There has always been a competition, sort of a tug of war, between SolarEdge and Enpahse among inverter users and home installers. And why not when the two control almost 95% of the global market share.
And so today, we also joined the SolarEdge vs Enphase bandwagon. In this article, we are digging deep to find out what actually makes the two stand out, which one to choose, and why.
First, let’s start with some basics on solar inverters to understand how each of them works.
What is a Solar Inverter?
A solar inverter plays more than a crucial role in a solar energy system. It’s one of the core things that you must carefully consider when planning to switch to solar energy. Its chief responsibility is to convert the direct current (DC) output of the PV (Photovoltaic) system to alternating current (AC) electric energy that can be consumed in homes and used to power appliances. Whatever is left as surplus is then fed into the battery storage or grid system.
Aside from “inverting” the DC output, more advanced technologies have a battery management system integrated into the inverter while others offer advanced capabilities such as utility controls and module data monitoring.
How Solar Inverters Work?
According to the PV Inverter Scorecard, solar inverters are the most “burdened” component of a solar system. They perform way more operations than any other component. And as inverters advance in technology so does their roles and possibility of failing.
So how exactly do solar inverters work?
Let me try and explain this in very simple terms.
During a hot sunny day, the sun rays hit the solar panels or to be specific, the PV (Photovoltaic cells). These cells are made of semiconductor layers that absorb the rays and send that energy to the PV cells. These cells then produce the DC current which is then either stored for later use or sent directly to the solar inverter. The solar inverter from there converts it to AC output, a more useable form that can be used in your home or office.
Types of Inverters
Now that you know exactly what a solar inverter is and of course how it works, it’s time you also learn the different types of inverters available. There are basically 4 main types of solar inverters, each with its pros and cons. We will just go over the types briefly for now.
1. String Inverters
Image Credit: Inverter.com
String inverters are the most popular type of solar inverters and you will often find them at homes. The name string inverter comes from the fact that a string of solar panels is connected to an inverter. In the solar space, stringing refers to a set of panels that are wired together.
As the name suggests, microinverters are pretty small and work by optimizing each panel individually.
3. Power Optimizers
Just like the microinverters, power optimizers are fixed at the back of each panel to allow for individual functioning. However, they don’t convert DC to AC but instead, track the voltage of the DC output.
4. Hybrid Inverters
With hybrid inverters, you can connect to your home battery backup system. They convert DC to AC output for your home as well as convert AC to DC (from the grid) to charge your battery storage.
What are Enphase Inverters?
Enphase was founded by genius brains, Raghu Belur and Martin Fornage in March of 2006. It’s based in the U.S. in the state of California and has its biggest market share in North America. As more and more users and installers are realizing how reliable and safer micro-inverters are so is the growth of Enphase.
Outstanding innovation from them is the micro-inverter system. They first launched it in June of 2008 and by end of 2011, they were shipping it globally. They have since included battery storage and energy monitoring.
Enphase micro-inverters are popular for schools and residential areas as they meet the strictest safety requirements by the government.
What are SolarEdge Inverters?
SolarEdge, rightly put, is a global leader in the solar inverter industry right now. They are currently ranked third globally after Huawei and Sungrow, a Chinese electronic company. Of course, it has taken them years of toiling and proving themselves to get to this point. 15 years to be precise of growth in technology and revenue. Presently, SolarEdge commands about 60% of the market share.
Founded in 2006, the company has its headquarters in Israel and is rumored to have its manufacturing plants in Romania and China.
To date, they are said to have shipped 14.6 plus gigawatts of power and activated well over 1 million systems. It’s important that you take note of this. Why? For you to get the confidence that this is a company that is here to stay. For more decades perhaps.
The greatest innovation from them is the solar panel optimizer which they term as the ‘Intelligent Inverter System’. This is not your regular string solar inverter as it uses power optimizers to maximize power output from each individual panel level.
SolarEdge vs Enphase: Detailed Comparison
Now that you have learned a bit about each of the companies, let’s delve deeper into what makes each stand out.
As mentioned earlier, SolarEdge was the first to develop the solar panel optimizer and paired it with its solar inverter. This made it possible to be able to monitor each panel individually as well as voltage regulation. What this means in simple terms is that you can see the energy output of each panel. So if one is underperforming or not performing at all, you are able to immediately tell and have it fixed. Also, the failure of one does not affect the rest of the modules.
