The title for best solar panel with inverter and battery price for home has never been closer as many of the top manufacturers release advanced new models with clever online monitoring and smart home energy management features. The hype around home battery systems or hybrid systems is also growing, but it is early days for batteries and the majority of solar installations still require a dedicated solar inverter. Even the renowned Tesla Powerwall 2 with its inbuilt inverter requires an additional solar inverter to work with a solar array.
Solar Inverter function & problems
The solar inverter is the most sophisticated part of any grid-tie solar system and unfortunately it’s also the part most likely to have issues. This is not surprising considering inverters are usually located outside in harsh weather conditions including rain, humidity and extreme heat, all while generating thousands of watts of power for up to 10 hours a day. This is why it’s important to use a quality inverter and mount it in a sheltered location if possible.
Due to extreme variations in humidity and temperature, it is likely that many inverters mounted outdoors will experience a fault at some point during their lifetime. However, the life of a solar inverter can be significantly increased by locating it inside a garage, under a carport and out of direct sunlight.
Solar panels can also develop problems over time which can result in poor performance, but unlike a faulty inverter this will generally not result in complete system shutdown. With this in mind, it is worth while paying the additional cost for a reputable manufacturer (one which has been in good business standing for 5+ years and with extended warranties if available.
Warranty and Service
Fronius and SMA have ranked on top of the list for many years due to the low failure rates and great service, as they usually ship replacement units in 3-5 business days. Both Fronius, SMA and ABB are available with 10 year warranties, while SolarEdge offer a 12 year manufacturers warranty as standard. Many of the lesser-known ‘value’ brands will only repair a faulty unit if it is shipped to them (at the owner costs) and returned, which often takes weeks and sometimes months. This will have a much greater financial impact due to system downtime.
Solar Inverter Types
- String Solar Inverters
This review is focused on ‘string’ solar inverters which use a string of solar panels linked together in series. String inverters are the most common type of inverter used in Europe, Australia, & Asia, and growing in popularity in the US where micro inverters are very popular.
- Hybrid Inverters
The new generation hybrid or battery ready inverters combine a solar and battery inverter together in one simple unit. These inverters are becoming more competitive against solar inverters as hybrid inverter technology advances and batteries become cheaper and more appealing. See our detailed hybrid/off-grid inverter review.
- Off-grid Inverters
Off-grid or stand-alone power systems require powerful battery inverters with inbuilt chargers which can be setup as either AC or DC coupled systems. Modern, flexible off-grid inverter/chargers, also known as multi-mode inverters, can be used to create advanced hybrid grid-connected systems. See the best off-grid solar systems review. For smaller scale off-grid systems using solar charge controllers, refer to the MPPT solar charge controllers review.
- Micro Inverters
Micro inverters, also known as micros are very small solar inverters attached directly to individual solar panels. Since each micro inverter and panel operate independently, they are a great option for complex roof layouts and locations with shading issues. Despite the slightly higher cost, micros are very popular in North America due to Enphase’s strong presence and the many advantages they offer over string inverters.
Inverter Rating Criteria
The following criteria was used to determine the best solar string inverters available on the market, together with continuous feedback from solar installers and industry specialists. Note, this comparison is focused on the common grid-tie solar ‘string’ inverters (single phase), although the larger commercial 3-phase inverters from the same manufacturers are equally well regarded.
- Quality & Reliability
- Service & Support
There is a considerable price difference between the hundreds of different solar inverters available. For example, a low-end 5kW inverter can start from as low as $850, while a premium quality 5kW inverter with 10+ year warranty may cost $1800 or higher. However, considering the higher failure rates of many low-end/cheap inverters and difficulty claiming warranties, we recommended you invest in a higher quality unit. As a common saying in the solar industry goes ‘the cheapest product will cost you more in the long run’.
Solar Panel With Inverter And Battery Price For Home
1. Fronius – Primo and Galvo
2. SolarEdge– SE and HD wave
3. SMA – Sunny boy
4. Sungrow – SG range
5. FIMER (ABB) – UNO
Best Commercial Inverters (3 Phase)
1. Fronius – Symo and Eco
2. SMA – Sunny Tripower & Core 1
3. SolarEdge – SE 3-phase
4. Sungrow – SG & CX range
5. FIMER (ABB)- Trio, PRO and PVS
Have your say – Solar professionals feedback
In addition to continuous feedback from our solar specialists, the clean energy reviews team invite all solar industry professionals and installers to provide feedback (positive or negative) from experience with any inverters (string, micro, off-grid & hybrid). Click link below.
