The SunPower Equinox: an all-in-one home solar solution

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More and more often, new technology in the solar industry is geared towards making installations as aesthetically pleasing as possible. This was SunPower’s motivation for their Equinox home solar energy solution, which was first introduced in 2016.

This solar solution is an all-in-one packaged system where every component is made by SunPower. It’s designed to be as sleek as possible on rooftops by hiding parts of the solar panel system that are otherwise visible in most installations. Typical solar energy systems may include panels, inverters, and monitoring from separate manufacturers. In an Equinox system, every component of the system is from SunPower.

In June 2018, SunPower announced that their Equinox systems are now compatible with energy storage. They join a growing list of solar companies beginning to offer battery storage as a solution for homeowners.

First, what are the components of the SunPower Equinox system?

The components of a SunPower Equinox system

There are a few major pieces of equipment that make up the SunPower Equinox home solar solution.

Panels

SunPower produces a variety of solar panels. Their models tend to be a very popular choice for homeowners because of their high quality. Today, SunPower has some of the most efficient panels on the market. While most standard solar panels see an efficiency range of 14 to 18 percent, SunPower manufactures panels with more than 22 percent efficiency. The company can also boast of lower degradation rates than standard solar panels, which allows an Equinox system to produce the maximum amount of solar energy over its lifetime.

Inverters

The panels in a SunPower Equinox system are AC modules, which means that microinverters are integrated into the panel rather than as a separate component. With a microinverter, the direct current (DC) electricity is converted to alternating current (AC) right at the panel site, instead of at an inverter elsewhere on the property.

Microinverters offer higher efficiency than conventional string inverters. They are also more suitable for complicated installations than a string inverter because they allow for solar panel systems to perform more effectively in suboptimal circumstances. With a string system, if some of your solar panel systems are shaded for part of the day, the performance of the entire system will be affected. This is not the case with microinverters because each panel has their own inverter, and they are performing independently from one another.

Monitoring software

SunPower’s monitoring software is known as EnergyLink. This software provides instant performance data for an Equinox system. It allows you to visualize the solar production of your system over time, as well as an estimate of bill savings and carbon dioxide emission reductions. You also have the ability to view this data from your computer, phone or tablet.

Racking

SunPower dubs their Equinox racking technology as InvisiMount. This mounting hardware can be used on most roofing types, including tile. The InvisiMount Hardware is called so because of its aesthetics; SunPower purposefully installs this hardware so that it’s not easily visible, making for very sleek installations.





Don



The Equinox system’s compatibility with storage

Though SunPower does not manufacture batteries, their Equinox system is now compatible with battery options from other companies. In June 2018, SunPower announced that these systems can be installed with two very popular home battery options: the Tesla Powerwall and sonnen eco batteries.

Both batteries are lithium ion options, but one or the other may be better suited for you depending on your needs. One of the biggest differences between the two batteries is the sizes offered by both companies. sonnen batteries come in a wide range of sizes to meet varying needs, from 4 kilowatt hours (kWh) up to 16 kWh. The Powerwall, on the other hand, only comes in one size and has a 13.5 kWh capacity. Prices of the battery will also differ depending on the manufacturer and the size of the battery you choose. Not including the cost of installation, the sonnen eco starts at a price of $9,950 for their smallest model. Tesla sells their Powerwall for $5,900.

It’s worth noting that both battery options are not exclusive to SunPower. Both Tesla’s and sonnen’s batteries can be installed by a number of dealers and installation companies. SunPower has noted that in having two solar battery options, their dealers will have a choice of which battery option they want to primarily install, or install both. Customers will also have a choice of which battery they want to install with their solar panel system.

Should I purchase a SunPower Equinox system?

If you’re considering moving forward with a SunPower Equinox system, here are a few factors to help with your decision.

Warranty

One of the primary advantages of having an Equinox system is the warranty offering from the manufacturer. SunPower is known to have an industry-leading warranty with bumper-to-bumper coverage for 25 years on both the performance and materials warranty of their panels. With the Equinox system, the panels,  microinverters and racking material all have a 25-year warranty backed by SunPower. (The outlier in the 25-year warranty offering is the EnergyLink monitoring software, which has an industry standard 10-year warranty.)

The benefits of the SunPower Equinox system aren’t just limited to the longevity of the warranties; having a single warranty provider can make potential servicing the system easier since you don’t have to deal with multiple companies.

However, if you’re considering installing a storage option with your Equinox system, keep in mind that the warranty of the battery is specific to the manufacturer rather than SunPower. Both sonnen and Tesla offer a 10-year warranty for their battery option.

Aesthetics

Another benefit of installing an Equinox is the aesthetics. SunPower has designed their Equinox system to be as sleek and unobtrusive as possible. With everything from the InvisiMount racking to the AC integrated panels, SunPower strives to hide as much of the parts of the solar panel system as possible. SunPower also provides the option of all-black panels with their Equinox systems if you’re looking for a more seamless appearance. This could be a good option to consider if you’re putting the panels on the front of your home, or have a strict homeowners association (HOA) that would be more agreeable to the sleekness of a SunPower Equinox system.

Performance

Efficiency is another major advantage that an Equinox system will have over its competitors. As mentioned before, SunPower has some of the highest efficiency panels on the market, allowing homeowners to maximize solar production on their roof. High-efficiency panels are the way to go if you have limited roof space and can’t fit enough panels to cover 100 percent of your electricity need. Though, if you are in the market for high-efficiency panels, SunPower isn’t your only option to consider. Manufacturers such as LG and Panasonic also make premium panel models that reach efficiencies above 21 percent.

Cost

All that being said, a SunPower Equinox system isn’t for everyone. One of the downsides of a SunPower system is the cost. Their panels are typically more expensive than other panel options on a cost-per-watt basis. In the EnergySage Marketplace, SunPower prices range between $3.65 per watt to $4.55 per watt. On the other hand, the national average cost per watt is closer to $3.14 per watt. If you don’t need high-efficiency panels to generate all of your electricity need or are considering a ground mount system because of abundant yard space, then you may want to look at other options that will have a lower upfront investment.

Shop for SunPower and other solar panel systems

EnergySage partners with hundreds of installers, including SunPower dealers. By shopping for solar on the EnergySage Marketplace, you can receive quotes with SunPower equipment, as well as quotes with other, comparable high-efficiency panels. If you’re specifically interested in an Equinox system, simply note it on your account so that our partners that are SunPower dealers can quote according to your preference. If you’d like to start your solar shopping with a quick estimate of what solar can save you, try our Solar Calculator.





Don



2 comments

  1. Awesome review thx! If I get this system, and a inverter fails in the warrant period, will I have to pay the installer a service fee to replace it?

  2. No, the article conveniently forgot to mention the 25 year labor/testing/shipping warranty from SunPower. That’s a huge advantage from the manufacturer, not the installer.

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