best solar inverters enphase vs solaredge vs sma

Best solar inverters review: SolarEdge vs. Enphase vs. SMA vs. Tigo

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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. However, more than half of new residential solar installations are using module-level power electronics (MLPEs) like power optimizers and microinverters to maximize electricity production.

In the world of MLPEs, you’re probably trying to decide between two big names: SolarEdge vs. Enphase. According to Greentech Media, the two companies controlled 95 percent of the module-level power electronics market in 2015. They are also currently the two leading inverter brands featured in quotes to solar shoppers on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. The question of which is the best solar inverter comes down to cost, performance, warranties, and personal preference.

solar panel cost

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.

Unlike microinverters, SolarEdge power optimizers cannot fulfill the function of an inverter alone. Instead, they fix the voltage of the solar electricity and then send it 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 other things being 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 the Tesla Powerwall 2.

SolarEdge power optimizers come with a 25-year warranty. However, the string inverter that the power optimizers are paired with typically has a 12 year warranty, and it will need to be replaced at some point during the lifetime of the solar PV system. Importantly, SolarEdge offers an extended warranty of up to 20 or 25 years for their string inverter system, depending on the model. This extension comes at an additional cost.

Enphase: microinverters for a top-performing solar panel system

enphase inverter logoEnphase 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 maintenance costs will be higher with Enphase microinverters than with SolarEdge power optimizers due to the fact that that microinverters are a more technologically complex piece of equipment.

Enphase’s microinverters come with either a 25-year or 15-year warranty (depending on model), and because they don’t rely on a string inverter, there’s no need to worry about purchasing a replacement product during your solar panel system’s lifetime. Enphase also manufactures a storage product that can be used in conjunction with its microinverters.

solar panel cost

SMA & Tigo: other module-level power electronic options

SolarEdge and Enphase are the two of the best solar inverters on the market, but they aren’t the only MLPE options available for home solar PV systems.

SMA America is a subsidiary of SMA Solar Technology, which is headquartered in Germany and manufactures both string inverters and power optimizers. The company was founded in 1981 and is considered widely considered to be a manufacturer of high-quality inverter products. However, they’re slightly more expensive than other options, and as a result they aren’t as popular as SolarEdge’s power optimizer product in the United States.

Tigo Energy is a MLPE manufacturer based in the United States that produces power optimizers. They may not be a household name like SolarEdge, but they partner with a variety of solar panel manufacturers (among them CSUN, Jinko Solar, Silfab, and Trina Solar) to produce “smart modules,” which are essentially solar panels manufactured with power optimizers attached. These are particularly appealing for solar installers because they make it easier to install a solar energy system with MLPEs, which can also have the effect of reducing your solar installation costs.

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: 

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.

solar panel cost

NOTE: the data in this piece was last updated January 2019 and is updated every 6 months.

40 thoughts on “Best solar inverters review: SolarEdge vs. Enphase vs. SMA vs. Tigo

  1. Solarman

    Ryan, the simplest solar PV system is (still) series panels into a string inverter. In California there is a push for behind the meter storage. For now you still have an ITC Federal tax credit of 30%, till the end of 2019, in 2020 the ITC drops to 26%, in 2021 it drops to 22%. (Unless) Congress extends the ITC it will be gone.

    The ITC means to you, that your system with energy storage can be installed and 30% of the total price can be written off of your Federal income taxes. Right now Sonnen has one of the slickest back up systems. The Sonnen 10kWh eco runs on average of 16K installed. The unit has an 8kW Radian inverter/charger, the battery pack and a power control algorithm built into the cabinet one would have installed in their garage. This system can charge from solar panels on the roof or can be programmed to charge from the grid in off peak or super off peak times of the late night, early morning hours. It also enables you to use captured solar PV power during the dreaded TOU time of the day, usually from 3PM to 9PM. There has to be a local Sonnen dealer in your area, google Sonnen. From what I’ve seen, the Sonnen system uses the LiFePO4 batteries which are more temperature stable than the TESLA and LG Chem MNC battery storage systems.

  2. neil e dale

    solar edge is currently unable to supply monitoring software so thousands of customers are unable to tell if their system is working ! i have had my 10 KW system for over a month and they have repeatedly stalled, delayed and finaly admitted they don’t know when they will be able to supply monitoring equipment hardware as it is a separate install their cell phone monitoring does./ did not work and now, the wifi is not ready and it could be many months ! do not trust them ! they are scamming consumers! selling inverters that cannot be monitored! they have repeatedly lied to me !
    NOTE ! they DO NOT sell the inverter pictured anymore as the built-in monitor screen was defective and frequently died ! now you need to buy and fit a separate software/ hardware system and it also failed and needs to be re-built and re-designed ! they DO NOT tell you this when they sell you the inverter ! they are deceiving and cheating thousands of customers! selling defective parts and lying about when they will replace them and ship out the good replacements ! beware ! consumer rip off !

  3. Antonio Berberan

    Good day. I have an IMEON inverter that started, after 2 years of normal operation, showing a red light labeled “error” all the time thus going to the grid to get energy. The manufacturer says that there are leakages. But when I allow the inverter to feed-in the grid there are no more errors showing up. Any hint?

  4. rodel

    Neil e dale. solaredge is very much capable of monitoring your solar production. I think what you are angry about are the installers you bought the inverter from.

    I use solaredge hd-wave with mod bus, with wifi hooked into my wifi network. mod bus is solaredge’s hardware that monitors your system. sold separately. monitoring app is free. Solaredge also has remote support that can diagnose your system, i guess depends on what type of inverter you own.

    in my experience, i think you need to do your own diligence of researching in the solar market as many of the installers are not quite familiar on how to install newish products coming in as well, installers will pretty much get around it given the time.

    eg. The wiring was misconfigured to the modbus that does the monitoring, monitoring graph was quite strange it didnt made any sense, I had solaredge remotely diagnosed and sent out an email to myself which i forwarded to the installer to fix the configuration.

    so yep, solaredge offers system monitoring. In my opinion still has a lot of room for improvement. aka, owners dont have access to the setapp where owners can configure simple setups like wifi etc.

  5. Gabriel

    My SolarEdge inverter is defective for more than two weeks now (after only 5 months of operation in S. California). The dealer who installed the unit requested the manufacturer send a replacement under warranty, however the manufacturer didn’t even ship the unit yet and is estimated to take additional 2 weeks for delivery. Therefore the replacement day is unknown. I regret not installing EnPhase instead, as they are US, local manufacturer. I recommend avoiding SolarEdge: inferior hardware and inferior service.

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