micro Inverters can work efficiently for up to 25 years.
*SMA and Fronius are the leading brands of string inverters
As mentioned earlier, the primary function of all inverters is the same. Unlike string inverters, usually, one Micro Inverter is placed beneath each solar panel. However, some Micro Inverters can support 2 to 4 solar panels at a time. Each Micro Inverter is around the size of a tablet.
Pros and Cons of Micro Inverter
- More Power Output: Panels in the string inverter setup are installed in series. That’s why the power of all solar panels is capped to the panel’s output with the least energy. That is not the case with Micro Inverters. Each panel is installed parallel, and you can yield power from all PV panels.
- Suitable for Hard Area and Easy Expansion: Micro Inverters are ideal for tricky installation areas. Micro Inverters are the best choice in areas where shading is an issue or with multiple roof angles. Adding more panels to the system is also very easy compared to the system with a string inverter.
- More Lifespan: Durability was an issue some years ago but not anymore. In the modern era, now Micro Inverters can sustain and function for up to twenty-five years. That’s quite a benefit over string inverters.
- Monitoring of Each Panel: Though all inverters have monitoring features, with micro inverters, you can monitor the power output of each panel.
The number of Micro Inverters is usually the same as the number of solar panels in a solar system. Hence, the upfront cost of your system can increase. A 5 kW solar system may cost around an extra.
It is hard to detect a failed unit among all. As a result, repairing the faulty one is also not easy.
- Extra Hardware:
As each solar panel on your roof requires a Micro Inverter to operate. Each unit acts as a lightning rod, so you should think twice if you are in a stormy area.
Enphase is the top brand, making Micro Inverters
Hybrid inverters are the combo of an inverter and a storage battery. Thus, a hybrid inverter not only converts and manages current but also charges a battery system. In case of a blackout, the hybrid solar inverters can switch to battery storage. As a result, they may provide an even power switch. With this feature, expect the prices a little higher than the standard string inverters.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Inverters
Due to unified battery storage, hybrid inverts have significant gains over others. Some are listed below:
- Even Power Supply:
Due to the storage battery, the power supply is constant. The battery act as an inverter in case of a blackout.
- Low maintenance:
Hybrid units are less prone to failure.
- Optimum Use of Green Energy:
Due to the storage option, hybrid inverters ensure max use of reaped energy.
Hybrid inverters also have some downsides, such as:
- High Cost:
Inverters include a battery system and are expensive for this reason.
- Slow ROI:
Payback time is very high
- Limited Backup Power:
Backup power is little, and in case of a blackout, you can’t run all appliances.
Solar System Monitoring
Monitoring is a prime function of solar inverters. If the monitoring function of your inverter is accurate, it is beneficial to determine the power yield and consumption. Reliable monitoring is also crucial to help you detect any fault in your solar system and rectify it.
Warranty and Service
The warranty period that budget brands offer is usually around five years. While best brands of solar inverters generally provide ten years of warranty and excellent services as well. The failure rate is meagre in quality brands’ inverters compared to the inverters of budget brands.
SolarEdge offers 12 years warranty period for solar inverters.
Top brands also ship a replacement unit within 2~5 days at their own cost. On the other hand, budget brands will ask to send a faulty unit to their repair site at your expense. Also, they may take a longer time to rectify the problem.
CEC Approved Best Solar Inverters List 2021
Clean Energy Council (CEC) is a non profit association. It signifies and works with Australia’s top renewable energy providers and solar installers. To assist and promote the clean energy industry in Australia, CEC guides consumers towards purchasing the best solar products.
CEC approves and enlists solar retailers and products (panels, inverters, batteries, etc.) that fulfil evident industry standards and criteria. To meet the modern advances and needs of the solar industry, CEC updates and publishes these lists every so often.
At the time, there was a list of 1,444 inverters and power conversion equipment (PCE) of 111 brands on CEC’s website. So, if a solar retailer claims to offer the best solar inverters in Australia, always look for CEC approval.
Final Thoughts: Prefer Best Solar Inverters over Premium Solar Panels
Fronius, SMA, Solis, Growatt, GoodWe, Sungrow and Huawei are all available with 10-year warranties, while SolarEdge offers a 12-year manufacturer’s warranty as standard. Most of the ‘value’ brands also offer 10-year warranties but some will only repair a faulty unit if it’s shipped to them (at the owner’s cost) and returned, which may take weeks and sometimes months. This can have a much greater financial impact because of system downtime.
Top inverter brands like SMA, Fronius, and SolarEdge offer significantly more life than the budget ones. As the choice of inverter plays a vital role in your power output, a poor inverter will blow the ROI of your solar system.
Investing in a solar PV system usually sustains and benefits for twenty to thirty years. Therefore, a quality solar inverter has a vital role in getting this goal. It is a fact that inverters of low quality have failed in NSW climate and other hot regions of Australia. For this reason, we at Ultimate Energy Australia value the best solar inverters over premium panels if your budget is low.