Solar Panels and Inverters


Solar Panels

The top 30 brands in the World are referred to as Tier 1 products, so if you are offered any of the following solar panels, you are getting one of the biggest and best.

Q.Cells, Canadian, LG, Jinko, Trina, Longi, Sunpower, REC, Risen, Winaico, Talesun, BYD, Eging, ET, HT-SAAE, JA and Seraphim. There are reviews on most of them further down this page.

The most popular panels, because they are cheaper, have 60 blue coloured cells inside, and are called, polycrystalline, or poly panels (modules actually). Almost every manufacturer makes a range of poly panels, and apart from minor differences in the frame (some are a bit less robust than others), there really isn't much at all to differentiate one from another. You'll see on our Pricing page that most of these panels cost you just $10 to $25 each after the STCs (rebate) is deducted. We favour Canadian Solar in this category, not because they are better, but because they are always really easy to get hold of from a number of different Perth Solar wholesalers, have a large range, and when needed, provide great support from their Australian office. Almost all of these mainstream 60 cell poly panels come as 275-285W. We prefer 275W over 285W because it divides perfectly into the max 6.6kW allowed in Perth to qualify for the Feed In Tariff.

There are also larger 72 cell poly panels that can save you some dollars as there are fewer panels to install. Their larger size (2 metres long instead of 1.6m) means they aren't a good fit for many roofs, and in the end, whilst you may only need 20 of them to get to 6.6kW against 24 x 275W panels, they still take up the same roof area.

After polys, comes half cell polys. This is where the 60 cells have been lasered in half to make 120 cells and then joined together in 6 strings instead of the usual 3. This creates less resistance and allows the panels to operate at a cooler temperature which means they make more power. Only 1 or 2% more, but more is more. Canadian and REC were first to market with these products, but everyone is bringing out half cell modules over the next 6 months.

They cost a bit more, but not much, and their performance in the heat, and slightly better operation in low light and shade makes them as good as a mono, perhaps even a bit better.

Monocrystalline (Mono) panels are the ones you see on roofs that look black. When we started, all panels were monos, but the polys started to take over around 2012 due to the lower cost. Monos always work a bit better in the heat than polys (but not half cell polys). Monos are also more roof space efficient than polys. 60 cell monos are physically the same size as polys, but where a poly would be a 275W panel a mono would be 300W, in fact some are 360W.

Canadian Solar make a good monos, so do Longi. Q.Cells mono is a bit better still, then the fabulously roof space efficient but pricey LG Neon 2, and then for those who have the money and simply want the best there is, SunPower X and LG Neon R. There is no way, ever, that buying these last two will make financial sense, it would take a 30 years of 'extra power production' to claw back the premium you pay, but they are simply wonderful technology.

How do we KNOW all of the above?
Well we have done a bunch of rooftop tests where we convinced some people in Perth to have 12 different solar panels (or more) on their roof fitted with optimisers so we could monitor the output for each individual panel. Here's a picture of one of them.

In addition to the rooftop tests, some of which have been going for more than 5 years now, we also run reports every three months on all of our customer installations. Tens of thousands of reports, some going back to 2010-2011. Like this...


 

Australian Office is good...right?
Yes, we like that. Canadian Solar, Jinko, Trina, Q.Cells, and LG all have local staff and offices and warehouses. Whilst we have been around longer than most in this industry, one day, over the next 25 years, we might close up. Who can say? So having your warranty on your panels handled by someone with an operation HERE, seems like it would be easier.

The same applies to inverters. SMA, Fronius, Huawei, Delta, Goodwe...all here, not over there. 

 

The panel brands!!

Click the blue brand name for a full review, datasheets etc

 

Canadian Solar did indeed start in North America many years ago, but are entirely Chinese run. They still make a reasonably small percentage of their panels in North America, but what we get here is all out of China. Not that we care about that. Same robots, same result, no matter where it's made.

Trina, Jinko, JA and Seraphim are also top brands and don't make any pretence in their names to be anything other than what they are...Chinese and proud of it.

Talesun and GCL are less well known brands in Australia (but still high up on the World rankings) and as a result, slightly cheaper. Big brands names command higher prices.

Longi are, and have been for many years, the World No.1 monocrystalline cell manufacturer and we like their panels. Not many others sell them, but they should. Great panel and comes in a 290W and 300W version for not much more than a regular panel.

Q.Cells. German engineered but these days, made in various parts of Asia. Quite a lot more expensive for the monocrystalline panels but a really nice looking black framed product and a great long term choice. Their very "German" designed frames may not win any efficiency awards but boast a near double than normal wind load of 4000pa meaning that in the strongest of cyclonic winds your roof might be sailing over your neighbourhood but your Q.Cells will be rigidly tolerating the inconvenience.

REC don't make mono panels, only polycrystalline and as a result are really struggling to keep up with others in the efficiency stakes. It's much easier to make a mono panel that's 300W than go through the technical hoopla that REC have done.

