Solar Inverters – Enphase vs SolarEdge

Posted by YES on April 4, 2019 in Enphase Solar Solar Inverters Solar Monitoring SolarEdge

Enphase

Which is better?

SolarEdge

Choosing the right inverter for your solar system is just as important as choosing the right solar panels. Enphase and SolarEdge are both established players and are two of the top inverter brands.

When Googling “Enphase vs SolarEdge”, there are fans for both technologies, with each camp advocating their choice of technology is better.

At Your Energy Solutions, we install both Enphase and SolarEdge. We know the respective strengths and weaknesses for both products. We have detailed the similarities and differences between the two technologies.

Overall Summary

Below is an overall comparison between Enphase and SolarEdge inverters. We recommend you continue reading for more detailed comparisons with explanations for each category.

Enphase SolarEdge
Inverter Size Microinverters, hidden underneath the solar panels themselves Big Central Inverter, typically installed either on the side of the building or inside the garage
Warranty Microinverters: 25 Years Inverter: 12 Years (extendable to 25 Years for additional fee)
Optimizers: 25 Years
Reliability No Central Point of Failure Central Point of Failure
Shading A shaded solar panel never affects the performance of other solar panels A shaded solar panel may affect the performance of other solar panels
Monitoring Panel Level Panel Level, but difficult to view panel level details for data older than 7 days
Proactive Monitoring Alerts Yes – Can be set up by end user Cannot be set up by end user
Expandability Easy to expand as the system is modular Possible to expand but the inverter may need to be replaced or an additional inverter needs to be added

How Solar Inverters Work

Solar panels output power in direct current (DC) while homes, businesses, and the grid are configured in alternating current (AC). A solar inverter converts DC to AC power, seamlessly integrating the solar system with the grid.

Enphase

Enphase uses microinverters. With microinverters, each solar panel literally gets its own inverter, which are hidden underneath each solar panel. Each microinverter is wired to a parallel trunk cable before connecting to your electric panel.

The DC to AC conversion is done at the panel level. This makes each solar panel autonomous; the performance of one panels/microinverter does not affect the performance of another.

Enphase Microinverter Install

SolarEdge

SolarEdge uses a central inverter with optimizers. Similar to microinverters, an optimizer is installed underneath each solar panel. The optimizer will maximize the production on a per-panel basis.

However, the the electricity remains DC. Unlike microinverters, optimizers do not convert the electricity from DC to AC. Instead, a large inverter is installed on the side of the building or in a garage where the DC to AC conversion is performed.

SolarEdge

Microinveters or Big Inverter

Enphase – Microinverters

With Enphase, since there is a small inverter underneath each solar panel, there is no big inverter installed on the side of the building or in the garage. Instead, only a small monitoring device is installed.

SolarEdge – Big Inverter Required

Because SolarEdge optimizers keep the generated electricity in DC, a big inverter is required either on the side of the building or inside the garage in order to convert the solar-produced DC power into AC.

Warranty

Both Enphase and SolarEdge are great at handling warranty issues. They both stand behind their product and will ship out replacement units free of charge if a warranty replacement is needed.

Enphase

Enphase provides a 25 year factory warranty on all microinverters.

SolarEdge

SolarEdge provides a 12 year factory warranty on the inverter and 25 year factory warranty on the optimizers. For an extra charge, SolarEdge allows the inverter’s warranty to be extended to 25 years.

Reliability

Solar panels themselves are rock-solid technology where failure is extremely rare. While inverter failure is still rare, when there are issues with a solar system, the cause is typically the inverter.

Enphase – No Central Point of Failure

Suppose a solar system contains 20 solar panels. With Enphase microinverters, this system will have 20 separate inverters. If 1 inverter goes down, the remaining 19 will continue to operate without incident.

With 1 microinverter down, the solar system will continue to operate at 95% capacity. Once the replacement microinverter arrives and is swapped out, the system will return to 100% operation.

Pictured below is an Enphase system with 1 microinverter down, taken from the Enphase monitoring portal. One down microinverter does not affect the rest of the system.

SolarEdge – Central Point of Failure

Suppose a solar system contains 20 solar panels. This time, the system consists of 20 SolarEdge optimizes and 1 SolarEdge inverter.

If 1 optimizer fails, the the remaining 19 optimizers will continue operating without incident at 95% capacity. Once the replacement optimizer arrives and is swapped out, the system will return to 100% operation.

However, SolarEdge systems have a central point of failure because there is a central inverter. If that inverter fails, solar production will drop to 0%. Only when the inverter is replaced will production return to 100%. Because it may take 2-3 weeks for a replacement inverter to arrive, a failed inverter can cause a large loss in solar production.

Pictured below is a SolarEdge system with a failed inverter, taken from the SolarEdge monitoring portal. Because the center inverter failed, there is zero solar production.

Shading

Shading occurs when a portion of a solar system is covered in shade. Causes of shade include chimneys, roof vents, trees, etc. Shading in itself is not a bad thing because the ideal locations for solar panels may have a small amounts of shade. Both Enphase and SolarEdge are able to mitigate the impacts of shading on a solar system.

