SOLAR INVERTERS

Firstly, what is a solar inverter?

A solar inverter is a wonderful little piece of technology that converts Direct Current electricity (DC electricity) produced by your PV (photovoltaic) panels into Alternating Current electricity (AC electricity). All of your appliances and home’s electronics operate by using AC electricity.


Solar inverters are essentially the gatekeepers to the entire process of harnessing solar power — without them, solar panels would be nothing more than very expensive black roof tiles. On top of this, a solar inverter acts as a vital safety net and supervisor. They monitor performance and convert DC electricity before its voltage becomes dangerous.

As you can see in the image above, solar inverters interact with every part of your solar system, which is why they’re often referred to as the ‘brains’ of the operation.

It’s generally advised to allocate more of your budget to your solar panel inverter and opt for more budget-friendly solar panels if affordability is an important factor to you.

Need help choosing the right type of solar panel inverter?

With so many brands and different types of inverters vying for your attention, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

What PV inverter should you choose? What solar panel inverter is best for your home — and an even better question — why?

Don’t stress if it seems like lots to get your head around, our summary below of the different types of solar panel inverters should help!

String inverters

Reliable, affordable and scalable, string inverters are the most commonly used types of solar inverters in Australia and the world. It is aptly named as each solar panel in the system is connected in a string-like formation. They are generally wall-mounted on the home, inside or outside, but sheltered from the elements.

Micro inverters

Expensive, intricate and innovative, micro inverters are exactly as the name suggests — miniaturised inverters. They are connected to each individual solar panel and responsible for converting DC and monitoring only the solar panel it’s attached to. This provides excellent opportunities for optimisation and reduces any redundancies in one panel that may affect the entire system. For example, if one solar panel in a system using a string inverter is shaded by a tree, the entire string of panels will be negatively affected. Picture stepping on a hose–water may still come out the end, but with much less power and volume.

Optimised string inverters

Often considered a compromise between a pure string inverter or micro inverters, optimised string inverters aim to nullify the weaknesses of the other two types. Each panel has its own optimiser, which feeds back to a single string inverter, helping to monitor and regulate different amounts of DC electricity produced by each solar panel.

Hybrid inverters

Useful and versatile, hybrid inverters allow you to plug batteries into your solar panel system with a method called DC coupling. This allows you to store, monitor and use solar power produced by your panels at night, or in off-grid periods such as power outages.

Battery inverters

Great for improving or adapting an existing system, battery inverters allow you to incorporate battery storage capabilities into your solar panel system.

 
Pros Cons When to Use Them
String Inverters
  • Most affordable
  • Proven in Australia and extremely reliable – most used type of inverter globally
  • Troubleshooting and maintenance costs are reduced. Inverters are the most likely point of failure in a solar panel system, only have to monitor 1 inverter
  • Poor efficiency across entire solar panel system in partial shade
  • Shorter lifespan than micro inverters
  • For those with an unobstructed space looking for an affordable, simple solar power solution
Hybrid Inverters
  • Constant power supply during outages and typical downtimes when solar panels aren’t producing power when paired with a battery
  • Allows you to store excess electricity produced by your solar system, which can then be used at night once the panels are no longer generating electricity when paired with a battery
  • All in one inverter that cuts out the need for separate solar and battery inverters when installing batteries.
  • Ensures your system is ‘battery ready’ in the future
  • Lack adoption and support
  • A more expensive option if you don’t plan on adding a battery at the same time
  • For residents planning on including solar battery storage with their installations or in the near future
Micro Inverters
  • Longer lifespan than any other type of inverter — up to 25 years — though exposure to harsh Aussie sun can definitely reduce this
  • Extremely easy to expand and adjust system with more, less or different solar panels
  • Provides control at panel level — solar panels can face different directions and power production can be monitored individually
  • More expensive
  • Very few companies offering micro inverters are operating in Australia
  • For those with roofs that are partially shaded or have multiple pitches / orientations where a string inverter would not be suitable
  • Those with more capital to invest who want to ensure maximum production from each panel and are able to wait for ROI

String Inverters

Pros
  • Most affordable
  • Proven in Australia and extremely reliable – most used type of inverter globally
  • Troubleshooting and maintenance costs are reduced. Inverters are the most likely point of failure in a solar panel system, only have to monitor 1 inverter
Cons
  • Poor efficiency across entire solar panel system in partial shade
  • Shorter lifespan than micro inverters
When to use them
  • For those with an unobstructed space looking for an affordable, simple solar power solution

Hybrid Inverters

Pros
  • Constant power supply during outages and typical downtimes when solar panels aren’t producing power when paired with a battery
  • Allows you to store excess electricity produced by your solar system, which can then be used at night once the panels are no longer generating electricity when paired with a battery
  • All in one inverter that cuts out the need for separate solar and battery inverters when installing batteries.
  • Ensures your system is ‘battery ready’ in the future
Cons
  • Lack adoption and support
  • A more expensive option if you don’t plan on adding a battery at the same time
When to use them
  • For residents planning on including solar battery storage with their installations or in the near future

Micro Inverters

Pros
  • Longer lifespan than any other type of inverter — up to 25 years — though exposure to harsh Aussie sun can definitely reduce this
  • Extremely easy to expand and adjust system with more, less or different solar panels
  • Provides control at panel level — solar panels can face different directions and power production can be monitored individually
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Very few companies offering micro inverters are operating in Australia
When to use them
  • For those with roofs that are partially shaded or have multiple pitches / orientations where a string inverter would not be suitable
  • Those with more capital to invest who want to ensure maximum production from each panel and are able to wait for ROI

Solar inverter system comparison

Even though they often pay themselves off after a few years, investing in a solar panel system is not something to rush. With entire systems usually costing between $4,500 and $10,000, choosing the right solar inverter for your system is an absolute must.  

