If you’re shopping around for a new solar panel system, chances are you’ll come across SolarEdge and Enphase. Both are excellent solar inverter systems; arguably two of the best solar systems money can buy.
The reason why Enphase and SolarEdge are such good solar systems is that they are based on technologies that are quite different from conventional string inverter solar systems. It’s these technological differences that give SolarEdge and Enphase a competitive edge over other solar power systems.
In this blog, we’ll explain the different technologies behind SolarEdge and Enphase vs. standard solar panels systems. Then, we’ll run through the pros and cons of SolarEdge and Enphase to give you a better idea of which system may be better suited for your home.
On this blog:
Different types of solar systems
- Conventional string inverters
- Power Optimizers
Pros and cons of SolarEdge vs Enphase
- Battery storage
- Future proofing
Different types of solar systems
The differences between SolarEdge, Enphase and other conventional solar power systems comes down to the type of solar inverter used in each system.
Whilst lots of people think that getting a high quality solar panel system is all about choosing the right solar panels; that’s not the case! The brains of any solar system – and the part that’s most likely to fail (if it’s poor quality) – is the solar inverter.
The solar inverter is the part of a solar system that converts DC (direct current) electricity from solar panels into AC (alternating current) electricity that can be used in the home or sent to the grid.
So, the main difference between the three inverter technologies boils down to how they handle the DC to AC conversion process.
Let’s look at each type of inverter in turn:
Conventional string inverters
Conventional string inverter solar systems – using inverters like Fronius and SMA – have a single, central inverter which converts high voltage DC power to lower voltage AC power.
Solar panels are connected in a series (for example 8 panels on one array) and the DC power from each series is sent to the inverter which converts it into AC power.
The problem with string inverters is that if one panel in the series is partially shaded or dirty (or deteriorating slightly), it will bring down the power output of all panels in that series. Without getting on the roof, it’s impossible to tell which panel is causing the problem. That’s because you can only see the output of the solar system for the whole array of panels – not at individual panel-level.
Because of these limitations, two new types of technologies were invented in the early 2000’s: microinverters and power optimizers.
Enphase solar systems are based on microinverter technology.
A microinverter takes the functionality of a standard inverter and miniaturises it. This means you get a fully-fledged mini inverter underneath each panel which converts DC power to AC.
The AC 240V power from each microinverter is connected in parallel to other microinverters and sent to the switchboard. From there it can be sent to your home or to the grid.
SolarEdge systems are based on power optimizer technology.
Power optimizers are little black boxes fixed to the underside of each panel (just like Enphase microinverters).
But there the similarity ends.
Power Optimizers optimize DC power at panel-level and condition it before sending it – as DC electricity – to a SolarEdge inverter. The SolarEdge inverter then converts the DC to AC power which can be used in your home or sent to the grid.
Because power is optimized at panel-level, you get the same benefits as Enphase including individual-panel level monitoring and maximised power output.
Pros and cons of SolarEdge vs Enphase
When comparing solar power systems, one of the most important things to check is the efficiency rating. Efficiency is about how much of the sunlight hitting the solar panels converts to electricity you can use in your home. The more the better!
SolarEdge solar panel systems have two components: power optimizers and an inverter. Power optimizers have an efficiency of 99.5 per cent and the inverter has an efficiency of 99 per cent. This makes the overall efficiency of SolarEdge systems 98.75 per cent.
In comparison, Enphase microinverters have an efficiency of 97 per cent.
Both Enphase and SolarEdge allow for more solar panels to be added later. That’s a tick for both systems.
But SolarEdge has the advantage when it comes to providing a faster payback. That’s thanks to the way SolarEdge handles oversizing of solar panels in relation to inverter size.
Why would you want to oversize your solar panels?
One reason is because a smaller inverter is generally cheaper, and the federal government solar rebate (STCs) is based on panel capacity – not solar inverter capacity. So, by keeping your inverter at a smaller size (say 10kW) and oversizing your solar panels by up to 133 per cent (which is allowed by network distributors), you keep your inverter cost low whilst maxxing out the rebates you can get for the solar panels. This not only gives you a quicker payback, but also provides you with more power!
With Enphase, you can also oversize your panels in relation to the size of the microinverters. But the downside with Enphase is that every solar panel requires its own microinverter – and because microinverters are fully fledged inverters (just made small) they are relatively expensive. So, whilst adding more solar panels to an Enphase system isn’t an issue, the payback isn’t as good as SolarEdge.
- Battery storage
With an Enphase solar and battery system, AC electricity from microinverters must first be converted to DC power before it can be stored in a battery. With an Enphase solar and battery system there are 3 power conversion processes involved, i.e.