Enphase – Fully autonomous solar panels

Enphase microinverters allow for each solar panel to have its own inverter. If any particular panel is covered by shade, the production of only those shaded panels are impacted. The rest of the system is completely unaffected. An example of this is pictured below where 1 of the 3 solar panels is shaded.

SolarEdge – Optimizers are not microinverters

A common misconception about SolarEdge optimizers is that they are the direct equivalent of Enphase microinverters. However, this is not the case.

A SolarEdge inverter contains up to 2 strings. A string is a group of optimizers connected to each other. The inverter supplies a single voltage for the entire string and the optimizers maximize production given this single voltage. The inverter automatically adjusts the voltage to maximize production for the string as a whole.

If 1 or 2 optimizers are shaded, the shading impact is minimal. The shaded solar panels will see lower production, but the rest of the panels will continue to perform at max production. However, if the majority of panels on a string are shaded, it drags down the performance for the rest of the solar panels on the string, even if they are under full sunlight.

Pictured below is an example of this occurring. The group of 9 panels (optimizers 1.2.3 – 1.2.11, laid out 3×3) are covered in shade. This is dragging down the performance of optimizers 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 even if these 2 optimizers are receiving full sunlight.

There is a direct contrast in solar production between optimizers 1.2.1 and 1.1.7 (1.1.7 is on the other string). These two adjacent solar panels both receiving the same amount of sunlight and have the same roof angle. The only difference is that they are on different strings.

Monitoring

Both Enphase and SolarEdge provide options for panel-level monitoring, where you can view your solar system’s production by the panel. This allows you to quickly detect any potential issues with your solar system. All screenshots shown with panel production information are because of the panel-level monitoring provided by the manufacturers.

Enphase

For all Enphase solar systems, a small monitoring device is installed either on the side of the building or in the garage. This devices captures production data from the microinverter and though your Wifi network, uploads the data to Enphase servers. The latest data is uploaded in 15 minute intervals.

Solar production data can be accessed from anywhere from any device with an internet connection, including any computer, phone, or tablet. Data can be viewed either on a system-wide or panel-level basis, all the way back to when the system was first installed.

If connecting the Enphase system to your Wifi network is not possible, Enphase also provides a cellular data option for uploading production data. With cellular, the latest production data is uploaded every 4-6 hours.

Pictured below is a fully operational Enphase solar system, shown from the Enphase Enlighten monitoring portal.

Solar Monitoring

SolarEdge

For all SolarEdge solar system, the monitoring device is integrated into the big inverter. However, SolarEdge does not offer North America consumers a way to connect the inverter to the inverter via Wifi (this option is available in Europe). SolarEdge’s preferred connection method is via cellular and the latest production data is uploaded every 4-6 hours.

Solar production data can be accessed from anywhere from any device with an internet connection, including computers, phones, and tablets. Data can be viewed either on a system-wide or panel-level basis, all the way back to when the system was first installed. However, SolarEdge makes it difficult to easily view panel-level production data that is greater than 7 days old.

SolarEdge also offers a secondary wireless method (using Zigbee) to connect the inverter to the router/modem. This method uploads the latest production data every 15 minutes. The Zigbee Master connects via Ethernet to your router/modem and wirelessly to the SolarEdge inverter. However, in our experience, this method is unreliable. The pairing between the inverter and Zigbee master frequently drops with no explanation and needs to be manually paired again.

Pictured below is a fully operational SolarEdge solar system, shown from the SolarEdge monitoring portal.

SolarEdge Monitoring

Proactive Monitoring Alerts

While solar systems are reliable, there is the rare chance that something might go wrong. Proactive Monitoring Alerts allow you to get an email alert instantly if your solar system detects an issue with itself.

Enphase

Proactive Monitoring Alerts can easily be enabled. Enphase provides instructions on to enable it. Just click here.

SolarEdge

SolarEdge does not currently allow a method for end users to turn on Proactive Monitoring Alerts.

Expandability

Solar installers will typically size your solar system based on your current electricity consumption. And if requested, they can add additional capacity to accommodate any future increase in electricity usage. However, sometimes a solar system needs to be expanded in the future.

Enphase

Enphase microinverters are modular. This makes it relatively simple to add more microinverters/solar panels to expand the solar system. These added microinverters will integrate right into the existing solar monitoring portal.

SolarEdge

SolarEdge systems have a central inverter. This capacity of this inverter is typically tied with the size of the system. While it is possible install a higher-capacity inverter to accommodate future expansion, a higher-capacity inverter will add additional costs to the price of the solar system.

If the existing SolarEdge inverter is at capacity, it is still possible to expand the solar system. Either the existing inverter can be replaced with a higher-capacity one or a second inverter can be added to the system.

The SolarEdge monitoring portal supports multiple inverters in its solar monitoring portal. They will all integrate and appear as one solar system.

Closing Thoughts

Choosing the right solar inverter is as important as choosing the right solar panels. The inverter converts the solar panel produced DC power and converts it into AC so it is compatible with the grid, homes, and businesses. In addition, the inverter manufacturers also  provide the portal for monitoring your solar system’s performance.

Both Enphase and SolarEdge are the top solar inverter manufacturers and both are great choices. We hope this article was able to clarify the similarities and differences between Enphase and SolarEdge solar systems. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.

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