At Solar Market, we’ve done what we do best and analysed hundreds of solar inverter systems to bring you the leading solar inverters currently in the industry.

Picking a solar inverter system: pros and cons

Inverter What We Love What We Don’t Like
Top-End Choice

FRONIUS Primo 5.0-1 AUS

  • Unique snap-in design improves longevity and serviceability
  • Active-cooling feature enables the solar inverter to operate in harsher conditions whilst maintaining high performance
  • Well-designed solar app and sleek monitoring system
  • Requires a paid subscription to use all features in solar monitoring app
Best All-Rounder

SMA SB5.0-1AV-41

  • German engineering that’s highly reliable
  • Competitively priced
  • 24/7 service with automated monitoring and alerts from SMA on every single one of their inverters
  • Only offers a 5-year warranty
Most Budget-Friendly

SUNGROW SG5K-D Premium

  • Very affordable, approximately half the price of Fronius’s Inverter
  • Established and proven in the Australian market, recommended by many Australian solar inverter installers
  • Simple integration with powerful solar analytics
  • Saving money on panels is more advised than on inverters
Best Micro Inverter

ENPHASE IQ-7 Series

  • Reduces effects of redundancies in individual solar panels, and allows for more flexible system design
  • Reduces risks associated with high voltage by converting DC to AC instantly and effectively
  • 10-15 year warranty
  • More expensive than different types of inverters, such as string and hybrid inverters

Top-End Choice

Inverter

FRONIUS Primo 5.0-1 AUS

What We Love
  • Unique snap-in design improves longevity and serviceability
  • Active-cooling feature enables the solar inverter to operate in harsher conditions whilst maintaining high performance
  • Well-designed solar app and sleek monitoring system
What We Don’t Like
  • Requires a paid subscription to use all features in solar monitoring app

Best All-Rounder

Inverter

SMA SB5.0-1AV-41

What We Love
  • German engineering that’s highly reliable
  • Competitively priced
  • 24/7 service with automated monitoring and alerts from SMA on every single one of their inverters
What We Don’t Like
  • Only offers a 5-year warranty

Most Budget-Friendly

Inverter

SUNGROW SG5K-D Premium

What We Love
  • Very affordable, approximately half the price of Fronius’s Inverter
  • Established and proven in the Australian market, recommended by many Australian solar inverter installers
  • Simple integration with powerful solar analytics
What We Don’t Like
  • Saving money on panels is more advised than on inverters

Best Micro Inverter

Inverter

ENPHASE IQ-7 Series

What We Love
  • Reduces effects of redundancies in individual solar panels, and allows for more flexible system design
  • Reduces risks associated with high voltage by converting DC to AC instantly and effectively
  • 10-15 year warranty
What We Don’t Like
  • More expensive than different types of inverters, such as string and hybrid inverters

FAQs

The average lifespan of a string inverter (most common in Australia) is 10-15 years. To ensure adequate protection is provided to Australian’s invested in solar inverters, most providers offer warranties of up to 10 years, with options to extend. Remember! Always double check to see if parts and labour are included in your warranty.

“Battery-ready” inverters are essentially another term for a hybrid inverter. If you have opted for a hybrid inverter when choosing between different types of inverters, then your solar panel system is 100% battery ready, yes. However, it is possible to make alterations to any system and make them technically battery-ready—one such method is to simply add a second inverter called a battery inverter to your existing solar inverter, for example. 

A proven track record in Australia, both of the company in question and of the particular solar inverter. This is important as reviews of inverters that perform well in other climates might not translate to the harsh heat of Australia. 

Also, make sure the developer of the solar inverter or the third-party installing has positive reviews of tradesmenship and client testimonials from real Australians, longer than or at least industry standard warranties on offer and that the solar inverter being quoted complies with the Australian Standard (AS4777). This can be checked on Clean Energy Council

Sound like a mouthful? Why not get free quotes on your solar inverter system from Solar Market? We make sure all of these needs are met and more!

This depends on the type of solar inverter being used in your system. Micro-inverters will typically be installed underneath each individual solar panel; hybrid and string inverters are likely to be mounted on a residential wall—inside or outside, safe from exposure to the elements and easily accessible for ease-of-maintenance. Your technician will inform you of the current or planned location of your solar panel inverter. 

Based on a 5kW version of the different types of inverters we reviewed above, prices are likely to range from $1,000 (SunGrow) to $2,000 (Fronius). This is estimated to account for 15-35% of the complete cost of a solar system.

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