Enphase Energy System Configurations

The Enphase Energy System: what are its four configurations?

One question that homeowners commonly ask during the solar installation process is whether they can power their homes with just solar panels in the event of an outage – typically the answer is no, you’ll also need storage for a safe and reliable setup that can keep the lights on. However, Enphase made headlines in October 2021 with the announcement of a new configuration of the Enphase Energy System which is, in fact, capable of providing off-grid functionality to homeowners without storage installed (with a few caveats). 

In a two-part series, we’re explaining everything you need to know about the Enphase Energy System. In part one, we discussed the components that make up the Enphase Energy System. In this article (part two of our series) we’ll explain how the components can be configured into different setups: you can choose from four different configurations, depending on the level of backup you want or need.

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Key takeaways

  • The Enphase Energy System includes four different setups: Solar Only, Sunlight Backup, Home Essentials Backup, and Full Energy Independence
  • If you want to backup your whole home through the Full Energy Independence setup you’ll need at least two 10.08 kWh IQ Batteries – you can install a maximum of 40.32 kWh of storage
  • You can now easily integrate a generator into the Enphase Energy System in every configuration except Solar Only 
  • To start your solar journey today, visit the EnergySage Marketplace

What’s in this article?

Solar Only

The Solar Only setup is exactly how it sounds: a traditional grid-tied solar system without backup energy. This means that in the event of an outage, you won’t be able to run any devices but you’ll still save considerable money on your utility bills and generate clean electricity. You’ll also be able to monitor how much energy your system is generating and how much you’re consuming with the Enphase App, as is the case with any solar-only setup. 

With this setup, you’ll need to install:

  • Solar panels
  • Enphase Microinverters
  • Enphase IQ Combiner 4/4C
  • Enphase App

Sunlight Backup

The Sunlight Backup setup is the most unique of the four configurations, offering backup power to up to four basic loads when outages occur and the sun is shining. In this setup, Enphase suggests powering loads such as your refrigerator, your lights or fan, your Internet, and a miscellaneous 120 Volt power outlet to power things like your phone charger. However, you’ll want to avoid powering heavy loads such as air conditioners, electric vehicle chargers, space heaters, or hair dryers. 

It’s important to note that Sunlight Backup is considerably less reliable than a solar-plus-storage setup. A Sunlight Backup system is dependent on irradiance – the amount of sunlight hitting your solar panels – so during the winter when there’s less sunlight or on a cloudy day, your backup power supply will be very limited. And at night, you won’t be able to power any devices. You’ll also notice more fluctuations in your power supply even while it’s sunny out with Sunlight Backup than with a battery: for example, if a cloud passes overhead, your lights may dim or even turn off if your overall demand for electricity exceeds the power supply in that moment. 

With the Sunlight Backup configuration, you’ll need:

  • Solar panels
  • Enphase IQ8 Microinverters
  • Enphase IQ Combiner 4/4C
  • IQ System Controller 2
  • IQ Load Controllers (x2)
  • Essential loads panel
  • Enphase App

Home Essentials Backup

This setup is similar to traditional solar-plus-storage systems, allowing you to power your necessary loads both during full sun and when sunlight is limited – such as during inclement weather or at night. Depending on where you live, you may also be eligible to participate in bring your own battery programs in which your utility provides you with monetary rebates and incentives in exchange for some access to your battery. With the Home Essentials Backup configuration, you’ll still need to be vigilant about which loads you power in the event of an outage, as you won’t have enough backup power to support your whole home. 

This setup requires: 

  • Solar panels
  • Enphase IQ8 Microinverters
  • Enphase IQ Combiner 4/4C
  • IQ System Controller 2
  • IQ Load Controller
  • IQ Battery (at least a 3/3T)
  • Enphase App

Full Energy Independence

With the Full Energy Independence setup, you’ll have all of the same benefits as the Home Essentials Backup, but with much more grid independence. You’ll be able to power your whole home during extended outages and may even be able to go off-grid if you live in an area with ample sunlight to recharge your batteries. If you want whole-home backup, Enphase recommends a minimum of two IQ Battery 10/10Ts for a total of 20.16 kWh. Your configuration can’t exceed four IQ Batteries 10/10Ts or 40.32 kWh – so if you consume a lot of electricity, it’s possible you won’t be able to achieve full home backup. 

For Full Energy Independence, you’ll need: 

  • Solar panels
  • Enphase IQ8 Microinverters
  • Enphase IQ Combiner 4/4C
  • IQ System Controller 2
  • IQ Load Controller
  • IQ Battery (at least two 10/10Ts and up to four)
  • Enphase App

What can you power with different battery sizes?

Enphase provides suggested appliances to power with their different battery configurations to help you determine how much backup power you actually need:

  • 3.36 kWh: with one IQ Battery 3, the minimum battery size for Home Essentials Backup, you’ll be able to power your LED lights, your refrigerator, your fan, and charge your phone.
  • 10.08 kWh: with one IQ Battery 10, which provides more flexibility for the Home Essentials Backup, you can run LED lights, your refrigerator, your fan, your microwave, your TV, your Internet, your garage door, and charge your phone. 
  • 20.16 kWh: with two IQ Battery 10s, the minimum amount of storage needed for Full Energy Independence, you can power LED lights, your refrigerator, your fan, your microwave, your TV, your Internet, your garage door, your dishwater, and potentially your air conditioner and well pump. 
  • 40.32 kWh: finally, with four IQ Battery 10s, the maximum amount of storage you can install in an Enphase Energy System, you can backup your whole home and concurrently run large loads. 

