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Detailed reviews and information of the best solar panels, inverters and batteries. Plus hybrid and off-grid solar system reviews and information articles on how solar and battery systems work.

Blog

Reviews and information of the best Solar panels and inverters from SMA, Fronius, SunPower, SolaX, Q Cells, Trina, Jinko, Selectronic, Tesla Powerwall, ABB. Plus hybrid inverters, battery sizing, Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, off-grid and on-grid power systems.

1. AC or DC Coupled Off-grid / Hybrid inverters

Jason Svarc

Modern grid-Interactive or multi-mode inverter/chargers are capable of operating in on-grid (hybrid) or off-grid modes and can be used to create both AC or DC coupled systems. For larger systems above 5kW the most common configuration used is a multi-mode inverter/charger together with a solar inverter in an AC coupled combination. These flexible high performance systems can also be expanded to work with multiple solar inverters or other energy generation sources in various locations to function as independent micro-grids along with back-up generators if required.

Depending on the application for smaller systems below 5kW it is often more cost effective and efficient to use DC coupled interactive inverter/chargers from Outback power, Schneider or Victron together with solar charge controllers. For more information refer to our technical guide to selecting and sizing inverters here.

DC coupled

The Victron multiplus and Schneider electric inverters are extremely popular for both small and large scale DC coupled systems due to the range of compatible solar charge controllers offered by both manufacturers.

AC coupled

SMA and Selectronic have long been regarded as the leaders in AC coupled systems however in the US and Canada the Outback Power inverters may be considered number one as they have optimised there Radian series inverter/chargers to work with the common split phase homes.

 Basic layout diagram of an  AC coupled solar battery system  - Grid-tie (hybrid) grid-interactive setup shown

Basic layout diagram of an AC coupled solar battery system - Grid-tie (hybrid) grid-interactive setup shown


Solar Inverter

Grid connected systems - For AC coupled grid-connected or hybrid systems the Solar inverter can be either be any regular unit but it is usually compatible with the interactive inverter to enable communication between the two inverters for monitoring and control purposes.

Off-grid systems - For off-grid installations it is critical that the solar inverter is compatible with the multi-mode inverter to optimise battery charging; for example when the battery is full and the loads are low, the solar output can be ramped down by the (master) multi-mode inverter as required.

Multi-mode Inverter/charger

The grid-interactive or multi-mode inverter is the heart of the system and acts as a battery inverter/charger and complete grid/generator management system. They incorporate clever, fully programmable software to optimise energy use through features such as load shifting and peak-shaving.

Multi-mode inverters supply power in the same way as an off-grid inverter but also control grid connection (import and export power) and can be setup to automatically start and run a back-up generators. In addition these inverters are capable of handling very high surge loads and can pass through additional power directly from the grid if the batteries are low or the load is very high. This pass through power capability has many advantages but in particular it can enable the entire home to be powered through the inverter without the need to separate essential and non-essential loads or circuits.

Power output chart of the various off-grid/hybrid multi-mode inverter/chargers

The following list explains in detail the features and specifications of the various interactive inverters available. Since the solar inverter can be almost any type we will focus only on multi-mode (grid-interactive) inverters.

See the full interactive inverter/charger summary chart for easy direct comparison.

 

Selectronic SP PRO

Selectronic based in Melbourne, Australia is one of the largest off-grid/hybrid inverter manufacturers. Selectronic’s interactive inverters provide a basis for efficient, high-end, hybrid and off-grid power systems. The SP PRO inverters are renowed for their high build quality, performance and reliability. Selectronic has teamed up with two european solar inverter manufactures - ABB and Fronius, which have a range of high-end solar inverters made to be AC-coupled with the SP PRO multi-mode inverters.

See the full Selectronic SP PRO Review here

Basic specifications:  (5 sizes available)

  • Type: Interactive and solar Inverter (AC or DC coupled)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): n/a

  • Sizes available (power output): 3.0kW, 4.5kW, 5.0kW, 7.5kW, 20kW

  • Pass through power: 15kW built-in (28kW external contactor)

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, lithium-ion, flow, sodium-ion

  • Battery System Voltages: 24V, 48V, 120V

Features:

  • Very high pass through power capability

  • Very high surge power output

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life (lead-acid)

  • Battery sense monitoring and mid string sensor for very precise battery charging (lead-acid Gel and AGM)

  • Very powerful and user friendly software package with remote access

  • Unique pre-charge feature for safer startup

  • Compatible with many lithium battery systems (48V)

  • Generator auto start and monitoring

  • AC / DC coupling capability

  • 3-phase capability

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required

  • Full off-grid capability when used with certified Fronius or ABB solar inverters

  • Additional generator contactor required if used with dual AC sources.