Enphase micro-inverter on the other hand works just as SolarEdge works only that it converts the DC power to AC instantly on the roof whereas SolarEdge first sends the solar power to the central inverter that is mostly located in your garage or basement. The conversion happens in the central inverter.
Enphase does not have string inverters but has microinverters installed at the back of each panel and the conversion happens just at the back of the panel.
It all boils down to how efficient a system is. In this case, we are referring to the amount of solar energy that is converted to usable power. When a solar inverter has high efficiency, it means you are able to convert more power with just a few panels.
SolarEdge records an efficiency of 99% which means only 1% of power is lost during the DC-AC conversation. When looking at the solar efficiency of the SolarEdge, we must also look at the efficiency of the power optimizer which is 99.5%. As you can see from the figures, the SolarEdge has pretty high efficiency.
The latest Enphase micro-inverter, the IQ 7 records an efficiency of 97%. Slightly lower than the SolarEdge, however, it will be unfair to just look at the numbers because both work differently.
Given, the power optimizers in SolarEdge help increase its power output but then micro-inverters perform exceptionally better in areas with extreme shading and rooftops that have complicated layouts.
For efficiency, I will give it up to Enphase micro-inverters.
The stand out selling point for Enphase has to be its scalability. You can easily upgrade or add more inverters as your energy needs change. You can also downgrade if you so wish and it will not affect the entire module system.
This seems to be a downside for SolarEdge as you may need to buy a new inverter if your energy needs increase. You may add a few panels of course but you cannot scale as much as you would with Enphase.
Also scaling or upgrading with Enphase is fairly inexpensive as compared to with SolarEdge.
It’s crucial that we also look at how each fair in terms of cost as the cost is usually a deciding factor for most folks.
Enphase costs more than SolarEdge. Generally, any microinverter based system will cost more compared to string inverters and power optimizers.
However, these are just upfront costs, to make a better decision; you have to look at the long-term costs. While the upfront cost of micro-inverters can be turn off for most folks, it’s important that you realize that their warranty cover is 25 years. So in the long run Enphase is cheaper than SolarEdge whose warranty is 12 years.
5. Module Monitoring
Both systems allow for module-level monitoring. You can monitor right from your smartphone or the web. From your smartphone, you will need to install an App.
For SolarEdge the monitoring system comes built into the system while for Enphase it is offered separately by IQ Envoy. It’s usually a separate line item that you purchase.
This feature offers so much convenience as you don’t have to be on your roof every time to check the status of your panel. You can find out how much power is being generated in real-time or in the last days, weeks, months, or even years. You just have to generate a report for the duration you want.
Enphase comes with an amazingly long warranty period of 25 years. It’s actually the only one with such a warranty period. SolarEdge has a warranty of 12 years on its standard inverter. With SolarEdge you can always have your installer push for a longer warranty cover from the retailers but that’s usually a long shot.
SolarEdge vs Enphase: Pros and Cons
Having looked at the detailed comparison, let’s look at the pros and cons of each. This should also help you decide which one appeals to you most.
Pros and Cons of SolarEdge
Pros and Cons of Enphase
Q1: How much does Enphase Battery Cost?
Enphase battery is estimated to cost $2000 while installation costs $3,420.
Q2: What are some Enphase Micro-inverter Problems?
Some of the problems you are likely to encounter with Enpahse micro-inverters (all micro-inverters for that matter) include battery incompatibility, having multiple failure points that take too long to troubleshoot, and rapid voltage rise every so often.
Q3: How long do Micro Inverters Last?
Micro-inverters are said to last anywhere between 20-25 years. This is evident from the warranty period that is offered for micro-inverters.
Q4: Where are Enphase Micro-inverters Manufactured?
Enphase micro-inverters are only designed in California but assembled in China. In short, manufacturing is outsourced to third-party manufacturers. They are however ARRA compliant.
Which One to Choose – Enphase or Solaredge?
After all is said, quite literally in this post, it’s time we deal with the elephant in the room – SolarEdge vs Enphase.
Ready for the verdict?
It’s hard to pick one over the other simply because even though their core function is the same, they both approach it differently. However, they are both perfect if you experience shading problems or have multiple roof layouts. Also, if you want the convenience of monitoring your panel’s progress.
However, between these two, Enphase seems to be more reliable. Also, the 25-year warranty cover makes it worth taking a shot even with the high upfront costs. You can always talk to your installer to negotiate the price down for you. Reliability aside, SolarEdge is relatively cheaper and optimizes for a high energy output even on improperly segmented rooftops with partial shading.
Last update on 2021-06-27 at 16:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API