- DC power from panels converted to AC power by microinverters
- Battery inverter converts AC power to DC power for storage in the battery
- When power from the battery is required for the home or to send to the grid, it must be converted back to AC power by the battery inverter
This is a major drawback with microinverter-based solar systems. That’s because whenever power is converted from DC to AC, or vice versa, there is a loss of power in the conversion process. (The same is true for conventional string inverter systems).
When it comes to battery storage, SolarEdge has the edge over Enphase because it has a hybrid inverter – called the SolarEdge Energy Hub Inverter – which does both the job of a solar inverter and a battery inverter. The SolarEdge Energy Hub inverter cuts out the need for all those wasteful AC to DC conversion processes, making the SolarEdge solar and battery storage system more efficient than the Enphase equivalent.
- Future proofing
Right now, you may only be in the market for a solar panel system. But down the track, you may want to add electric vehicle charging, a battery, more smart electrical appliances – even make your home all-electric!
What you need to know is that the money you’re spending on a solar panel system isn’t going to be wasted should you decide to add to your system down the track.
You want to know that you can add more solar panels and a battery without ripping off your system and starting again.
With SolarEdge – using the SolarEdge Home Battery with the SolarEdge Energy Hub Inverter – you can add up to 200 per cent more solar panels whenever you want. That’s because it’s a DC-coupled solar and battery storage solution with an all-in-one hybrid inverter (which lets you sidestep most network distributor size limitation rules).
For instance, you could start with a 10kW SolarEdge Energy Hub Inverter with 13kW of solar panels. Then, in a few years, you can add a SolarEdge Home Battery with more panels (up to 20kW) without having to buy another inverter or changing anything with your existing system.
With Enphase, you don’t get this level of future proofing. You could start with a 10kW Enphase microinverter system. Then, if you wanted to add a battery and more solar panels, you would need to add more microinverters and choose an AC-coupled battery with its own built-in battery inverter. In many network distributor areas, this will take you over size limit for solar on a single-phase property (as you’re adding to the inverter capacity) – and you won’t be allowed to do it.
So, the bottom line is this: if you want the option to future proof your home, SolarEdge is the best choice.
It’s a fact that the part of a solar system that’s most likely to go wrong is the inverter. That’s regardless of whether you choose a conventional string inverter, a microinverter or a power optimized system.
Another fact is that inverters hate the heat. The biggest cause of inverter failure is due to overheating.
The design drawback with Enphase microinverters is that they are installed on the roof, underneath solar panels. On hot summer days, the temperature on an Aussie roof underneath the solar panels can easily get up to 70⁰C or more. Enphase aren’t stupid and they have got their microinverters rated to perform in temperatures up to 65⁰C. But this doesn’t quite cut it for most Australian homes in the middle of summer. If you live in a cool climate part of Australia you might get away with it, but for anywhere else you will be risking a higher level of inverter failure simply because your Enphase microinverter is on the roof.
With SolarEdge, on the other hand, the inverter is located either on an outside wall (which should either be south facing or have shade covering) or in your garage or similar enclosed space. This means your inverter isn’t going to have to put up with such hot conditions and should therefore last longer.
Both SolarEdge and Enphase often superior levels of safety when compared with conventional string inverter systems.
Enphase systems are safe because high voltage DC power is converted to AC at panel-level and there isn’t any high voltage DC cabling running the roof.
SolarEdge system are also very safe even though they are DC based. That’s because they have a Safe DC feature which automatically detects any fault and immediately shutdowns the whole system. When shutdown, each solar panel only has 1 volt of electricity running through it which is touch safe.
SolarEdge power optimizers are lower cost than Enphase microinverters – that’s because they are simpler technology with few parts. What’s more, the SolarEdge inverter is a simplified inverter (as it just handles DC to AC power conversion) making it lower cost than many conventional string inverters. The combination of lower cost power optimizers and a simplified inverter makes SolarEdge a lot more cost effective overall when compared with the Enphase microinverter solution.
SolarEdge provides a 25-year product warranty for its Power Optimizers and a 12-year warranty for its inverter.
Enphase provides a 10 year product warranty for its microinverters.
Want to know more?
If you’ve got questions about SolarEdge vs Enphase for your property, get in touch. We can assess which type of solar inverter technology is right for your home and provide you with a customised quote for either a solar panel system, or solar + battery storage system.
Every home is different, and every household uses electricity differently. What’s right for your home – and your budget – is quite likely to be different from what’s right for your neighbour.
We can help explain the pros and cons of different technologies for your property, as well as any limitations imposed by your network distributor. The result will be a solar system that generates maximum bill savings for your solar dollar!