  • Mobile App monitoring not yet available - Coming early 2018

Price bracket – From $4500

See detailed specification datasheet - Selectronic SP PRO series

 

SMA Sunny Island

SMA Sunny Island small.jpg

SMA Solar Technology is a German solar energy equipment supplier founded in 1981 and is one of the world's largest manufacturer of solar inverters. SMA is represented in 21 countries on four continents and is world renowned for their high quality solar and off-grid inverters, plus great reliability and service.

Basic specifications:  (3 sizes available)

  • Type: Interactive Inverter and solar Inverter (AC coupled)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): n/a

  • Sizes available (power output): 3.3kW, 4.6kW, 6.0kW

  • Pass through power: 11.5kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, lithium-ion (refer to manufacturer)

  • Battery System Voltage: 48V

Features:

  • High pass through power capability

  • High surge power output

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Powerful software package with remote monitoring

  • Generator auto start and monitoring (optional)

  • Dual AC inputs (grid and generator)

  • Very good IP54 weather rating

  • AC / DC coupling capability

  • 3-phase capability + parallel for higher output

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required

  • Full capability when used with SMA or compatible solar inverters

  • External automatic transfer switch required to enable battery backup

  • When configured as a hybrid inverter, grid isolation (backup mode) is not instantaneous - 2-3 sec delay.

Price bracket – From $3800

See detailed specification datasheet - SMA Sunny Island specs

 

Schneider Electric Conext XW & XW+

Schneider Electric is a well known, large European corporation and a leader in electrical product development and manufacture. Focusing on designing and developing products for the solar power conversion chain.

Basic specifications:  (3 sizes available)

  • Type: Interactive Inverter/charger (DC coupled with solar regulator/s)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): n/a

  • Sizes available XW (power output): 4.0kW, 4.5kW, 6.0kW

  • Sizes available XW+ (power output): 5.5kW, 6.8kW

  • Pass through power: 14kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, Lithium-ion (XW+ only)

  • Battery System Voltage: 24V & 48V

Features:

  • High surge power output

  • Very high pass through power capability

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Generator auto start and monitoring (optional)

  • Dual AC inputs (grid and generator)

  • Programmable software with remote access

  • AC / DC coupling capability

  • 3-phase capability + parallel for higher output

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required

  • Full capability only when used with Schneider solar inverters & regulators.

  • No built-in battery state of charge (SOC) control system

  • Difficult to configure for hybrid self-use installations

Price bracket – From $4000

See detailed specification datasheet - Schneider Conext XW+ specs


Schneider Electric Conext SW

Schneider Conext SW inverter-charger.jpg

 Schneider Electric is a well known, large European corporation and a leader in electrical product development and manufacture. Focusing on designing and developing products for the solar power conversion chain.

Basic specifications:  (3 sizes available)

  • Type: Interactive Inverter/charger (DC coupled with solar regulator/s)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Sizes available (power output): 3.0kW, 3.4kW, 3.8kW

  • Pass through power: 7.0kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, Lithium-ion

  • Battery System Voltage: 24V & 48V

Features:

  • High surge power output

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Generator auto start and monitoring (optional)

  • Dual AC inputs (grid and generator)

  • Programmable software with remote access

  • 3-phase capability 3-phase capability + parallel for higher output

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required

  • Full capability only when used with Schneider solar charger controllers.

  • No built-in battery state of charge (SOC) control system

  • Can be difficult to configure for hybrid self-use installations

  • IP20 weather rating (must be installed in protected area)

Price bracket – From $2000

See detailed specification datasheet - Schneider Conext SW specs

Outback Power - Radian Series

Outback Radian Series.jpg

Outback Power Systems is a North American company based in Arlington, WA, and have been producing high quality renewable energy products since 2001. Outback is also an innovative designer and manufacturer of reliable power electronics for renewable energy applications including solar, wind, micro-hydro and battery based energy systems.