 

LG. We all know this South Korean giant. Great panels, great solar batteries...really annoying smart TVs. (I sold mine on Gumtree, after it killed three of my portable storage drives). These (and Sunpower) are the slight exceptions to the rule we mentioned at the start of this page. The LG NeonR panels are genuinely a bit better in the heat, and a bit better in shade than regular panels and as a result we see them consistently making 3% and sometimes as much as 5% more power than all the others. But you certainly don't pay the huge extra price for a few kWhs a year of power. You pay for the fact that you get 360W per panel instead of 275W and an awesome warranty, but really, the investment is in roof space. You only need 18 of these panels for 6.5kW compared to 23 or 24 of a regular panel, but if you think that means they will work out cheaper, think again. LG may have started life flogging cheap TVs and fridges to the World, but they are top of the tree now.

Sunpower. Very similar ultra- premium product to LG but having lost their French petroleum company (Total) owners a small fortune over the years, it is probably a bit wiser to go for LG. Mind you, rumour has it that the solar panel division of LG has never positively contributed to the company bottom line either.

Inverter Summary

The quality of solar inverters today is hugely improved from a few years back. A simple relay was the undoing of a huge number of inverter brands, dragging down their wholesalers and retailers with them. What we are left with today is really very good, across all price points.

We would have no hesitation in recommending and honouring the warranty on today's lower cost inverters from Growatt, Goodwe, Zeversolar, Sungrow and Delta.

We would be happier, and in the long run, so will you, if you bought Fronius, Huawei, SolarEdge or SMA but it will cost you about $700 to $1200 more than one of the economy models.

The big solar lie

"Yes, this inverter is battery ready"

Read this page to see why it's a lie and how much it will end up costing you later on when you want to connect batteries if you fall for it.

A brief description of each of these top inverter brands

Click the blue brand name for a full review, datasheets etc

Huawei FusionHome inverters are indeed a fusion of everything that is good about rivals Fronius and SolarEdge, all combined into one small and light product. It's a brand spanking new product line to Huawei's long proven and World No.1 commercial inverter range.

Battery interface built-in, DC optimisers for eliminating shade issues with panel level reporting, excellent WIFI and a 10 year warranty make this product very hard to go past. Huawei are 83rd on the World Fortune 500 list with sales of US$75 billion last year.
You won't find much internet chat in Australia about this product yet, too new, and many solar companies like to stick to what they know (Fronius), but we saw it in early 2017 at a trade show and KNEW it was the best there has been for many years.

Fronius make excellent 'string inverters'. Primo range for single phase, and Symo range for three phase. All 100% European made (Austria), 10 year parts and 5 year labour warranty. Excellent reporting via inbuilt WIFI. New range of products coming to Australia next year. Click the Review link to find out more.

SolarEdge. Every solar panel has a SolarEdge power optimiser attached and in so doing, at great expense, allows every panel to operate as a law unto itself. Shading, roof orientations mean nothing to the flexibility of SolarEdge. However, a very confusing array of products, best explained by clicking on the blue SolarEdge link means that many end up with (not from us, of course) something other than what they thought they were buying.

Goodwe are perhaps the surprise near the top of this list of heavyweights but it ranks highly because it is so reliable, has very detailed reporting via WIFI and the company built their name in the challenging battery inverter market. They have the most comprehensive range of Hybrid inverters, and retro fit DC and AC coupled solutions that can be used to put batteries on ANY solar installation, new or old, single or three phase.

SMA Just a few years ago, Fronius were a bit of a joke selling very ordinary single tracking inverters and trying to compete with mighty German SMA, who were asked for by everyone. Now, we all carry the brand on our price list, but not many people promote them. It's all Fronius (and soon to be, mark our words, Huawei). Moving manufacturing to China really damaged the SMA brand. The major point of SMA was its German manufacturing. If you want to buy a Chinese made inverter then bring the price down to match Goodwe, Sungrow, Delta Growatt etc, but they persist with a Fronius level price. However, they did finally cotton on to the fact that Fronius had a 10 year product warranty and in late 2017 started offering that too. No LCD screen either. Pfft. The 3 phase TriPower, whilst lacking WIFI, is still made in Germany.

Enphase make an excellent micro inverter, similar in function and price to SolarEdge except there is no central inverter. The conversion from DC to AC happens on the roof with each micro attached to each solar panel. Good reporting via WIFI through a small control unit (called Envoy). We stopped doing Enphase a year or two ago for reasons we won't put here.

Delta

Good inverters priced a few hundred more than most other Chinese brands because they provide a full 10 year parts AND labour warranty. Now they have WIFI (finally), they are a good choice.

Sungrow
Another Chinese giant with a range of single and three phase inverters, plus some Hybrids.

Priced almost exactly the same as Goodwe, there is little to pick between the two. We prefer Goodwe because it has an LCD screen built in plus WIFI included, and their Hybrid range and AC and DC coupled solutions are more flexible, but really, that's just us nit-picking.

Growatt

The cheapest inverter in all categories and a good choice if on a tight budget or likely to move house in less than 5 years time.

Zeversolar

German SMA bought a struggling Chinese inverter manufacturer (Eversolar), re-engineered the product and it's now pretty good at the low end. It's not an SMA inside so don't think you are getting SMA simply because SMA own the company. Incredibly expensive to add WIFI to this product, where normally it's either included free or $20 and no 3 phase solutions make this a brand we will supply if you ask for it, but we won't recommend it.

 

 

 
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