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Chinese Sungrow Vs German SMA Inverters: Which ones are best?

Note: This post is just one opinion on Sungrow Inverters. Click here for lots of Customer Reviews of Sungrow Inverters to see how they have performed in Australian homes over the last few years.

If you are considering buying a Sungrow Inverter over an SMA inverter – then you should also check out customers’ SMA reviews. You’ll see that, in practice, SMA inverters are more reliable. This is to be expected, since SMA are double the price of a Sungrow!

Now back to the post…

Yesterday I received my latest issue of the solar industry bible, Photon International  via airmail all the way from Germany. Whilst many people may get excited by the latest issue of Top Gear Australia magazine or Better Homes & Gardens, I’m one of those odd people that gets my kicks looking through the latest solar panel and inverter specs.

One of the really useful parts of the magazine is the inverter reviews. These guys have a lab in Germany where they can torture test the latest inverters and give them a grade from A to F , so the rest of us can skip all the graphs and datasets and simply decide if the inverter is any good or not.

They typically test the efficiency of the inverter under lots of different scenarios, plot the inverter efficiency curves look for hotspots with thermal imaging cameras, to see if they are prone to early failure, etc, etc. Let’s just say that these German dudes know how to do a proper test!

In this month’s issue they test 2 inverters from German companies and one 100% Chinese Inverter. In the old days of the solar industry (think 2009) the results would have been fairly predictable. The German inverters would have got great marks and the Chinese inverter would have got a “Must try harder” comment on its scorecard.

How times have changed!

Lets have a look at the results in the Feb 2011 issue:

Inverter 1: Effekta ES5000 4.6kW – German Company – Made in Taiwan

The first time Photon Magazine tested this inverter they gave it a Grade F – bottom marks. It only managed 92.2% efficiency in strong sunlight. That’s apalling! The review in this month’s issue was for the same inverter with a new version of the German designed software. They got the efficiency up to 94.8%, but that still only got it a C grade.

Inverter 2 : SMA Sunny Boy SB 3000HF-30 – Made in Germany

SMA is the market leader in solar inverters and their quality of manufacture is always top notch. So how did this brand new, high frequency, transformer based model rate in the test?

It scored a C grade in medium sunlight and a B grade in strong sun. It got a measured efficiency of 95.2% in strong sun.

Inverter 3: SunGrow Sun Access SG15TKL – Engineered and Made in China

This inverter scored an A grade in all categories tested, they measured an efficiency of 97.0% at high irradiation. They praised its quality of construction too.

The intro to the review says:

“Manufacturing reliable PV Inverters doesn’t require the use of witchcraft. Those who get the hang of it usually come up with a whole series of solid, sound devices.”

How true. Just as manufacturing quality cars is no longer exclusive to Germany, after a sketchy start, many Chinese inverter companies have quickly learned from any mistakes and are now making pretty good inverters.

Top tip: Don’t buy inverters from brand new Chinese manufacturers, they tend to take a couple of years to iron out reliability issues.

Other good inverter manufacturers from China, apart from Sungrow, that are now making high efficiency inverters include: Zeversolar who are now owned by SMA.

So should you dismiss the German made inverters as too expensive, and go for the cheaper Chinese made ones?

Well – it depends. I would still argue that in terms of multi decade reliability, the German brands like SMA (and the Austrian, Fronius)  are the safest bet simply because they have been making inverters for decades and can prove their reliability in the real world. So if you want to maximise very chance that your inverter will last for decades – and you can afford it – go for a high efficiency “Top end” European  inverter.

However if you are on a budget, like the rest of us, then getting a modern Chinese Solar Inverter such as a Sungrow or Zeversolar is a good option – just don’t expect it to last as long as the premium ones.

What has your experience of “budget” inverters been?  Are the expensive brands still worth it? Let rip in the comments below.