Basic specifications:  (2 sizes available)

  • Type: Interactive Inverter/charger (DC coupled with solar regulator/s)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): n/a

  • Sizes available (power output): 4.0kW, 8.0kW

  • Pass through power: 3.6kW, 7.2kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, Lithium-ion

  • Battery System Voltage: 48V

Features:

  • Dual AC inputs (Generator & grid)

  • Split phase - 120/240V (North America)

  • Very high surge power output

  • Pass through power capability

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Powerful software package and advanced communications

Note:

  • Additional Coupling unit required to enable AC coupling

  • Full capability when used with Outback regulators.

  • Only available in North, Central and Latin America.

Price bracket – From US$3200

See detailed specification datasheet - Outback Radian Series

 

Victron - MultiPlus & Multiplus II

Victron Multiplus Hybrid inverter charger

Victron Energy founded in 1975 in Almere, Netherlands, has grown to become an international high quality manufacture with a wide product range including battery chargers, sinewave inverters, inverters-chargers, DC/DC converters, transfer switches, battery monitors, charge controllers and more.

See the full Victron Energy Review here

Basic specifications:  (5 sizes available) plus other variations

  • Type: Inverter/charger (DC or AC coupled)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): N/A

  • Sizes available (power output): 0.7kW, 1.3kW, 1.6kW, 2.4kW, 4.0kW,

  • Pass through power: 3.6kW - 11.5kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid or lithium-ion

  • Battery System Voltage: 12V, 24V, 48V

Features:

  • Economical Inverter/charger option

  • Med-High surge power output

  • Pass through power capability

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Generator auto start and monitoring available

  • Dual AC outputs for non-essential loads (high-power units only)

  • Programmable software with remote access and Wifi App

  • 3-phase capability + parallel for higher output

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required

  • Victron size the inverters in kVA not kW (ref data sheet)

  • Full capability only when used with Victron regulators and color control panel (CCGX) and Venus GX

  • Larger capacity Quattro inverters also available (up to 15kVA)

Price bracket – from $1800 (2.4kW)

See detailed specification datasheet - Victron Multiplus inverter specs


V , 24V,

Victron Energy - Quattro

Victron Energy Quattro battery inverter charger.jpg

Victron Energy founded in 1975 in Almere, Netherlands, has grown to become an international high quality manufacture with a wide product range including battery chargers, sinewave inverters, inverters-chargers, DC/DC converters, transfer switches, battery monitors, charge controllers and more.

See the full Victron Energy Review here

Basic specifications:  (5 sizes available) plus other variations

  • Type: Inverter/charger (DC or AC coupled)

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): N/A

  • Sizes available (power output): 2.4kW, 4kW, 6.5kW, 8kW, 12kW

  • Pass through power: 11.5kW - 23kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid or lithium-ion

  • Battery System Voltage: 12V, 24V, 48V

Features:

  • Economical Quality Inverter/charger

  • Med-High surge power output

  • Dual AC inputs for grid and generator sources

  • High pass through power capability

  • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life

  • Generator auto start and monitoring available

  • Dual AC outputs for non-essential loads

  • Programmable software with remote access and Wifi App

  • 3-phase capability + parallel for higher output

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter or solar DC charge controller required

  • Victron size the inverters in kVA not kW (ref data sheet)

  • Full capability only when used with Victron regulators and color control panel (CCGX) and Venus GX

Price bracket – from $4200

See detailed specification datasheet - Victron Quattro inverter specs


Victron Energy - ECOmulti

Victron Energy founded in 1975 in Almere, Netherlands, has grown to become an international high quality manufacture with a wide product range including battery chargers, sinewave inverters, inverters-chargers, DC/DC converters, transfer switches, battery monitors, charge controllers and more.

See the full Victron Energy Review here

Basic specifications:  (1 size available^)

  • Type: Interactive Inverter and solar Inverter combo

  • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS)

  • Solar Array Size (Solar input): 1.8kW-3.2kW

  • Sizes available (power output): 2.5kW (^expandable)

  • Pass through power: 11.5kW

  • Compatible Battery types: Integrated lithium iron phosphate 2.3kWh

  • Battery System Voltage: 24V

Features:

  • All-in-one unit includes batteries and system management.

  • Simple installation

  • High pass through power capability

  • High surge power capability

  • Compact unit

  • Additional battery storage available (^expandable)

Note:

  • Separate solar inverter required

  • Full capability only when used with Victon solar Inverters

  • Low total energy storage capability

Price bracket – TBA

See detailed specification datasheet - Victron ECOmulti inverter specs

 

 

 

For direct comparison of all Interactive inverters see the complete Hybrid Interactive Inverters Summary page.