This Growatt Inverter Review is Good.. But What About The Reliability?

The scores for the growatt inverter review

Photon Magazine July 2012 Awarded good marks to the Growatt 5000MTL

The latest issue of industry bible: Photon International has an in depth Growatt inverter review of the 5000MTL. A popular 5kW solar inverter from China.

It performs well in the efficiency tests, scoring an A grade at high irradiation (i.e. strong sun) and a B grade at medium irradiation. It ranked in the top third of all devices tested by the magazine over the past few years.

So to cut a long story short – Growatts are one of the better Chinese inverters out there. And they are certainly a lot cheaper than the European inverters on the market.

But there is a question mark over the quality control in the Growatt factory.

The first inverter that the manufacturer provided the Photon Magazine’s labs for testing actually failed during the test. They had to get a replacement inverter to finish the test.

I think this highlights the tradeoff you are making if you choose a cheaper, Chinese inverter over a more expensive, European model.

Whilst the new breed of Chinese inverters are stellar performers efficiency-wise, sometimes beating their European counterparts, their reliability is just not quite there yet. And this is perfectly understandable. Most of the Chinese companies have been around less than 5 years, whereas many of the European companies have been in the game for decades.

That means the Europeans have had decades to learn what makes an inverter reliable and tweak their designs every year to improve that reliability. And if you have been making inverters for thirty years, then I would argue that you are a lot more convincing when you promise that your inverter will last for 20 years plus!

So am I saying you should always buy an expensive European model over the Chinese models?

No, I’m not.

Let me be as clear as I can be:

If you want to buy an inverter that has the highest likelihood of lasting over 20 years without failure, and you can afford to pay for it, then go for an inverter from a manufacturer that has been making them for decades. e.g. SMA, Fronius, Power-One or Delta.

If you are on a budget, then the good Chinese inverters (e.g. Growatt, Samil Power, Eversolar) are great performers and their reliability is improving all the time. But get a 10 year warranty and make sure both the solar installation company and inverter manufacturer has an Australian presence and a reputation for fast warranty claims at no cost to you.

After all, being pragmatic about it – if your Chinese inverter fails after 10 years, bearing in mind the plummeting cost curve for consumer electronics, a replacement will probably cost a fraction of today’s price. And the replacement will probably be cheaper than the extra you’d pay for a European model today.

What do you reckon? Spend more for the European models? Or be “economically pragmatic” and get a good Chinese brand with a good warranty? Let rip in the comments below!

 

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Ask me in 10 years time…

  2. David Colley says:

    Hi Finn – we have 3 phase power going into the circuit board for the house. I’m looking at installing around 5.5kw of panels and using a SunGrow 10kw 3 phase inverter. Will this be OK efficiency wise ? Alternatively, would 3 single phase 2kw inverters be better ? Finally, I could use a German 10kw inverter by the name of Steca – do you know if these are any good please ?

    Regards
    David

    • Sungrow are one of the better Chinese brands. I would use a 3 phase inverter over 3 separate single phase inverters, it is a lot simpler and cheaper.

      More info on 3 phase solar here: http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/3-phase-solar-what-you-need-to-know-about-connecting-solar-to-your-3-phase-supply/

      I’ve no experience of Steca, but theiir 3.6kW model is the second highest scored inverter ever in the Photon Magazine listings, so I would take that as a mark of excellent quality.

      • David Colley says:

        Hi Finn

        Thanks for your time & comments ans link in your blog. Just a couple of more things …

        I was keen on the Trina “Honey” panels but RFI Ltd have overpriced them and after looking at your solar panel comparrison table I am thinking of using either SunPower (Wuxi Shangpin) or Simax panels owing to their high rating. I am probably tending towards the former as they are California approved while the Simax is not. Do you have any thoughts on either of these please ?

        Additionally, we will probably end up using a Samil 10kw inverter as we have contacts in the industry (likewise with the panels) who deal with Samils. I have read you excerpts in your blog on a Samil tested by Photon and note that you expected the positive results Photon obtained would probably apply to the rest of their range. A German friend of mine has read (in German) a very positive test of a 15kw inverter so the quality probably does apply across the range. Have you any thoughts on a Samil over a Sungrow ?

        By the way, I stumbled over your website knowing next to nothing about solar power and it has been an invaluable resource with clear and concise information which is at times amusing, long may it continue !

  3. Spiderman says:

    Samil Power is an Australian-owned company. It is the Australian brand with manufacture in China like Suntech.

    Both of its SolarRiver SR4K4TLA1 and SolarLake 15000TL have been awarded Double A Grades tested by Photon Lab respectively.

    As far as I know, inverters from Samil Power should have lower failure rate and high efficiency compared with some top European companies.

  4. The big ‘problem’ I see if the fact that this whole field is constantly evolving; the cost point viability of having the same system installed continuously for 20 years is no way sure; i.e. if a system comes out in 5 years time that is half the cost for the same power output; you end up with an expensive ‘white elephant’ – as its intrinsic value cannot exceed that of the new system. OR put it another way, as soon as new system comes out, your old system value cannot be resold for more than half the cost of the new system…. you have to ‘write off’ half your investment.