[Updated in 2016 to recommend only Zeversolar and Sungrow for Chinese inverters – due to feedback from installers who’ve replaced lots of Chinese Growatts and Samils in the 4 years since this article was written]

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. Hi Finn – I agree with your comments. As someone in the business, I would prefer the inverter not to fail within the 5 year period, however, some do fail and it is a sign of a good company that swaps the inverter without any fuss. Unfortunately, SAMIL are the only ones I know that reimburse me for the cost of the installer who swaps it. I am left holding the baby with the disgraceful behaviour of INSPIRE SOLAR who simply pulled the plug, refused to honour their warranty obligations and left me to deal with very irate customers – I am now having to stump up for replacements for failed INSPIRE inverters if I ever want to do any more business in my community. NOT HAPPY. The failure rate on KLNE has been very high, but at least they issue a swap. I believe that one of the main differences between the cheaper inverters and an SMA for instance is the SMA’s very substantive extra circuitry that protects against spikes and grid irregularities – I have pictures where rectifiers and Diodes have literally exploded inside an INSPIRE or KLNE after severe thunderstorms.

  2. Hi, Finn
    Sungrow Power, the NO.1 brand of Chinese inverter, is now available in Australia Market, please kindly check http://www.sungrowpower.com.au for more information.

    • Hi Finn, have Sungrow given you a free trip to China for a holiday? I can not belive you would promote the chinese cheap customer traps over the industry leaders like SMA.

      Also Xantrex is not a German company – another mistake. Also some of the chinese panel manufacturers and inverter manufacturers are misleading Australian consumers . For example Candian Solar is chinese – so is German Solar .. all made in China. If these companies do not even have enough integrity to use their manufacturing origin in the name – then they lost me.

      Many Chinese inverter companies supply 104 inverters on pallets to their wholesalers/installers when they order 100 . That says it all. The quality is somply not there and now there are many end cusomers who have been bitten with cheap systems , which have broken down and no soalr company left to service the system. You buy cheap – you get cheap.

      • Hi Mark,

        Thanks for the comment.

        No free holidays for me I’m afraid 🙂

        Who said Xantrex were German?

        (They are owned by Schneider Electric which have been French since 1836!)

        Finn

        • Walter Coruzzi says

          Hi All,
          I was ripped off by the Chinese Solar invasion.
          I bought a 2 KW system and the Inspire Inverter lasted less than a year and a half in 2010 prior to the 60 cents government rebate offer.
          I cannot understand how you could possibly consider nor advertise a Chinese made brand.I now have saved enough to buy another Inverter and have been getting quotes ranging from the following quote.
          Do you know where I can get a fair and reasonable deal to replace my Inspire 2 KW Inverter.
          I was given the following quote.
          Has any one in the business or is knowlegebale can give me some advice on SMA Aurrora and aCameron Davis
          Oct 23 (3 days ago)

          to me
          SMA 2KW HF – $1785.00 GST inclusive – Includes install (excludes rectification work) 5yr warranty standard $571.00 10 yr upgrade*
          SMA 2KW HF – $1895.00*

          Aurora 2KW Uno – $1410.00* 5yr warranty standard $225.00 10 yr upgrade
          Aurora 2KW Uno – $1590.00* 5yr warranty standard $225.00 10 yr upgrade
          ny other system with warranty and if something goes wrong can and will provided assistance

          • Thank you, A i have a 11 x 190 watt panels would it be a good idea to get a 3 kilowatt SMA if i update one day to 250 watt panels.
            Thank once again

          • I’d leave your existing system as is and get a whole new system next to it. It would be cheaper than modifying the old one!

      • Our inverter failed; the installer said their supplier had gone out of business; the Germans said the Australian importer owed them 350,000 euros; fortunately the insurance company covered. However, we didn’t buy cheap : we paid the installer $7500 and the fed. gov. scheme gave them $6000.

        • Hi Frances,

          Was it an Effekta inverter? We have one that has gone kaput and the guy we bought it off went into liquidation in Jan 2017. Could you please give me the details about insurance.

      • Graham Alexander says

        Mark. Do you actually have any stats or reliable information to back up your claim? You mention everything else except Sungrow. How do you base your comment on what other manufacturers do?
        You made the statement, so please back it up with some facts.
        I have installed a reasonable number of Sungrow with very little warranty issues.

  3. Interesting to see Chinese inverters kicking asses… good for you Sungrow

    I agree with what Gerry has said, good after service shows value in the brand of the inverter.

