For many years now, nearly all Solaray customers have chosen to install either a SolarEdge system or an Enphase system. It’s what we call Smart Solar, and they are the best two systems on the market.
But what are the main differences between the two systems, and which one is right for you? Let’s go through the main differences to help you decide.
Enphase vs SolarEdge: How Do The Systems Work?
Solar panels produce DC power, so all home solar systems need an inverter to convert the DC power to AC so that it is compatible with everything in your home.
With an Enphase system, there is one small microinverter that is installed underneath each panel. That means there is no large inverter installed down by the meter board, and it means the cable running from the panels to the inverter is also AC, which is much safer.
With a SolarEdge system, the DC power is sent down to a central inverter, which is called the HD Wave. It is one of the most efficient inverters on the market.
You can see in this photo the SolarEdge inverter is about the same size as a standard inverter, in this case, an SMA SunnyBoy. The microinverter that Tom is holding here is much smaller and is installed up on the roof underneath each panel.
The Pros Of Microinverters vs DC Optimisers
First up, the biggest difference. An Enphase system converts DC to AC underneath each panel, which means the panels are truly independent of the others. This gives the following advantages:
- Complete flexibility with system design. You can have 10 panels facing North, 3 facing West, and 3 facing East, for example. In most cases a SolarEdge system will also be flexible in that we can install panels on different roof spaces, however, there are some small issues to do with the panel-level optimisation that our design team needed to factor in.
- You can add panels to the array at a later date. Many of our Enphase customers that add battery storage will also add some solar panels to increase the output of the solar system to match their 24-hour power consumption.
- No need for DC isolator safety switches, a piece of hardware that ironically is the biggest fire risk in a standard solar system – if water gets into the switch it can cause an arc fault and catch fire. The good news is that things are getting fixed with new legislation so in the future, this will be less of an issue.
Because a SolarEdge system sends DC power down to a central inverter, the system isn’t really expandable, because in nearly all cases the panel array will be matched to the size of the inverter, for example, an 8kW array of panels on an 8kW inverter. To add more panels to a system like this we would need to either replace the inverter or install a 2nd system alongside the original one.
A Single Point Of Failure vs Multiple Points
It’s something that gets talked about a lot, is it better to have 1 potential point of failure or multiple?
With a SolarEdge system, the DC Optimisers are very reliable, they are relatively easy to replace, and they come with a 25-year warranty. The most likely component of a solar system to fail is the inverter. In this case, the system will need to be turned off until the inverter is replaced. The inverter comes with a 12-year warranty and SolarEdge has good local support here in Australia.
With an Enphase system, there is no central weak point in the design of the system, and so if one microinverter or panel fails, the rest of the system can stay on until the fault is fixed. This dramatically increases the average uptime of an Enphase system.
The risk, of course, is that with one microinverter per panel multiple units fail over a period of a few months or years. Fortunately, Enphase Microinverters have proven to be extremely reliable over the years that we have been installing them. We have installed over 75,000 microinverters in Australia and have had significantly fewer service issues compared to all other brands.
Talking Of Failures… Heat Tolerance?
We are only including this because for some reason we get asked about it a lot. Do Microinverters survive the heat up on the roof?
The answer is yes, Enphase has never had a microinverter fail because of heat. More information is available here.
The SolarEdge DC Optimisers are also fine. Heat isn’t an issue for either system.
The Price Of An Enphase System vs SolarEdge
In terms of their price, there are two key differences between Enphase and SolarEdge:
- With a SolarEdge system, a DC optimiser is cheaper than an Enphase Microinverter, and so the larger the system, the cheaper it becomes for SolarEdge vs Enphase
- A SolarEdge system requires an inverter to be installed near the meter board, and so the base price of the system is higher compared to an Enphase system.
- Importantly, because SolarEdge doesn’t have a viable 3-phase solution, if you are looking for a larger system Enphase is the only option
Because of the way the systems are designed, it is fair to say that the larger the system, the cheaper a SolarEdge system is compared to Enphase, however, there isn’t a huge difference in price for residential systems:
6.6kW Solar System: An Enphase system will cost about $1500 more than a single-phase SolarEdge system
10kW Solar System: An Enphase system will cost about $2000 more than a single-phase SolarEdge system
13kW Solar System: An Enphase system is the only option.
More information: The price of Enphase vs SolarEdge or a standard string inverter system
SolarEdge Warranty vs Enphase Warranty
Both systems have much better warranties compared to a standard string inverter. At this point, it is worth reminding ourselves that we are comparing the best two solutions on the market. Both companies offer top-notch warranty support and customer service here in Australia.
The SolarEdge inverter has a 12-year warranty, and the DC Optimisers have a 25-year warranty.
The Enphase microinverters have a 10-year warranty. This can be extended to 15 years or even 25 years. As a Platinum Enphase Partner, Solaray are able to offer our customers good pricing on warranty extensions, so if this is something you want to investigate further, just let our representative know when they are doing up your quote.
Battery Compatibility of Enphase vs SolarEdge Systems
Solaray only installs AC-coupled solutions such as the Tesla Powerwall due to the flexibility, reliability and safety of an AC-coupled battery. For this reason, all of our systems including Enphase and SolarEdge are compatible with battery storage.
At the moment, all of our Enphase customers are adding the Tesla Powerwall to their system when they choose to add battery storage. Enphase has a battery on the way, however the release date for the Australian market keeps changing, and so we continue to wait.
The Tesla Powerwall is AC-coupled, which basically means the battery is connected directly to the meter board and then the Tesla Gateway manages the battery, the solar, and the home. Tesla Powerwall offers blackout protection and with both an Enphase or a SolarEdge system, the battery can recharge from the solar day after day if there is an extended blackout.
SolarEdge systems are also compatible with their own SolarEdge battery, with the solar connecting with the battery on the DC side of the inverter, known as DC-coupling.
Performance of Enphase vs SolarEdge
There are blog posts out there that go into incredible detail about the technical aspects of one system vs the other. Things like start-up voltage, clipping, conversion efficiency and on and on.
The reason we don’t like getting into all of this is that we are talking about a few cents a day difference in the savings on your power bill, which is what really matters. Over the years, we have seen dramatic under-performance in systems, either because of cheap solar panels under-performing or installers messing up the design of a system where panels are installed where they shouldn’t be.
If you are worried about performance, as you should be, the most important factor to guarantee success is to buy good quality panels and choose an installer that has a reputation for quality installations.
Having installed more Smart Solar Systems than anyone else in Australia, including both Enphase and SolarEdge, our design teams know what is going to work best for your roof. Yes, we can work with you to make sure you generate as much solar power as possible when you need it, however, we are also going to make sure the system is designed properly.
Which System Is Better – Enphase vs SolarEdge?
Over the years, our customers have chosen Enphase over SolarEdge most of the time, however, we install a lot of SolarEdge systems every week of the year, and they are a great solution.
Again, there are some limitations that prevent us from installing SolarEdge systems on some homes where the roof requires additional flexibility in the design of the panel array, or if a larger 3-phase system is to be installed.
Often information like this generates more questions, so for more information please do reach out to the Solaray Team on 130 525 451. We would be happy to provide more personalised information and pricing for an installation on your home or business.