How to choose best solar inverter in Australia?

Choosing the right inverter technology for a system is one of the most critical decisions to make when going solar. Professional solar installers help one in choosing the right sized inverters for their solar system.

By checking out the Clean Energy Council’s approved products list one can make sure whether solar inverter complies with the relevant Australian Standard (AS4777).

A 5kW solar inverter costs start at $1,000 for budget, single-phase models like Sungrow and up to $2,000 for the premium single-phase models like Fronius or SMA.

Solar inverters are located near electricity meter and should always be located in the shade for best performance.

Budget Inverter Vs Premium Inverter

As solar inverters work hard all the day, they wear out easily and is most likely to fail in 10 to 15 years. The really cheap products have no chance of lasting 15 years plus in Australia.

Australia’s harsh weather conditions make it difficult and expensive to design and manufacture a good solar inverter.

The price difference between opting for a premium inverter such as Fronius or SMA versus a budget inverter like Sungrow is $700 to $1,000 per system.

Enphase is the most expensive of the lot as it needs one micro-inverter per panel.

If one is on a limited budget, they can go for a budget inverter over premium inverters. A budget solar inverter is about half the price of a premium one.

The premium inverter is less likely to fail in the first 15 years. Even if it fails, the support and replacement will be covered by the warranty.

Types of inverters

String Inverters

It is the most common type of inverter used for residential purposes.

A string inverter is connected with a string of solar panels.  Besides being robust they are durable and easy to maintain. It is a trusted technology and much cheaper compared to other inverters.

Its drawback is that as all the solar panels are connected, a shaded panel would affect the efficiency of the whole system. Once a string inverter of certain rating is installed, it cannot be altered. Hence expandability in future becomes an issue.

String inverters are ideal in areas where there is no shading issues around the year.

Central Inverters

They are inverters of higher power rating. It is used for large commercial installations or utility scale solar farms.

They look like big metal cabinets and can handle up to megawatts of capacity per enclosure. It centralizes the power produced by the plant.

 Microinverters

Microinverters deliver more energy as they optimise each panel individually. They are tiny solar inverters which are shade tolerant and can be remote monitored.

The main disadvantage of a Micro Inverter is it’s higher initial cost and the higher cost of replacing.

It is very suitable for residential buildings where each panel can be differently oriented or have different shading pattern during the day.

It is useful when limited space for panels constrains array size

 Optimised string inverters

Optimiser string inverters perform like microinverter but use slightly different technology. An optimiser system requires a string inverter, but you then attach optimisers on the back of the solar panels, optimising each panel output under a variety of conditions.

 Hybrid Inverters

A hybrid inverter works as on-grid and off-grid solar inverter. They are multi-mode inverters.  It can work without a grid.

It can store electricity and provide power backup. Excess electricity can be exported to the grid.

It converts DC power from modules to usable AC power and then convert stored AC from the batteries to power loads when needed

Hybrid inverters are useful when there is no access to a reliable power grid.

 Battery inverters

Though expensive, battery inverters are a good option when one wants to retrofit batteries to your solar power system, or keep your battery system separate from your solar panels This simply converts your battery power into 230V AC and feeds it into your switchboard instead of grid power where possible.

 Top Solar Inverter Brands

Some of the high-end solar inverter brands in Australia are:

Fronius – Over the past 10 years, Fronius inverters have become the favourite of Australian solar market. Fronius inverters are efficient and reliable and forms an indispensable part of every solar system.SolarEdge – SolarEdge introduced the concept of string inverter matched with individual DC optimisers on each solar panel. SolarEdge also has some clever hybrid inverter designs. Their inverters speak of reliability and efficiencyEnphase – Enphase is the only microinverter manufacturer in Australia. Their systems have many advantages over string systems, such as safer voltages and fault tolerance. Flexibility and reliability are its forte.

Some of the best budget solar inverters in Australia are:

Sungrow – It has some great features such as integration with Solar Analytics. Sungrow inverters are mid-range solar inverter in terms of performance, price and warranty serving 99%+ efficiency.Goodwe- It is a budget inverter brand with a good reputation for reliability and features. This is definitely a good budget option for those who are looking for a quick payback period and a fast return on investment.Growatt – It is recognized as being the No.1 Chinese Residential PV inverter brand. Their price point and high performing technology has made them popular in Australia.

Warranty of solar inverters

An average standard warranty period of solar inverters in Australia is 10 years. Some companies offer the possibility to extend this period to up to 20 years.

Manufacturer’s warranty covers the cost of the materials required to get your inverter functioning.  They can even opt to replace the entire inverter.

Only a few manufacturer warranties (such as Fronius) cover the labour cost to effect a repair, travel charges for service calls outside immediate service and, the shipping and or customs/duties charges associated with getting the required materials shipped from international destinations

To claim a warranty, we need to contact service provider as a first step. If you have given them access to your monitoring system, they can determine the nature of the issue and begin the appropriate warranty claim on your behalf.

To conclude, solar inverters are an integral part of a solar installation. Professional installers will help one to choose a solar inverter that best suits their solar system.

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Christi Watson