Solar Panels and Inverters

Best solar panels? We put them to the test.

                                                                                   

Brand
Description
Type
Rank

            Gain

  at 21/02/15

Q.Cells
German engineering
Poly
1st
+15.85%
ET
Phone Home...brilliant
Poly
2nd
+15.00%
SolarOne
Impressive
Poly
3rd
+13.89%
Canadian
World No.3
Poly
4th
+13.84%
Suntech
Commercial favourite
Poly
5th
+13.77%
China's No.1
Mono
6th
+13.10%
Schott
German / Chinese
Poly
7th
+12.95%
REC
Norway / Singaporean
Poly
8th
+12.58%
Chinese No.5
Poly
9th
+11.85%
Renesola
New to our test roof
Poly
10th
+ 9.71%
GY Group
Excellent low cost panel
Poly
11th
+5.00%
The Rest
11 other popular panels
Mixed
   12-23
-7% to + 2% (av 0%)

* Actual Performance Gain (as at 21st February 2015)

Note: "The Rest " refers to the average of the 11 other very popular and cheaper panel brands tested for two months prior to this final and permanent test. We took the best performer from that first test (GY) and stacked it up against the superstars of solar panels above. If you would like to see all the results in detail click here for instructions.  (We supply all of these panels and others not in our test). We will be replacing the second Q.Cells on the roof with a new panel soon, but for now, we might as well leave our customer hosting this test with two of the best. (FYI...the panels are slightly different sizes which is why have had to leave a few gaps. A normal installation with identical panels would be much neater than this.)

Are cheaper panels worth it?

All panels are cheap these day, even the top panels. The cheapest of the cheapest are only $40 per panel

less than the top Tier 1 panels above. That $800 saving for a 5kW system is soon eaten up by the 15-20%

loss in power (approx $300-$400 a year).

Solar Panel Review

 

Inverter Summary

SMA

World No.1, really great inverter range but no longer anything really special compared to
their rivals. They will continue to do well trading on a very well deserved and long reputation
but there is an air of complacency about SMA product service and pricing which their rivals are
exploiting.

Sungrow

Since 1997 Sungrow have grown rapidly and became World No.2 behind SMA in 2014.
Showing their impeccable impartiality , German Photon mag voted them better than SMA in 2012.
Their new range of products (Crystal range) coming through in early 2015 looks really impressive.
Reliability, as good as SMA (approx 1 in 400 fails in the first five years), warranty double (10 years),

price (half of SMA), and fruit (Wi-Fi included) makes them very hard to overlook. If they were a European
company instead of Chinese, almost everyone would buy them without a second thought.

JFY

Excellent product range and even better service. No wonder they have sold nearly 200,000 inverters

in Australia since 2010. Whilst failure rate is 1 in 200 over 5 years is double that of SMA and Sungrow
(around 1 in 400) they are the most responsive company we have ever dealt with. Same day replacements,
10 year warranty, JFY engineers flown in from China to inspect problem sites. It's beyond impressive
and quite clearly a business that understands the value of reputation and service.

ABB PowerOne

Used to be branded Aurora, but recently bought by global giant ABB. Italian made.

Nice product but nothing special these days. Range of products not always a good fit for WA.

(e.g. a 6kW 3 phase inverter, not a 5kW means it is excluded from selling surplus power back to grid).

Hopefully new owner will introduce some sparkle to make this once great brand shine again.

Fronius

Good quality inverters from Austrian manufacturer.

Right now the only Fronius we can recommend is the 3 phase, 5kW dual tracking SYMO

This includes WiFi and is a mighty fine inverter.

In May/June 2015 the new PRIMO range is expected to become available. 3kW up to 8kW, single

phase, dual-tracking with WiFi. PRIMO will be replacing the Galvo, IG and IG Plus ranges and not

before time. Warranty is currently 5 years full parts and labour, then another 5 years parts only.

Zeversolar

What makes this Chinese made brand really interesting is who owns them...German giant SMA !!