  4. a solar energy company has offered me a 40 cents NET FIT for a year.Do you think this is a genuine offer.
    thanks

    • Hi Abe,

      It depends…

      I know a number of very reputable companies that have done deals with energy providers to offer their own “independent” net FIT of 30 to 40c per kWh for the first 2-3 years of your solar system system ownership. It is usually capped to about 3kW system size so you don’t make too much money from it!.

      The solar company usually pays for it by doing a deal with the electricity company that is happy to cover most of the costs of the scheme (a few hundred dollars per customer) in order to get a new customer for their electricity business. Fair enough.

      There are also a few companies that are offering it, but then jacking their system prices up massively – which I don’t agree with!

      To make sure the company you are considering is charging a fair price for the solar system. Always get 3 quotes and also check out typical costs for a solar system here:

      http://www.solarquotes.com.au/how-much-do-solar-panels-cost.html

      If the solar company is charging much more than this for the system and offering a FIT as a reason to pay more for that sold system, then some simple math might show that the extra income you make form the FIT will never pay back the extra they are charging you for the solar system.

      However if the firm can offer the special FIT and compete with the other quoting companies on price – then it may be a good deal.

      But remember to estimate how much electricity you will actually export, by looking at your current usage throughout the day compared to how much the solar system will generate. If you are buying a small 1.5kW system and you are at home in the day, you may export very little.

      This will help you understand how the electricity exporting works:

      http://www.solarquotes.com.au/do-i-get-paid-for-my-solar-energy.html

      To summarise: if the solar system competes on price with the competition, and you get a FIT, then you’ve got very little to lose. If the solar company is charging twice the price for the solar system, then the FIT will probably never recoup the extra cash you are being charged upfront.
      Hope That Helps,

      Finn

    • Rule 1 – No one gives away free dollars – any pretend high FIT must be recovered in the cost of the system. So you will pay for any FIT in the overall cost of the system and then some of the overpaid money you might get back via FIt – FIT it’s that simple.

  5. Hi Finn,
    Regarding the above conversation with Photon Magazine do they select any inverter straight off the production line or does the inverter company submit an inverter?

    The reason I have a friend who imports solar panels and he has had to hire a separate Quality Insurance company to keep the panel company honest as he found that the original panels they sent to him were very good and that after that the quality dropped off.

    Just wondering if the same might be said for some chinese inverters?

    I do agree that Samil Power are good especially in after sales support and the paying for service techs to replace the inverter – not that I have actually had any experience.
    I also like inverters that have reasonable design software.

    Also as one who has been burnt by INSPIRE SOLAR and ignored by KNLE when I wanted to purchase parts for a failed Inspire inverter I wouldn’t touch either of them. Not even sure they should be allowed to keep trading in Australia but they both still are.

  6. The SMA product reviewed is the HF. Why not compare TL with TL? Then the results would be a bit more realistic.

    There is no comparison – I have experience with many brands of inverters and will only trust SMA due to consistent performance and hassle-free service.

    BTW – they give a lump sum for the installer that exchanges the inverter too.

  7. As John has stated, this is NOT an apples for apples comparison.

    You are comparing a 15kW Transformerless Sungrow with a 3kW SMA HF transformer inverter.

    If you compare a similar size / topology inverters then you will have an Apples for apples comparison.

    e.g1. SMA Sunny Tripower 15000TL has max efficiency of 98.2% and euro efficiency of 97.7%.
    e.g1. Sungrow SG 15 KTL has max efficiency of 98% and euro efficiency of 97.3%.

    e.g2. SMA Sunny Boy 1600TL has max efficiency of 96% and euro efficiency of 95%.
    e.g2. Sungrow SG 1K5TL has max efficiency of 95% and euro efficiency of 94%.

    Sorry, the Sungrow has not kicked ass, it’s obviously a reasonable inverter but hasn’t beaten the Germans yet.

    BTW I have no affiliation with any manufacturer, just want the public to know that this comparison is NOT correct, and will only be correct if comparing the same size / topology (i.e. TL with TL), in terms of a car’s fuel economy your comparison is like comparing a petrol to a diesel.

