If you want to maximize your solar energy system’s production, finding the best solar inverter is as important as the solar panels you choose. For an “uncomplicated” roof – one that faces south and has no gables, chimneys, or other obstructions that can cast a shadow – the best solar inverter for you may be a standard string inverter. At the same time, more than half of new residential solar installations are using module-level power electronics (MLPEs)–such as power optimizers and microinverters–to maximize electricity production on more complicated, less ideal rooftops.
In the world of MLPEs, you’re probably trying to decide between two big names, SolarEdge vs. Enphase, and with good reason: over eighty percent of quotes on EnergySage included either SolarEdge or Enphase in 2019, a level of market consolidation that WoodMackenzie data confirm for residential installations in the US. The question of which is the best solar inverter comes down to cost, performance, warranties, and personal preference.
SolarEdge: the industry-leading power optimizer
SolarEdge Technologies is headquartered in Israel and manufactures the leading power optimizer product available in the United States. Power optimizers are installed at the site of an individual solar panel and “condition” the direct current (DC) electricity that the panel produces, which makes it easier for the inverter to convert the electricity to useful alternating current (AC) electricity.
Importantly, this means that power optimizers don’t function as inverters on their own, and must send the solar electricity to a centralized inverter to be converted to AC power, which increases the overall efficiency of the system. According to SolarEdge, there is little difference in efficiency between a system with microinverters and one with power optimizers and a string inverter.
A system that uses power optimizers will cost less than one with microinverters, all else equal. SolarEdge power optimizers offer many of the same capabilities that Enphase and other microinverter manufacturers do. In addition to increasing system efficiency, they make it possible to monitor the performance of a solar panel system on the panel level, which isn’t possible with a system that has a single string inverter. SolarEdge also offers the advantage of manufacturing inverters that are compatible with energy storage solutions, like the StorEdge inverter.
SolarEdge power optimizers come with a 25-year warranty, though the string inverter that the power optimizers are paired with typically has a 12 year warranty. Importantly, SolarEdge offers an extended warranty of up to 20 or 25 years for their string inverter system, depending on the model. This extension can either be purchased at an additional cost, or may be provided by your installer as a perk for choosing their quote.
Enphase: microinverters for a top-performing solar panel system
Enphase is headquartered in California and manufactures the most popular microinverter product for sale in the United States today.
Like power optimizers, microinverters are located on the roof alongside individual solar panels. Instead of sending electricity to a centralized string inverter, systems with microinverters convert the DC solar electricity to useful AC electricity at the site of the solar panel.
Generally speaking, a solar panel system with microinverters will be slightly more efficient than one with power optimizers. However, up-front costs–and any maintenance costs–will be higher with Enphase microinverters than with SolarEdge power optimizers due to the fact that microinverters are a more technologically complex piece of equipment.
Enphase’s current microinverters come with a 25-year. Enphase also manufactures a storage product that can be used in conjunction with its microinverters, the Encharge batteries.
SMA & Tigo: other inverter and MLPE options to consider
SolarEdge and Enphase are the two of the best solar inverters on the market, but they aren’t the only options available for home solar PV systems.
SMA America is a subsidiary of SMA Solar Technology, which is headquartered in Germany and manufactures string inverters. The company was founded in 1981 and is widely considered to be a manufacturer of high-quality inverter products. SMA has long held a strong position in the US commercial solar sector, though historically the pricing of their residential products stood in the way of gaining ground in residential solar. However, SMA’s newer products and pricing are very competitive: many consumers on EnergySage receive lower cost quotes with SMA inverters than other options, when paired with similar solar panels.
Tigo Energy is a manufacturer of MLPE and rapid-shutdown devices based in the United States that produces power optimizers. They may not be a household name like SolarEdge, but their MLPE can work with a number of different battery manufacturers and some string inverters as well.
Choosing the best solar inverter option for your home
EnergySage has additional resources that can help you make a decision about your solar inverter options:
- How do inverters work?
- Comparing string inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers
- Microinverters vs. power optimizers: which panel-level option is best for you?
- Advantages and disadvantages of microinverters and power optimizers
While you can continue to read about the different technologies, the best way to find out which option works for your needs is to review actual quotes from qualified local installers in your area.
When you register your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can review offers that have been customized to your home and evaluate the costs and benefits of different inverter options. Customers who compare quotes on EnergySage can save 20 percent or more on their solar installation simply by evaluating all of their equipment, financing, and installer options.