Top 5 Solar Inverters – Residential
Below we describe the top 5 residential solar ‘string’ inverters for 2019 based on quality, features, monitoring, warranty and service, together with feedback solar installers and industry professionals. In addition, there are a number of popular inverter brands which are highly regarded by many solar installers listed in the runner up section below.
Fronius Inverters have surged in popularity since the release of the snap-in design 7 years ago. The high-end Austrian manufactured inverter range has become the inverter of choice for many domestic and commercial solar installations. Customers are also raving about the performance and reliability, plus the great service from the Fronius support team. However, high demand for the popular single phase Fronuis Primo inverters used for residential installations has resulted in some supply issues, and there have been some minor faults, but overall feedback is very positive and any issues have been promptly corrected. An additional free 5 year extended warranty is available when the inverter is registered online, and results in a total 10 warranty period.
Active cooling system
One of the reasons for Fronius’s reliability and performance is due to the ‘active cooling’ system incorporated into all Fronius snap-in inverters. Active cooling is also a key design feature in the new generation Fronius GEN24 hybrid inverters due mid 2020. The fan forced cooling system extracts heats at a higher rate which reduces thermal stress and increases output in high ambient temperatures. All power electronics have a maximum operating temperature after which the power needs to be reduced to prevent overheating and potential damage. This is where active cooling can help improve both reliability and performance. Another feature is the integrated solar DC isolator which means an external isolator box is not required, resulting in a much neater installation. Also the unique snap-in design makes servicing and installation very simple.
The larger capacity Fronius 3-phase Symo and ECO inverters are widely regarded as the best small commercial inverters (up to 30kW) and have dominated the market due to their high quality and proven reliability.
Wifi monitoring comes standard with all inverters via the Fronius Solar.Web. The addition of the Fronius Smart meter enables monitoring of energy generation and consumption and can be used as a complete home energy monitoring system. A free solarweb smart phone app is also available for android of iOS. There is also the option of adding the Fronius Ohmpilot which is designed to automatically use excess solar energy to heat water.
See the detailed Fronius Primo Inverter specification sheet
SolarEdge inverters have becoming increasingly popular in Australia, USA and around the world over the last few years due to the unique design using DC optimisers which enable individual panel level monitoring and control.
See the detailed SolarEdge Review.
The SolarEdge HD wave (SE-H series) inverters are available in a wide range of sizes from 2.5kW to 10kW and are one of the smallest and lightest inverters on the market. They are also some of the most efficient inverters at 99% for the larger 5 – 10KW models. All Solaredge inverters must be installed with additional DC optimisers on each panel as described below. DC optimisers perform part of the job of a typical string inverter and are the reason Solaredge was able to develop such a small, compact inverter.
The biggest advantage SolarEdge have over the competition is panel level monitoring and power optimisation through the use of DC optimisers.
DC Optimisers are small electronic modules attached to the rear side of each solar panel to enable individual panel level monitoring and power optimisation. Previously individual panel monitoring was only obtained through the use of micro-inverters, plus some add-on optimisers such those from Tigo Energy.
Solaredge Optimisers also enable longer strings of panels (up to 22 modules), increased safety and help reduce the detrimental effects of shading and panel faults, plus provide early detection of potential issues. However, optimisers also add more complexity to the system and any electronic device mounted on the roof also has the potential to cause issues in the longer term.
Panel shading a problem? For complex roof profiles or installations with shading issues this would be the inverter of choice, however for smaller systems or strings with 6 panels or less micro inverters are better suited. SolarEdge also has an industry leading 12 year warranty period.
SolarEdge inverters have ‘optional’ wifi which together with the optimisers can provide power output data for each panel individually. This is great for both system monitoring and a very good tool for fault detection, especially for installers. Also SolarEdge definitely have one of the best smart phone apps for remote system monitoring. See the full SolarEdge monitoring system and features here.
See detailed SolarEdge Solar Inverter specification data sheet
German manufacturer SMA Solar Technologies was widely regarded as the best string inverter manufacture before the Fronius snap-in series took the top spot in 2016. SMA’s decision to locate the manufacturing of the new AV series inverters in China rather than Germany also hurt the companies sales and reputation. However, SMA relocated all manufacturing back to Germany in 2019. SMA inverters have a proven track record for reliability and are generally considered one of the highest quality inverters available. Local service and support is very reliable and SMA provides an optional extended 10 to 20 year warranty.
The larger 3-phase commercial inverters from SMA are all manufactured in Germany and widely regarded as some the best commercial inverters on the market. The SMA Sunny Tripower series are some of the most reliable larger scale 3-phase inverters and are very popular for all kinds of commercial systems. The company is cementing its place as a leader in the utility-scale solar inverter market with the impressive Tripower Core 1, Sunny Highpower and Sunny island central inverters.
