Samil Inverters are very popular in Australia. They are great value, and have great specifications on paper. However I get a lot of emails asking me if this Chinese made solar inverter is any good.
It is a fair question. The inverters are a lot cheaper than their German made competition (like SMA), and are a relatively new player in the market. Plus there are a lot of solar salespeople out there that are peddling the (somewhat xenophobic) line that all Chinese made solar components are crap.
So what’s the truth? Are Samil Inverters any good?
One of the best measures of the quality of any inverter is to look for third party reviews based on very methodical and rigorous testing. And one of the best places to find tests like this are in the German “Photon Magazine”. This industry bible regularly tests inverters and panels and published the results for all to see (as long as you pay the 3oo Euro per year subscription!).
In August 2011 they tested the Samil Solar River 4kW transformerless inverter, the SR4k4TLA1.
So how did it do?
Short answer: Awesome.
Longer answer: It scored top marks in every category. They declared it the best Asian inverter they had tested. And they ranked it the 16th best inverter they had ever tested. Bear in mind that they mostly test expensive German made inverters.
Here’s a summary of their test results:
Construction: Quality appeared good with top quality connectors. They did a thermal imaging test to look for “hot spots” which can cause premature failure. Some resitors reached 89°C at an ambient temperature of 23°C. Whilst that may sound hot, this is considered to be good thermal behaviour for power electronics and should make for a reliable inverter. The one part that could be better is that it uses a fan for cooling. I prefer no moving parts personally, (think big heatsink) but this should only be a problem if the inverter is mounted in a dusty location as the fan will blow that dust across the electronics!
Efficiency: The Samil Power Inverter got 96.8% efficiency at high irradiation and 96.5% at medium irradiation. That’s excellent. The MPPT (maxim power point tracker) which constantly hunts for the best way to operate your solar panels, came in at 99% efficiency for all irradiations. That’s about as good as it gets for that part of an inverter.
Temperature Derating: Ambient temperature had to get above 56°C before the power output started dropping. So if you keep it in the shade it should never derate, even in Australia!
So Photon Magazine reckon the 4kW Solar River Samil Power inverter is a good ‘un. Which should mean that all the Solar River series are pretty safe bets. The standard warranty on the Samil Inverters in Australia is currently 5 years, but Samil Power will extend the warranty for a small fee. This is worth doing as the inverter is the component most likely to fail in a solar system, even if it is a good one.
So there you have it: Chinese made Samil Power Inverters seem to satisfy even the German testers. As long as your solar system is not in a dirty or dusty environment the Samil is a good choice.