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Solaredge vs Enphase vs SMA


The first decision is whether to use micro inverters (
Enphase), an optimizer (Solaredge), or a string inverter (SMA) for your solar system installation. We’ll go over the main differences and what we’ve seen as the main factors that help decide which option is best. If you are wondering how micro inverters work, see our article How Do Micro Inverters Work.

Enphase Quick Overview:
Enphase micro inverters such as the Enphase IQ7 and Enphase IQ7+ are fast and simple to install; a great option for a DIY self-install and small systems. They also carry a 25 year warranty. (For another cost effective option see APsystems, here's a comparison of APsystems vs Enphase microinverters.) 

Micro inverters provide monitoring and control for each individual panel, so if one goes down, you know exactly which panel is experiencing a lowered performance. This makes for easy and cost-effective replacements if the issue is with the micro inverter (unlike with string inverters, where the system stays down until the inverter is replaced). This also prevents the shade of a tree affecting the full system. Micro inverters are considered a safer alternative to traditional inverters due to their DC-AC conversion, but while the voltage on your roof won't go higher than 60V, note that voltage as low as 20V can be dangerous if under the right conditions, so always make sure to take the necessary precautions.

On the whole, if you want to have a slightly safer, faster and hassle-free installation, complete with a 25 year warranty, Enphase micro inverters are your best choice. 

SolarEdge Quick Overview:
SolarEdge inverter combined with power optimizers provides a similar solution as micro inverters to shading issues, as well as monitoring modules on the individual level. If there’s an issue with the Solaredge optimizer on the roof, you would just need to have that small part replaced. However, the whole system relies on the single inverter connected to all the power optimizers attached to your solar panels, so if that fails, your whole system still goes down. 

One benefit of going with SolarEdge is it's slightly less expensive than going with Enphase. However, the savings aren't huge. I ran through the Solar Kit Guide, creating one 9kW system using 30 IQ7s and another using a SolarEdge HD Wave 7600 with power optimizers. The cost difference between the two systems came to $210.31. You can test out combinations using the Solar Kit Guide yourself, to see what option suits your budget best.

The warranty on the power optimizers is 25 years, while SolarEdge inverters have a 12 year warranty, so while in the short term the cost of the inverter is less, you have to keep in mind that it will need to be replaced at some point.

Another big benefit of SolarEdge inverters over other options is their high efficiency. The SolarEdge HD Wave inverters boast a 99% CEC weighted efficiency, and the optimizers are 98.8% weighted efficiency, which together boasts a 97.81% weighted efficiency. As a comparison, the Enphase IQ7 has a CEC weighted efficiency of 97% at 240V and 208V, and the IQ7+ is 97% at 240V and 96.5% at 208V.

If we compare peak CEC efficiency, the difference becomes starker. SolarEdge HD Wave 3800 - 7600 are rated 99.2%, and the optimizers rank 99.5%. Together, it's 98.7% for SolarEdge. Enphase's peak for the IQ7 is 97.6%, and for the IQ7+ is surprisingly lower at 97.5%. Note that solar production efficiency can change with time, and is affected by multiple different factors in actual usage including design, weather, and warranty. Solar panels are similarly affected, with STC vs PTC rating comparisons.

Overall, SolarEdge is a better solution if you prefer having a single inverter over multiple micro inverters and are looking for a slightly better performance and lower initial cost as compared to Enphase.

SMA Quick Overview:
SMA provides regular string inverters, which is the most economical solution, but has the disadvantages of not being able to monitor solar panels individually, and is not as optimized for shading. They do have the option of adding MPPTs to stings, so that the different strings of panels work independently of each other (if one string has shading, the other won’t be affected). However, this is still not on the module level. They are also trickier to setup and design, which is why some solar installers avoid the extra hassle.

The warranty ranges from 5 to 10 years (see SMA America LL Factory Warranty for the list of products and their warranties). However, if your solar system is ground mount, with no potential shading and facing south, our Sales Engineers would recommend taking advantage of the significant cost savings you would get by going with SMA. For example, a 9kW system using SMA 7.7 string inverter costs a whole $2,022.04 less than a SolarEdge HD-Wave 7600 system, and $2,232.35 less than an Enphase IQ7 system!

Other string inverter options are FroniusSolectria and Outback.


Article originally written in 11/21/2017 and updated on 11/6/2018



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