Zeversolar are huge in China and SMA wanted to get a foothold in the World's largest solar market.
Reasonable products at slightly cheaper prices than better Chinese manufacturers and nowhere near
as good support or warranty. Their 5kW 3 phase inverter is the current cheapest by a whopping
$500 but would we recommend them? No, not really but with SMA as their owners you are as safe
as safe can be for warranty.

Delta

We've installed 150 Delta inverters and replaced 38 in two years. Yes, Delta give us a replacement,

and yes they pay us $150 compensation, but really??? That's a crazy high failure rate.

Growatt

Indestructible 3kW and smaller inverters, not so good any larger than that. (Like Delta, they don't handle

funky Perth AC voltages all that well on the larger models, but the smaller ones are brilliant).

Very disappointing warranty service. Often takes several weeks (they seldom have any stock).

Enphase

Best of the traditional micro inverters if you have shading problems or lose sleep worrying about

high DC voltages running thorugh conduit in your roof during the day.

SolarEdge

What you should really buy if you want max power, safety and flexibilty from your solar. Micros on

steroids. Why is this at the bottom of the list, when it's the best? In the USA they are the No.2 inverter

brand but here in Oz, they are nowhere. No idea why, speaking as techs and sparkies, it's the best, and

safest of them all but of course, it's expensive (about the same as Enphase or SMA with a similar 25 year

warranty).

The Others

Not above? Hmmm. We get offers daily from all of them but why would you save $50 and buy an unknown?

What do we recommend?

If you are staying in your home forever and can afford to buy the best long-term solution and a couple of

thousand dollars extra now doesn't freak you out because you understand that you'll get it back over time with

interest...then without question...SolarEdge.

If you are like most of us looking for maximum bang for buck (that includes warranty, performance, reliability etc)  then Sungrow or JFY. If you want an inverter that the techs love because they are cool, then Fronius. If you want to buy IBM (old computer analogy for those old enough to understand it)...SMA.

Have you watched our two minute videos? (Click the blue links below)

1. How Solar Works
2. Choosing a Solar Panel

3. Solar Inverters

Inverter Technology
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.

There are four different types of inverter technology.

1. String Inverters
2. Hybrid string inverters with battery storage
3. Micro Inverters
4. DC optimers and associated inverters

1. String Inverters

The solar panels are connected in series in a 'string' of up to 15 panels.

Inverters are either 'single tracking or dual tracking' . A dual tracking inverter is needed for installations where panels are facing in different directions (e.g. North and West) unless the number of panels on each orientation is identical (e.g. 10 panels North and 10 panels West is fine on a single tracker but 11 and 9 is not).

Most solar installations use string inverters. As they work in series, when any panel in the string is shaded then the voltage and therefore performance of the whole string is reduced until the shade has gone.

(see below for effect of shade)

.

2. Hybrid String Inverters with Battery Storage
You can't just connect batteries to a regular inverter. We have written a whole web page on this subject. Click here.

3. Micro Inverters connected to every solar panel

It costs about $100 extra per panel to have a micro inverter compared to most string inverters. The advantages of micros are fourfold compared to string inverters.
Each panel is a law unto itself so shading of one panel doesn't have any negative effect on an unshaded panel.

You can point the panels any which way you like too, North, West, East, it makes no difference.
The DC to AC conversion is done on the roof so the maximum voltage running through the solar conduit is 240V, not potentially 600V with a string inverter.
You don't need to find space for a large box to put on the wall.

Popular brands are Enphase (excellent for Perth heat), APS , Solarbridge and Aurora

We sell Enphase micros as well as the ET 250W with Solarbridge Pantheon II micro factory fitted.

Even better than a micro?...see next choice.

4 .DC Optimsers and associated inverter

Similar extra cost as micros, you get a 'micro' on each panel but you also get a central inverter that does the DC to AC conversion. Same advantages as micros for shade and roof orientations.

It's actually the safest (1 volt per panel open circuit), and most efficient solution with excellent WiFi  and smartphone reporting and a 25 year warranty. SolarEdge have this section of the market won hook line and sinker. Want the best of the best? This is it.

Download SolarEdge product overview
Download SolarEdge reporting software overview

 

 
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