GY and Schott Solar Hareon are our preferred brands. GY are a really great panel, very aggressively priced.
Whilst GY are a relative newcomer, moving from making solar cells in 2008 to full panel production in 2009/2010 from a state of the art factory, Schott are one of the World's oldest and most respected German solar companies, making premium quality panels since the 1950's.
To date (Feb 2014) , GY have supplied 220,000 panels and have had 33 failures. That's a failure rate of 1 in 6,666 which by any possible standard, is irrefutable proof of their quality. The solar cells, made by GY themselves, not bought in from wholesalers, are always a uniform dark blue and the power output has been tested against many other similarly priced panels, and has been consistently 3% higher than all the other panels under a variety of different weather conditions. 12 year defect warranty, new linear 25 year performance warranty these are much much better panels than would normally be found in this price bracket.
Schott Solar have for decades been one of the very few Premium German solar companies. Innovators with World first developments in every area of solar, they are these days best known for massive leaps forward in thin film solar technology. In 2011 they formed a joint venture with solar cell manufacturer Hareon in China, and now all their polycrystalline panels are made there to the exact same specifications as they were in Germany. The Schott thin film panels are still made in Germany. It's all about price. If the panel is made in China to the same specs it is a lot cheaper than if it is made in Germany. Even so, it's still $75 a panel dearer than a GY panel. Mercedes-Benz (and all the top German car companies) make their cars in China too. Same car, same quality, same components. Same goes for Schott Solar panels (and also the other German big solar panels companies like Conergy. As best we can tell, there isn't a single German owned solar panel company that still supplies Australia with German made panels).
Whilst panels are so simple with no moving parts and almost never fail, inverters by contrast are expensive and work hard all day long and are packed with electronic components and software. To give you some idea of cost, as the rebate tends to camouflage things, a 5kW inverter for example, costs $750 for an economy version, $1100 for a really good one and as much as $2,500 for a three phase top of the range model.
As they all have almost identical performance (97-98% efficient is typical), this is what you pay for...
Reliability, life expectancy, warranty, features (Wireless, Bluetooth and Wifi Reporting)
JFY have two excellent wireless and wifi reporting products. Click the image below for details
Don't read this if you scare easily
We can supply just about any inverter. There are about 35 brands approved in Western Australia and we've installed more than half of them over the years. We don't buy into the 'brand name is best' mantra because from our own experiences, it simply hasn't been true. Aurora for example, one of the 'Top 3' has been horrible. We've changed out 15% of them already. Delta were brilliant and we installed them for years, and then all of a sudden in late 2013 something went badly wrong and we've been changing them over almost every week since. The older Deltas are fine, just the most recent ones are causing trouble. Growatt is one of the lowest cost inverters on the market and yet their 2kW and 3kW inverters have had a failure rate of 0.4% (which you will soon learn is awesome) but their larger 5kW inverters have a very high 6% failure rate. SMA, the No.1 German brand are excellent in every way, and have the lowest failure rates over 4 years at 0.25% but you pay $1000 more for that quality. When inverter giant JFY came to Australia in 2011 they initially dropped the ball with a software problem that caused inverters to pop at nearly 8% rate, and yet within a few months had entirely fixed the problem and now have a very respectable failure rate of 0.8% for the past two years and 1.27% overall on 137,500 inverters shipped. MacSolar had such a bad software batch problem that they were temporarily withdrawn from market. Fronius is another top brand, that we have never installed yet, mainly because it is poorly configured for Western Power 3 phase rules. With the exception of SMA whose products are built to last over 20 years and who have been making inverters since 1981 so have the 'runs on the board', it's a reasonable bet that most inverters will have a failure rate of between 0.2 and 4% within five years, probably as high as 25% between five and ten years and very few will make it past their 20th birthday. Time will tell. We could be wrong of course.
Inverter manufacturers do not deliberately make unreliable products. The cost to them to fix a fault is huge, because not only do they have to supply a replacement, but they also pay the installers, a fee (normally $150) to make the change-over. If there is a problem, they jump on it. Inverter failure rates range from 0.2% to 4%. That's a normal range for the first 5 years, which is typically the warranty period. After the warranty expires, the inverter might last a day, a year a decade..who knows? That's why the longer the time that you don't have to worry about your inverter the better...so a 10 year warranty makes much more sense than 5 years. To put things into perspective you could buy a JFY inverter with a 10 year warranty, and then if you were unlucky enough that it died the very next day after the 10 years had passed, buy another to cover you for the next ten years and it would still be cheaper than buying a big brand name like SMA or Fronius that only comes with a 5 year warranty.