Like many modern inverters, the latest AV inverter series from SMA does not have a display and relies solely on wifi communication for setup and monitoring. Display-less inverters are becoming the industry standard as most manufacturers release new models without a display. A digital display in an outdoor environment can be problematic so this may reduce faults and warranty issues in the long term, but only if the communications is very reliable and stable. Without a wifi signal and no display can make things difficult to troubleshoot if a problem does occur.
See the detailed SMA solar Inverter review article.
SMA have a free online monitoring package available known as the Sunny portal and most SMA inverters now have wifi webconnect capability as standard. Full consumption and solar monitoring is achieved using the additional Sunny home manager 2.0 (energy meter), although rather expensive. The only downfall is the SMA mobile app which looks outdated and has had poor feedback, particularly the Android App version.
See full SMA solar inverter specification data sheet
Founded back in 1997 by a university professor, Sungrow is one of the largest suppliers of solar inverters globally and a leading Chinese inverter manufacturer. The residential SG range of inverters have become very popular among installers due to the competitive price and great reliability record. Sungrow is a very large player internationally and has a good reputation for service and quality compared to most other Chinese manufacturers. The very good support from the Sydney based office in Australia has further helped improve their reputation.
See the detailed Sungrow solar Inverters review article.
In addition to the well regarded range of solar inverters, Sungrow also manufacture one of the best value hybrid solar inverters on the market – the SHK5-20 inverter is a very affordable hybrid inverter for home energy storage systems and comes with an optional back-up device for powering basic essential loads during a blackout.
The premium SG series solar inverters and SH5K-20 hybrid inverter have received good feedback and are great value for money. The next generation SH5K-30 hybrid inverter with integrated backup function is due to be released in May 2020.
Sungrow inverters include Wifi monitoring as standard on all models and use the new modern cloud based monitoring portal iSolarCloud which is a huge improvement. The free smart phone App is also very simple and works well. One small issue is the consumption monitoring has been noted to be problematic.
5. FIMER (ABB)
Update July 2019 – In a surprising move ABB decided to sell it’s entire solar inverter division to FIMER, a well established Italian based inverter manufacturer who took over ABB’s solar division in early 2020.
Background: ABB was a premium manufacturer offering a range of high quality string solar inverters, but gained a poor reputation from the old ‘Aurora’ branded inverters. ABB acquired Aurora ‘Power-one’ back in 2013 and thus had to deal with many warranty claims and service issues from the old generation Aurora inverters. Our specialists highlighted somewhat slow customer service compared to other manufacturers, even though ABB was a well respected industrial giant.
With the FIMER takeover and positive feedback on the new range of UNO-TL and UNO-TL-DM-PLUS inverters, it’s likely FIMER will maintain a strong market position going forward. It is hoped the new owner will also improve the previously slow customer support and service offered by ABB.
The UNO range of inverters have the common plug & play interfaces and wifi included on all models. To compete in the growing energy storage market, the second generation REACT 2 hybrid inverters from FIMER are a unique modular battery energy storage system (BESS) which can be either AC or DC coupled.
ABB are not well known for their monitoring but have a updated Plant Viewer monitoring portal and ‘Energy Viewer’ mobile App. The portal offers all the basic information but unfortunately it is quite limited and doesn’t provide much technical data such as individual string outputs or voltages, which helps with monitoring and troubleshooting. A Wifi logger card (VSN300) can also be installed on all older UNO and TRIO (3-phase) inverters to enable monitoring.
Solar Inverters – Runners Up
Besides the most popular inverters on the market it is worth highlighting some of the other well known or up and coming inverter manufacturers. Many of these brands are very reliable but some are let down by the lack of service and support when an issue occurs. Huawei is the most recent manufacturer to enter the competitive residential market and so far the Sun2000L inverter series appear to be very reliable and offer loads of advanced features.
Huawei Sun2000L Inverter
Chinese communications giant Huawei stormed into residential solar market in 2018 with a compact, lightweight solar inverter packed with features. Due to the huge volume of commercial inverters sold globally Huawei are currently the largest producer of solar inverters globally and have invested billions into research and development over the last decade.
The first residential solar inverter from Huawei is the SUN2000L which is available in a range of sizes from 2 to 5kW. It also functions as a hybrid inverter and is extremely compact and lightweight coming it at 10.6kg. The inverter is in some ways similar to the SolarEdge HD wave inverter which usesoptimisers for individual panel optimisation much like micro inverters. However unlike the HD wave the SUN2000L can function with or without optimisers. As a hybrid system the Huawei inverter uses a built in ‘high voltage’ DC coupling battery interface which is compatible with the popular LG chem RESUH batteries. However there is no back-up power supply function available, but we are told it is in development.