    • Good information on a flawed report and well presented, saves me having to say the same thing, like the analogy of Petrol and Diesel.

  8. Hi bought a inspire solar inverter ,after 10 month stopped working ,The brand was KLNE and it was under warranty for 5 years ,No help from the company ,They refused to change or do any thing ,commented it is from china .so now i am stuck with no solar ,high bills ,lost my money.Dont trust KLNE any more ,thinking of replacing with SMA inverter .cost from my pocket .NOT HAPPY with KLNE

  9. Not good to hear so many people have been burnt by INSPIRE SOLAR and their Chinese KLNE inverters. From the reports i have been hearing it sounds like NO KLNE inverter will last the warranty period, lucky to get 2 years out of them, some 6mths. The story i am hearing is that INSPIRE SOLAR were importing the inverters at a cheaper price and were to warrant the products themselves… where are they today?? ….. New company name, different location in Brisbane
    These are the companies that give the industry a bad name and i agree with Shaggy why do the authorities still allow them to sell these inferior products in Australia.
    Beware do your research.

  10. I’m an Energy Consultant that sells the Israeli SE or MI inverter that comes with a 12 year warranty. It comes with optimisers that have arc detectors and the solar system is monitered and you can self monitor it on the internet. How do you rate this inverter? I’m new to the industry.

    Col

  11. Alex Coates says

    hi finn alex here,I decided to go with solarhart,twin system /hot water /solar,got hot water,from them,but they could not get anyone to do the solar, eventually they got bamboo&solar coffs harbour to come quote ,so excepted. Now I find myself in delema,due to them going belly up,and on top of that the inverter company also has gone belly up.the being is I proboly need a new inverter,amnd am considering sma 4000tL. have only got one quote to date for $1965.00.my concerns are ;heat in my can exceed 44% c,and i feel safer useing a good german brand like sma, now that it is associated the bosch brand,could you reply via email ,with your veiw,on weather /price/etc. regards Alex

  12. Wally steckis says

    I have a 1.5 kw Chinese system using a aero sharp inverter and 9 170w panels.after the first inverter failed after 2 months the system has worked fine generating 4.5 kwhrs per day in winter and 9.5 in summer.this has been over the last 30 months in Melbourne.

  13. Dejan Vojnovic says

    We have purchased Growatt 4.2kW inverter and twenty four 190W panels and that was biggest mistake I have made.
    What a rubbish inverter. System inverter is installed on direct sun light and it is exchanged three (3) times allready in the last twelve (12) months and still it is not operational. We did not made any power and living in WA I think it is a shame considering that almost every day is a sunny day.
    I think that True Value Solar (Victoria) buys them like vegetables from China (full container for $1000.00).
    We should listen to my dad who lived in Swiss that SMA inverter (made in Germany) is the best on the market considering that Germans are invented solar power industry and they’ve been using solar power for many years .

  14. Allan Scott says

    Why would you install a Chinese inverter when you could have an SMA, regardless of efficiency.

    My SMA will outlast 20 Growatt inverters.

    Chinese inverters sent solar businesses broke and I wouldn’t have one if you gave it to me.

    Allan
    Portland
    Vic

  15. Do not buy eversol inverters you canot contact anyone warranty is not worth the paper it is written on

  16. HI GERRY,
    I WAS DONE LIKE A DINNER ALSO WITH MY INSPIRE INVERTER, WOULD YOU HONOUR THE REPLACEMENT OF THE UNIT?

  17. Finn, it sounds like your comments about the Chinese inverters becoming supreme beasts over the German SMA units is absolute nonsense.(SunGrow beats SMA)? This certainly won’t happen with any Chinese product irrespective of how long they stay in the learning curve and overcome their inherant deficiencies…. unless the German manufacturer moves to China bringing their technology, European sourced componentry and assembly techniques with them. They would also have to conduct re-training, that being the real challenge.
    I have worked with Chinese field operations Internationally since 1994, won’t go into the detail of that but my role has been in scientific and technical quality control. Design shortcuts and poor quality componentry combined with poor QC and lack of independant testing with large scale mass production = unreliability.
    Forget about being on a budget when it comes to quality and in this case inverters. Do yourself a favour and save the additional pennies and pay the extra for a quality inverter such as the SMA HF or the TL units. SMA have done their homework properly, have design and manufacturing longevity of 30+ years, know how to manufacture quality inverters with the utmost reliability.
    Yes, I have a Mini Central SMA 6000A with galvanic isolation and 21 Sunpower 318 panels. Not about being biased, more about making the right decisions as it is a significant investment.