Our favourite inverters these days, are JFY and SMA
We honestly never thought we would write that JFY were one of our favourite brands after their bad start in 2011 in Australia, but JFY have made millions of inverters, and as far as Australia goes, have shipped between 1st Jan 2011 and February 24th 2014, 137,506 inverters to Australia, and received 1,745 back with faults. A failure rate of 1.27% overall, but just 0.8% over the past two years after a bad start in 2011. We always buy the 10 year factory warranty extension from JFY. That way, despite your chances of getting a dud are now very low, you are still totally safe in the knowledge that for the next ten years you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Really excellent WiFi and Wireless choices included as well and have the only approved 5kW three phase inverter other than SMA's Tripower. JFY ship directly from the factory to Fremantle port so the local support here (Canning Vale warehouse) is excellent. We love them now, and you will too.
SMA are the premium German brand. They have been making inverters since 1981, employing over 5,000 people. Offices in Australia too. Excellent in every way except price. 5 year warranty extendable to 25 years.
Huge range of products, the Sunnyboy brand name has become renowed for quality over the years.
Built in bluetooth for local or internet reporting, great on-screen stats and a failure rate of 0.25% this is the brand to buy if you want to get the best of the best. Prepare your wallet for an extra $1000 weight loss though.
The list of specifications and user guides for some of our inverters is a little further down the page.
Micro inverters are quite useful in situations where shade falls on some of the panels during peak power generation (10am to 4pm). We favour Enphase over APS.
Enphase are more expensive, but APS shut down at 65 deg c, and that, based on our own tests, is quite often on Perth roofs. A Micro inverter is mounted on the back of each panel pair of panels and therefore gets pretty hot, not just from radiant heat but also from the heat they generate themselves.
Rail, fixings, Cable, Conduit and Labels
There are a huge amount of 'fixings' in solar, all of which have to be fully approved under a number of Australian Standards. The panels sit on aluminium rails and the rails are attached to your roof by either tile or tin "feet".
Then there are two earth plates for every panel, grounding lugs, rail joiners, mid, and end clamps, special labelled heavy duty conduit, steel cable ties, clamps to attach the conduit to your roofm AC and DC isolators, and even specially designed label kits...and that before we even look at the hundreds of dollars worth of DC, AC, Earth and often 3 phase cable required for every job. Every single nut bolt and fixing must be installed exactly to Australian specifications and typically it all costs us over $1,000 for a simple $5kW installation. We use the popular 'Grace Solar' brand of rail and fixings and all our cable comes from the big Australian suppliers like MM Electrical and Lawrence and Hanson. We don't take any shortcuts with materials and safety.
Trackers / Phases
|Ablerex||Enersolis ES 3300||1 tracker, single phase||
|Ablerex||Enersolis ES 5000||2 trackers, single phase||
|Delta||Solivia 2.5 APG3||1 tracker, single phase||2.49 kW|
|Delta||Solivia 3.0 APG3||1 tracker, single phase||3.17 kW|
|Delta||Solivia 3.3 APG3||1 tracker, single phase||3.49 kW|
|Delta||Solivia 5.0 APG3||1 tracker, single phase||4.99 kW|
|Growatt||Sungold 1500||1 tracker, single phase||1.65 kW|
|Growatt||2500 HF||1 tracker, single phase||2.50 kW|
|Growatt||Sungold 3000||1 tracker, single phase||3.00 kW|
|Growatt||Sungold 5000||1 tracker, single phase||5.00 kW|
|Growatt||3600MTL||2 trackers, single phase||3.60 kW|
|Growatt||4200MTL||2 trackers, single phase||4.20 kW|
|Growatt||5000MTL||2 trackers, single phase||5.00 kW|
|JFY||JSI-2500TL||1 tracker, single phase||2.49 kW|
|JFY||JSI-3000TL||1 tracker, single phase||3.40 kW|
|JFY||JSI-5000TL||1 tracker, single phase||5.00 kW|
|JFY||SUNTWINS 3300TL||2 trackers, single phase||3.30 kW|
|JFY||SUNTWINS 4000TL||2 trackers, single phase||4.00 kW|
|JFY||SUNTWINS 5000TL||2 trackers, single phase||5.00 kW|
|JFY||SUNTREE 5000TL||2 trackers, Three phase||5.00 kW|
|JFY||SUNTREE 10000TL||2 trackers, Three phase||10.0 kW|
|SMA||Sunny Boy 2500TL||1 tracker, single phase||2.5kW|
|SMA||Sunny Boy 3000TL||1 tracker, single phase||3.0 kW|
|SMA||SB3000TL-21||2 trackers, single phase||3.0kW|
|SMA||SB4000TL-21||2 trackers, single phase||4.0kW|
|SMA||SB5000TL-21||2 trackers, single phase||5.0kW|
|SMA||TriPower 5000TL||2 trackers, Three phase||5.0kW|
|SMA||TriPower 15000TL||2 trackers, Three phase||15kW|
Dual Tracking Inverters or Two Inverters
You either need a dual tracker if you have panels on roofs that face in different directions, or two seperate inverters (it's often cheaper to have two). For instance, if you had 10 panels on your North facing roof, and 10 panels on your West roof, you would need a dual tracking inverter, or two inverters, one for the North, one for the West. One 'tracker' would manage the North roof, and carry on working irrespective of whether the panels on the West facing roof were in shade in the early morning.