Generator integration with the Enphase Energy System

Enphase’s other major update is that you can now integrate generators with the Enphase Energy System. A generator can be incorporated into any setup except the Solar Only configuration because the IQ System Controller 2 is the hub that actually connects to the generator. With an integrated generator, you’ll be able to use it to recharge your IQ Battery with a solar-plus-storage setup or as additional backup power with your Sunlight Backup set up. Generators from various manufacturers can be incorporated into the Enphase Energy System including some models from Kohler, Generac, Briggs & Stratton, and Cummins. It’s important to note that charging your battery with a generator may impact your eligibility for the federal tax credit for your battery. 

Start your solar journey today on EnergySage

Whether you’re looking for an Enphase Energy System, or a different type of solar or solar-plus-storage setup, the best way to start saving money on your utility bill is by going solar. When you sign up for free on the EnergySage Marketplace, we’ll gather up to seven quotes for you from local installers. By comparing quotes, you can find a system that meets your needs at the right price. Only interested in Enphase equipment? Make a note in your profile to let installers know so they can include it in their quotes. 

Missed part one of this series? Learn about the Enphase Energy System components in the previous article

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About Emily Walker

Emily is a Content Marketer at EnergySage, where she's an expert in making energy fun and easy to learn about! She has a background in environmental consulting and has degrees in Environmental Science and Biology from Colby College. Outside of work, Emily is pursuing a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Science and Policy. She also loves hiking, tending to her collection of houseplants, and trying out new restaurants and breweries whenever possible.

3 thoughts on “The Enphase Energy System: what are its four configurations?

  1. Randal Smith

    Why can’t you have a backup generator with a solar only system? When the grid goes down, in solar only mode the solar rapidly shuts down. When the grid goes down the backup generator starts up. Why can’t you have both of these together?

  2. C. Avery

    We recently had a complete Enphase Ensemble system installed at our house. The system includes IQ7+ inverters and two 10T storage modules. So far it is working perfectly. We are running the system in a “whole house backup” configuration. We have not experienced a grid failure since the system went online.

    My question is this: At my insistence, the installers used 40 IQ7+ inverters to build a 15.22 kW system. I have since learned from my online reading that with two 10T storage modules my system SHOULD be limited to a maximum of 39 IQ7+ inverters. What I can’t find out from my online study is what exactly is the “BAD” thing that can happen if I have one too many inverters in my system. I hesitate to contact Enphase directly with this question, because I don’t want them to find out I’m running a “illegal” system.

    I hope someone at your organization can tell me WHAT exactly is the downside danger to exceeding the IQ-Series micro inverter PV System to Encharge pairing ratio.

    Thank you in advance for any response and assistance.

    1. Thomas E Kemp

      I stumbled onto this page today and noticed that no one had taken the time to answer your question. I realize it has been a few months since you asked, and I can only assume you have found your answer already, but since you may not have received an adequate answer and others may have the same questions, I thought I would take a moment to try to answer it for you.

      To get straight to your point the downside danger to exceeding the IQ6/7+ pairing ratio is the potential to imbalance the system. The design guideline is critical to stable operation of the Ensemble system, and Enphase is emphatic that their guidelines are not ignored. To my knowledge Enphase has not released any data highlighting the issues with electrical imbalances, but it is a fairly common electrical principal. I don’t want to get too technical and make it hard for people to understand, so I will keep it simple and not get into the specifics of electrical phases, power factors, or the finer points of electrical waves. Just remember that the power your home uses is AC Power, alternating current, and it is made up of electrical waves moving along a wire, or wires, and if the load is not balanced it can cause issues such as voltage loss and additional heat generation, both of which can lead to electrical component failures especially in the more sensitive transformer mechanisms.

      For example, the power company is responsible for the proper design of their equipment to ensure that the homes they supply, and the grid itself, are safe. It is not hard to image the infrastructure involved, depending on your area it will be the sight of tall poles, supporting powerlines and transformers, for others it may be more subtle, hidden conduits underground with a transformer popping up every so often between homes, whatever your area looks like you can be assured that a lot of engineering went into making the grid functional and balanced. Minor imbalances to the grid are generally accounted for and are not a major problem beyond regular utility maintenance, but when something goes wrong, the grid fails.

      Now remember that the Empower Smart Switch is Enphase’s custom designed all-in-one microgrid forming device. The Smart Switch properly balances the power between solar panels, batteries and generators. When the grid goes out the Smart Switch takes over performing every function that the grid does, right down to the NFT(Nuetral Forming Transformer) so that your home can properly power both 120V and 240V circuits simultaneously. It is the most critical part of Enphase’s Ensemble system and internal component failure is not an option if you want your equipment to be reliable for years to come.

      Now before you panic let me go a step further in your specific case. You are correct that 39 IQ7+ is the maximum recommended number of inverters to use with two Encharge 10T storage units, but I ran the calculations for your specific case, based on the information that you provided and using Enphase guidelines. After the math I came to 39.72 inverters by the actual voltage, and I am sure Enphase will naturally round down to the nearest inverter to be safe. In my opinion, although you are “technically” not following their guidelines, the margin of error is negligible, and you should have no reason to be concerned. Although Enphase may disagree, which is why these guidelines are made in the first place.

      I think it bears mentioning that the only reason that this is even an issue at all is that you currently have the slightly older generation IQ6/7-Series inverters. There are other factors to consider in regard to proper sizing, but with the new Grid Forming IQ8-Series inverters this particular compatibility issue is resolved and not important to the stable operation of the system anymore.

      I hope this answers your question C. Avery and feel free to let me know if I missed anything.


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