  18. Steve Dickson says

    My Sunteams 5000 has lasted only 3 years and I cannot get it replaced under the Manufacturers Guarantee as the Manufacturer (Klyne SunTeams) has withdrawn supplies from Australia – what a farce – I’ve even been onto the Office of Fair Trading – my supplier has refused to help me out and I’m left with having to buy a new inverter – there is nobody in Australia who will take responsibility – it’s a complete shambles – 5 year Guarantee my backside – it means nothing if your supplier acts like this. Buyer beware – it looks like your Guarantee is only as long as your supplier lasts !! About time this law was tightened up to protect the customer.

    • That sucks. Please feel free to name and shame the company!

      • Steve Dickson says

        I won’t name the supplier yet as the Office of Fair Trading is still investigating – BUT – what I would really like to know is Who has the responsibility for the balance of 5 years on the guarantee for my dodgy Inverter ? There is still just over 2 years left on the (so called) 5 year guarantee – My supplier purchased it from a wholesaler/importer who is also saying that because the manufacturer no longer supplies to Australia, then he can’t do anything !! So I am being passed down the line and have been left in the cold !! The OFT is investigating through their International Office what the position really is with the manufacturer Klyne SunTeams – and I am awaiting a response. But surely someone in Australia should take responsibility and replace my dodgy inverter with an equivalent one ??

        • The company who sold you the inverter (i.e. took your money) has to honour the warranty (unless they have gone bankrupt). It is their responsibility. They cannot pass the buck. Australian Consumer Law is very clear on this.

          If the company you paid has gone broke, then the manufacturer (Sun Teams) should honour the warranty directly.

          • Steve Dickson says

            Blimey – you seem very certain of this – I really hope you are correct as I would be willing to take legal action against my supplier to get this sorted. It is an issue that if resolved could affect many, many customers in Australia who have been left without a backup for their guarantees – I will await the OFT response first then consider my next steps – thanks for your encouraging comments so far.

  19. Hi everyone, I’m in the market for a system for my new 2-storey house (VIC), family of 4 with occasional 2-4 visitiors. Thinking of putting in 5kW system (2 teenage kids) 3-phase wiring. Have got quotes from afew companies ranging from $7227 Yingli panels, Sungrow inverter, Sunlock mounting system to >$10K Trina panels, SMA tripower inverter, AS1170 cyclone certified mounting frame (no brand mentioned). I’m still getting other quotes, Meanwhile would anybody have any recommendations / suggestions re size, system, I should buy and dealer I should buy from?

    Thank you.

  20. I have a Effekta inverter that has stopped working after 24 months.Still under warranty but cant contact Effecta Australia .There website is under reconstruction and there warranty tab dosnt work .The company that the inverter was purchased from dosnt deal with them anymore.I have tried sending emails to effecta but no reply. Buyer Beware

    • Even if the company on Australia has stopped dealing with Effekta they have a legal obligation to honor the warranty on it if they sold it to you. Consumer affairs will back you up. Feel free to name and shame them here too.

      • Thanks for the reply Finn I will give Consumer Affairs a ring .The company that supplied the inverter was Solar 360 .It was advertised with (Australia based Warranty and service Fulfilment. 5 Year Warranty and enhanced service replacement).The disturbing thing is that there are still Australian companies selling Effekta inverters .There are a lot of people going to get burnt when it comes to warranty.I went out and bought a SMA sunnyboy and feel confident when it comes to warranty and service ,something I should have done in the first place instead of trying to save money.

