In 2017 industry competition in the grid connect solar inverter market is very tight with many of the top-rated solar inverter manufacturers releasing models with innovative hi-tech features including online monitoring and smart grid capabilities.
The sudden introduction of more affordable and efficient battery energy storage systems has had a significant effect on the inverter market, although products like the Tesla Powerwall 2 have a built-in power inverter, a separate inverter is required for connection to a solar panel array.
In this review, the main focus will be on string solar inverters as these are the most commonly installed type within Australia. Microinverters have become very popular in Australia and although they are a more expensive option compared to string inverters they do have some advantages.
Compared to all the other components that make up a solar power system the inverter is the most complicated and technical, and thus most likely to have operating issues. The demand placed on a string inverter is high and combined with being mounted outdoors, exposed to high heat and humidity delivering thousands of watts of electricity for most of the day its easy to understand why it is essential to install a good quality unit to achieve reliable solar power generation.
It is probable that during the lifetime of a string inverter at some point there will be a fault. A good quality inverter should provide 10 to 20 years of service.
It is well worth the paying a little more for a solar inverter from a reputable manufacturer. SMA, for example, ranks high on the list due to a low failure rate and the company providing high-quality repair services including the prompt shipping of replacement units minimising system downtime.
Listed below are the top 5 best solar power inverters for 2017 based on quality and reliability, manufacturer provided service and support, manufactures warranty, features and system monitoring capabilities.
Over the past two years, Fronius inverters have become very popular for both domestic and commercial solar installations delivering exceptional performance combined with monitoring features, reliable customer service and a ten year extended warranty period. Many in the industry now consider Fronius as market leaders. Fronius inverters feature an integrated solar DC isolator eliminating the need for an external isolator box; the unique snap-in design also makes servicing and installation the unit very easy.
Wifi monitoring is a standard feature of the Fronius inverter range and is accessed through the Fronius SolarWeb online portal enabling real-time monitoring of both energy production and consumption; this system can also function as a complete home energy monitoring system. A Solar web smartphone app is also available for Android and Apple iOS. | Fronius Australia Website
SMA is a leading German inverter manufacturer that has recently shifted some of its manufacturing operations from the USA and South Africa to China. The SMA range of inverters has a proven record of high performance and reliability and is considered one of the highest quality solar inverters available. Local support and servicing for SMA products are very reliable with an optional 10-year warranty available.
The newer Sunny boy AV inverter models no longer have a built-in LCD display all configuration and monitoring can now be done via remote software.
SMA has an excellent monitoring system called the Sunny Portal, and with the removal of the built-in LCD display from the latest models, this software will be a vital component of the SMA monitoring system. Most SMA inverters come with WiFi Webconnect as a standard feature, Webconnect can work together with Sunny home manager 2.0 to create a home energy monitoring system, the Sunny Boy mobile portal app, however, is lacking in some features such as real-time monitoring. | SMA Australia Website
SolarEdge inverters are relatively new to the Australian market, manufactured in the USA and have a 12-year warranty. SolarEdge became more well known in Australia around the same time as the Australian launch of the Tesla Powerwall in 2016, at the time the SolarEdge StorEdge was the only hybrid inverter compatible with single phase home systems making it the obvious choice for Australian battery storage systems. One big advantage of the SolarEdge inverter is its ability to perform panel level monitoring using DC optimisers.
DC Optimisers are small electronic devices that can be attached to individual solar panels allowing panel level tracking and monitoring. This can be useful in solar arrays that have complex roof profiles or shading issues.
WiFi is optional with SolarEdge inverters and when working together with the DC optimisers can provide performance information for each solar panel. The SolarEdge mobile app is well thought out and highly functional. | SolarEdge Website
ABB is a premium inverter manufacturer with factories located in China, Italy, the USA, South Africa and Slovakia. Many solar installers rate ABB inverters as equal to SMA in quality, reliability and performance with good customer support. ABB inverters are also a little cheaper than SMA. Originally known as Power-One up until 2013 when the company was bought out by the Swiss ABB company. There are few reports of failures with ABB inverters.
ABB is not considered a leader in the system monitoring area. Recently ABB introduced a WiFi card VSN300 for its UNO and TRIO 3-phase inverter models. The new UNO-DM-PLUS range of inverters ship with WiFi as standard offering advanced features for smart grid and home monitoring. | ABB Australia Website
SolaX inverters are manufactured in China and owned by a parent company named Suntellite, SolaX has an Australian office located in Melbourne. SolaX is relatively new to the Australian inverter market but gained some ground with the release of their battery X-Hybrid inverter.
The SolaX X-Hybrid inverter is a very affordable unit and is one of the most economical battery ready solar inverters available in Australia.
System monitoring is provided through the SolaX Portal V2; this software enables users to choose which items are powered by solar in the home along with current PV system power production. | SolaX Power Website