The new FusionSolar online monitoring portal is much better than the previous NetEco and offers an easy to read interface and many more advanced monitoring and data logging features. The new common FusionHome app is also used for inverter setup and direct connection via a local wifi network.
For more information see our complete Huawei inverter review article. Residential sales seem to be relatively small at this stage but with the many advanced features it will be very interesting to see how this inverter performs against the premium manufacturers, especially once the battery backup unit becomes available.
Solax Power is a relatively new inverter manufacturer which was largely unkown in the industry until they launched the economical battery X-hybrid inverter. Solax is a subsiduary of the the much larger Suntellite Group in China which manufactures solar cells, panels and inverters with a strong emphasis on research and development. Solax Power also has a strong global presence and an Australian support office located in Melbourne. The current X1 range of solar inverters may not have the sleek designs of the European rivals but at close to half the price you wouldn’t expect them to compete on this level, their slogan sums them up nicely ‘simple, reliable, efficient’.
One of the more advanced inverter options from SolaX is the affordable X-hybrid unit which is one of the most economical ‘battery ready’ solar inverters available. Solax is also one of the few inverter manufacturers to produce large 3-phase hybrid battery inverters for larger residential and commercial applications.
The Solax online monitoring portal V2 is quite impressive and offers access via smart phone apps or web interface with battery management features for hybrid systems and email reporting, although the wifi dongle is an optional extra.
See the full Solax Inverter specification here
Delta is generally regarded by installers as one of best quality entry level inverters. This is not surprising as Delta Group is a global electronics giant which has been manufacturing power control systems around the world since 1971. Despite the older RPI range not becoming a huge hit with installers, the new more advanced Delta Home Series inverter have started to become more popular, although there is still a lot of competition from the many lower price point inverters on the market. With a 5 year product warranty as standard and an Australian office located in Melbourne, it is one of the more trusted value level inverters available.
Monitoring is via the cloud based mydeltasolar app. However, the app has been reported as being a little unreliable and not well designed. It appears Delta are struggling to catch with the competition when it comes to user friendly, reliable system monitoring.
GoodWe is a large, well known Chinese inverter manufacturer established in 2010. The new generation Goodwe DNS series have had great feedback from installers so far. Many Chinese brands have a mixed reputation in Australia due to some previous quality issues, but most have improved considerably over the last few years.
In addition, the new wide range of Goodwe hybrid inverters are replacing the older (GW5048D-ES) hybrid inverter which was a standout product from Goodwe and quite well regarded in the industry with many other manufacturers incorporating this inverter into various battery energy storage systems (ESS). All Goodwe inverters include Wifi monitoring as standard. The Warranty on the DNS series is 5 years with options to extend the warranty up to 25 years.
Based in Shenzhen China, Growatt has grown rapidly to become is one of the worlds largest inverters manufacturers. Growatt entered the solar inverter market back in 2010, offering entry-level solar inverters which unfortunately gained a reputation for poor reliability. Despite the early issues, the company expanded and recently released a completely new generation of solar inverters. Growatt now offers a vast range of solar and energy storage inverter solutions for residential and commercial applications. Still focused on the entry level market segment, many of the new models have been available for less than 2 years and are yet to prove themselves in the long term. Fortunately, Growatt seem very keen improve their position and have established local support centers in many countries offering service in the event of a failure or warranty claim.
The new generation TL-X inverter range is more modern looking and available in a range of sizes from 2.5kW to 6.0kW, with dual MPP trackers and a standard 5 year warranty, with a 10 year warranty also available.
Ingeteam is a large, premium European inverter manufacturer which is not well known in the competitive small scale Australian solar market, despite being a large multinational company and having a long history in manufacturing power conversion equipment. The company of Spanish origin has advanced R&D capabilities and currently manufacturer a wide range of quality solar and hybrid inverters for the residential and commercial markets, in addition to much larger utility scale central solar inverters.
The residential (2.5 – 6kW) 1Play TL-M series dual MPPT solar inverters appear to be well engineered with many advanced features and monitoring. However, as yet none of our Australian specialists have had any direct experience. Looking forward to seeing more and reviewing the Ingeteam inverters in the future.
TIPS FOR BUYING YOUR SOLAR POWER SYSTEM.
Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.
Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.
Length of manufacturer’s warranty
Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.
Have realistic price expectations
If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.
Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.
Solar panel certifications
This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.
Decide on the type of panels
It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.
It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.
Solar panel mounting
Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.
Solar inverter efficiency
A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.
Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of generic type brands.
Get a few solar quotes
It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.
Avoid high pressure sales people
High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.
High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.