      • Steve Dickson says

        OK – so you know that I have had a similar problem with Klyne SunTeams – I have had the Office of Fair Trading onto this who are pursuing the Manufacturer through their International Office. I don’t know how long that process will take, so in the meantime I am seeking legal advice as I am now told that my local supplier should still give me a duty of care for the full 5 years of the warranty – this all comes under the Consumer Law covered by the ACCC. So watch this space as I am determined that someone should take responsibility for a 5 year warranty !

        • Go get em! Australian Consumer Law is on your side!

          • Steve Dickson says

            I thought you might be interested in an update from myself over this Warranty issue. I have been informed by my solicitor that as long as my supplier did everything correctly in regard to the installation of the Inverter, it is not his responsibility under the Australian Consumer Law 2011 to honour the Manufacturers 5 year warranty (Klyne SunTeams) – this falls to the Importer of the Inverter from overseas. So, I have had the Office of Fair Trading contact and confirm the Importer (will not reveal yet). I have now written formerly to this Importer with a copy to my supplier, requesting a full refund. My Klyne SunTeams 5000 Inverter finally failed 3 weeks ago and I have had it replaced with a Sungrow 5KW from a different supplier with a 10 year Manufacturers Warranty. So I am not in need of a replacement Klyne SunTeams Inverter and am therefore asking for a full refund. I have given the Importer to the end of March 2014 to settle the matter – after which I will take them to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. It’s a lot of hard work to do all this, but I am determined to follow it through otherwise “What is the point of a 5 year Warranty if this can happen”.

    • My system has a Effekta Inverter it was installed in 2012 , the Inverter broke down and was replaced now the replacement is giving me problems ( 5 year warranty ) , the Company that installed the System Solar Wave , the phones are dissconnected , and I have been told that Effekta has closed down operations in Australia and the Warranty is usless in Australia , I will contact the Office of Fair trading . any advice would be appreciated ..

      • Steve Dickson says

        For those interested in following my case – I have now submitted my complaint to QCAT and have been given a date of 15th April 2014 to go to Mediation (this is what they prefer to do apparently before it goes to the full Tribunal). The faulty Klyne SunTeams inverter finally gave up last month and I have had it replaced with a Sungrow from a new supplier. I am asking QCAT to order a full refund to the full value of my replacement – we’ll see what happens !

    • German-made doesn’t mean perfection, our Effekta packed it in after 2 years; 5-year warranty. The Aussie importer Inevitable Energy Qld didn’t pay the German head office and ceased operation.

  21. Hi Steve How did you find out who the importer was.The supplier solar 360 does not deal with Effekta anymore so they told me Effekta is responsible for the warranty.Even though companies are still selling Effekta inverters there is no longer Effekta Australia only Effekta Germany.

    • Steve Dickson says

      Peter – I am relying on the information provided by my Supplier who has named another Company as the Importer. Like you, I find it frustrating and almost impossible to be certain. I have written to this named “Importer” who has just phoned me back to say he was not the Importer but has now named my original supplier !! Well, at least there are only two companies involved and I’m going to leave it to the QCAT tribunal to decide. I am now preparing my submission to the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal which will cost me $101.40 which I am prepared to spend in a final attempt to resolve this outstanding warranty issue. I shall be asking for a full refund. Keep watching !!

  22. Steve Dickson says

    TO ALL WHO HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING MY CASE

    We have a result – today I attended the Mediation of my case against my supplier and his wholesaler/Importer of the Klyne SunTeams Inverter. The Court Solicitor in charge has ruled in my favour that BOTH my supplier and his Wholesaler are responsible for the warranty even though the Chinese Company Klyne SunTeams has withdrawn from the Australian market.

    I quote from the Department of Justice and Attorney General Consumer Guarantees that “for the purposes of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), an importer becomes the manufacturer if they import goods and the international manufacturer does not have a place of business in Australia – If the importer then sells goods directly to consumers, they are also considered a supplier. This means that they are responsible for all nine guarantees on goods and must provide a remedy for failure to meet the guarantees”

    It was then simply a case of negotiating a refund – in my case I chose to accept a settlement of just less than $1,000 from my original supplier who will now do a similar QCAT case on his Wholesaler. This worked out better than I expected for me and I don’t now have to go chasing the Importer.

