For a summary table of our inverter review and our Solar Specialist's ratings click here.
For most people and even industry professionals it can be hard to distinguish between the many solar inverter manufacturers on the market. We interviewed many experienced installers to determine the most popular and reliable solar inverters, so we can discuss the results and highlight a few of the favourites. The three main considerations we asked our installers to focus on are quality, service and value. Check out our article on our criteria when rating solar products for more on the rating process. This article is going to discuss string and micro solar inverters, not hybrid or off-grid inverters. For a review of hybrid and off-grid systems follow the link, and for an intro into inverters see our solar and hybrid inverters article.
Popular string inverters can be placed into two broad categories, "premium" and "value". These categories are based on our Specialists' feedback as well as the inverter's price range. All inverter brands have faults occasionally, it is not just how often faults occur that distinguish a "value" inverter manufacturer from a "premium" inverter manufacturer but also how well they deal with faults and how likely they are to be around in the future. Build quality (how the inverter looks, sounds and feels) is also important, as is monitoring and functionality and ease of installation.
Still standing out at the top of the "premium" list is the SMA. It is clearly the most widely used and highly rated in terms of quality and service by our Solar Specialists who cite SMA's reliability and service as it's standout features. SMA is a German company which has been around since 1985, it offers Sunny Boy single phase and also Sunny Tripower (3 phase up to 25kW). Austrian built Fronius and Italian made ABB (formerly Aurora) are strong contenders to SMA. Both owned by industrial giants they are the favourites of a number of our Specialists, although Fronius gets higher ratings than the ABB. Fronius has recently upgraded all of its inverters to the very slick looking and easy to install and service snap inverters, the solar inverter models are the Galvo, Primo and Symo. Another industrial giant moving into solar inverters is Schneider Electric, their models should be in the "premium" range as well, however our Specialists in Australia have not had enough to do with them yet for us to pass judgment.
Update: US made SolarEdge inverters are a big player in the US market and are starting to become well known world-wide as a high quality inverter with unique 'DC optimisers' which enable individual panel level monitoring.
The "value" category is more crowded than the premium. What links the "value" inverters is that they are a good option for a cost effective solar system that will likely serve you well for the lifetime of your system. However, there is some risk involved in that if you do have a problem with the inverter often the service and support is poor, and the manufacturer is smaller and less reputable with more risk of them disappearing in future. Growatt and Delta are both widely used by our Specialists and get reasonably good ratings for both quality and service. The SMA owned Zeversolar gets ok quality feedback, but their service really lets them down. SolaX is quite new to the market so we don't have a lot of feedback to go on, but initial reports are promising. JFY has been around for a long time, and whilst they are very widely used and are very cheap, the Specialists report poor quality and performance. Samil Power was a large player in the Australian market, but seem to have nearly disappeared (along with their service). I should also mention GoodWe, which is a large player internationally but is only fairly recent to Australia. Goodwe appear to be growing a strong market share and may well become a dominant player in the value solar inverter market.
ABB has been my preferred premium inverter for some time, because it is a high quality inverter but is cheaper than both SMA and Fronius. I really like the new Fronius inverters though, besides looking great they have excellent monitoring options and also if a fault occurs they can be serviced on the spot by a trained installer, rather than having the whole unit replaced. In terms of value inverters I think there are a few decent options each with pros and cons. I like Delta because it has been around for a long time and offers a wide range of inverters (including micros) with 10 year warranties (most manufacturers offer 5 years). Whilst they have had problems in the past with high fault rates, it looks like their new RPI model has fewer faults than past models. I also like Zeversolar simply because it is owned by SMA, it is one of the few "value" inverters with the backing of such a big company, which means there is less risk in it disappearing as many others have. However, whilst I have only had to deal with one fault, the experience was very painful, SMA do not deal with Zeversolar warranty issues.
Micro inverters are very popular in the US market with two quality manufacturers, Enphase and SolarBridge based there. They are becoming more popular in Europe, and Enphase now has a significant presence in Australia too. Enphase are highly rated by our Specialists for their reliability and monitoring. Some installers we consulted mentioned SolarBridge as a stand out because they are similar quality to Enphase and the inverter is already connected and tested with the panel making for easy installs and one point of contact for service. APS is also widespread in the Australian market, however it receives less glowing reviews with installers sighting high number of faults and poor service. I spoke with an APS technician recently who informed me that the latest APS model has less faults than previous ones.
A number of string inverter manufacturers are making micro inverters as well including SMA, ABB, Samil Power and Delta. They are not widely used in Australia though and our Specialists have not got much feedback. A note about micro inverter value - the up front cost of micro inverters is higher than that of string inverters, however micro inverter manufacturers claim that this is outweighed by higher performance and monitoring. For detailed information of various micro inverters see our micro inverter article.
For our Solar Specialists’ ratings on most of the major inverter manufacturers on the market, and for further details to help distinguish between manufacturers, check out our solar inverter summary page. Also see our full listing and summary of available hybrid & off-grid inverters and systems review.
* Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite inverters are.
See the Solar Battery inverter Review here