    As to how likely such a situation is? 20 years is a LONG time for tech to evolve radically. This is an important consideration to take into account when installing solar, as the grants have dried up in most places – which means you have to evaluate them at cost/benefit fundamentals with a realistic risk assessment in write down.

    Now given this, it might be actually prudent to buy the Chinese inverters; as you would be expecting to upgrade your system over time, so you would be wanting to reduce your capital expenditure upfront whilst acknowledging the tech changes..

  5. A good review? It said in big letters that it had problems! And the first unit they sent for test failed in the laboratory! The review was not good and the machine was non-compliant with the new German regulations. They should have waited until they had a machine that worked before sending it for test. Reliability? Their reputation is Europe is terrible and only just a little better in Australia.

    • 2/3 of your words are totally rumors.

      These inverters have passed the latest German regulations VDE N4105 several months ago. And the feed back from Europe, how could you know their reputation in Europe?????

      Please respect for your competitor, dear inverter manufactures.

  6. Hi Finn and readers,

    I have just installed the Growatt 5000MTL two days ago.

    Let me say I am impressed with the quality of and good looks of the unit.

    It functioned flaulessly from switch on, it absolutely emits no noise on line with my 1.5kw array at full sunlight.
    Also the unit runs as cool (temp) as a cucumber thus indicating its high efficiency.

    I hope and feel confident this inverter should give many years of trouble free service.

    The only critisism I have is the Chinese English instructions in the remote monitor booklet were a bit hard to follow but I did manage to work it out eventually.

    I will be happy if I get 10 years of reliable operation out of this inverter, here’s hoping.

    Can not wait to add more panels when I can afford them.

    Cheers All.
    Theo

    • I would be interested to hear if Theo is still happy with this product now that he has been using it for 6 months.
      I’m thinking of installintg this inverter.
      I also think that i’d be happy to get 10 years out of it.

      • I am Klaus I have one growatt and two other Chinese Inverters all 5kW and all just one year old and all of them slowly have big problems I will never touch Chinese Inverters again Sma is my Inverter know , if you like you can have my old Inverters for free Regards Klaus

        • Lawrence says:

          Hi Klaus.

          What about your warranty??? How come you had to get so many chinese inverters? They all have warranty don’t they?

          Also one thing to consider is that although SMA are the market leaders and most reliable, there will always be the possibility of obtaining one that is, lets say, less efficient. Take Toyota for example, they were known for their reliability and safety but still had to recall their products couple years back.

          Since you have experience with both, is it really worth to spend almost double amount the money on a top of the market inverter? As mentioned by some people above, with technologies these days you never know what they will come up with in the next 5-10 years.

          With getting an expensive top notch brand, you could also risk, spending all the big bucks for nothing with better and improved products being produced eg TVs

          Regards Lawrence

  7. Hi Finn,

    We have been quoted for & getting instelled a 5kw sysytem with 20 panels, ulica solar panels & a JFY 5000TL inverter. Have you heard of these & what is your opion?

    Any feed would be greatly appreciated,

    thanks

  8. Stan Bond 0412400743 says:

    HI FINN, WE HAVE JUST HAD A SYSTEM INSTALLED BY TRUE VALUE SOLAR, 12 PANELS AND A 5KWT INVERTER, HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A 3KLW OR 5KLW INVERTER FITTED COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE ME SOME INFO, INVERTER FITTED IS A GROWATT, MANY THANKS

    • Tont Shaw says:

      Hi i have just had 5000 growatt converter fitted It says this on the sticker on the side also underneath it has printed rs 232 hope this helps
      Tony

  9. Clive McCrory says:

    I am getting RF interference on my Tv from a Growatt 5000MTL. Unable to get anyone from Growatt to contact me. Canany one Help

    • Lawrence says:

      Hi Clive

      How do you know that it is the Growatt inverter that is causing the interference?

      Regards
      Lawrence

  10. the growatt 5000mtl is transformerless so should not put out any RF interference. it should be connected with any monit6oring device via bluetooth only so it might be something else i assume Clive

  11. Has anyone ever heard of 250w Perlight Black Pearl Panels and a Xantrax Clipsal Inverter and where do these stack up? i have heard they are the “Best”n the market and i am happy to pay for it as i am someone that would rather do it properly the first time and not stuff around butu need to know if the comapny i am dealing with are reputable and the product are “The Best” after Bosch Panels. They are covered full replacement for 25 years and the inverter has a 10 year replacement warranty as standard so being independantly insured by Zurich Insurance i am confident but would like a second opinion. cheers

  12. hi… finn
    I m looking to buy delta 5kw inverter and jkm250p-60 solar panels… pls give some suggestions

  13. HI,
    I have a Growatt 5000 tl it’s been great ,never missed a beat ,had nearly 3 years now, a friend of mine got an sma it lasted 8 months then burn’t .

  14. Hi Finn
    I have had several quotes in the past two days from various companies and am still confused as they all use different brand inverters and panels. Looking at 8-12 panels with 3-5kw inverter. Quotes have ranged from $2360-$4000. Would appreciate your input
    Pam
    Pe

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