    So ….. you should not give up as the ACL is on your side when things go wrong. It takes a bit of effort – but you should be able to get a resolution on any faulty Inverters.

    My new Sungrow is working well and I have been given a 10 year warranty on it. If anything goes wrong within the 10 years, I certainly now know how to handle the situation.

  23. Great To hear Steve Im next .Just starting proceedings against Solar 360.Ill keep you posted’

  24. Ross Herbert says

    Strangely, to me anyway 🙂 I haven’t seen the name Fronius mentioned on this thread.

    I bought a Sharp/Fronius 1KW package in early 2009 when the domestic solar business was in its infancy. Back then it cost $14,300 which by today’s standards is really expensive. I think the IG15 at the time was about $2,5K by itself and the 167W Sharp panels were around $1.2K each. Of course there was a $8000 federal govt rebate to help offset things. I upgraded it to 1.5KW a few months later and that cost an extra $3K using Sharp panels. Luckily I am still covered by the WA govt 47c/unit rebate for another 5 years (hopefully).

    Anyway, my Fronius IG15 worked perfectly for 5 years and when it was about 2 months out of warranty , it failed. I contacted Fronius Aust and they have contacted their local service agent in WA, Avant Solar and they will be coming to replace “a board” under warranty – thank goodness (phew!). Since they seem to know which board to replace it sounds as though this may have been a known problem with earlier IG models.

    Any cmments re Fronius?

    • Yes you are absolutely correct a lot of Fronius IG models sold about then have had failures of one of the boards. Fronius have since redesigned their inverters and new ones are very reliable.

      • Ross Herbert says

        On 9th August 2014 A service tech came and replaced the AC board on the Fronius IG15. I had a look at the old board and it showed definite signs of arcing on the underside of the board at the base of a Molex service link. I also noted that the replacement board was coated on both sides with a semi-flexible epoxy coating about 6mm thick. It seems obvious that the unprotected boards in the earlier Fronius model were susceptible to moisture and dust buildup and thus the arcing problem.

        The tech also told me that Fronius, in some cases, are offering a swap with a new inverter which has a 10 year warranty. They didn’t offer me that option.

  25. Bert Moorhouse says

    On 1st September I noticed my SMA inverter had fault lights showing and my next power bill was $120 higher than my previous.
    I tried to contact the company in Cairns that supplied and fitted my 1.5 KW system, only to find that they had gone into receivership.
    I then contacted another Cairns solar company trading as “Sunny Solar” who called out the same day and took details of the system.
    They confirmed that my 5 year warranty would end 21st October 2014 (less than 2 months)
    They phoned me yesterday and advised that I will receive a new SMA inverter..installed by them with no cost to me.
    I am just so happy I went with SMA..and Sunny Solar are a great to do business with.

  26. Do you know of a low-cost but quality Chinese inverter manufacturer for off-grid solar systems? I am looking for inverters around 200-300VA for solar home systems for rural customers in Myanmar.

  27. john nielsen says

    Hi, I am about to install a 5 KW solar system, 20 off 250 W panels and 20 off
    Enphase micro inverters. I am connected to the grid but want my system on a change over switch. I don’t want to sell power to the grid for 8 cents and buy it back for 30 cents. The micro inverters like string inverters need both dc and ac supply, so if I an isolated from the grid I intend to use a Leonics Regen Bi-directional inverter, and a battery bank. When I during the day have too much power it will go to the batteries and when the sun is down I will be using my power from the battery and when they drop below the recommended level, I will switch to the grid, i.e. I will not be selling any power to the grid.
    Why do anyone choose string inverters? When a bird pollutes one panel, all are affected. I have some shading problems but that is not the only reason for choosing micro inverters.

    • Hi john, having sold both string, micro inverter and optimized DC to DC architectures, in the tens of thousands.. a lot of the effects are wildly overrated… claims of 25% better production? claims of bird poo drooping system efficiency 50%? actuals are more like 1% …
      in very specific circumstances there are defiantly very significant advantages to micros. and optimized DC-DC architecture but generally they are related to safety not performance. (with the exception of shading conditions in which case absolutely get a DC-optimized architecture like solar edge. (it outperforms micros considerably)

      A lot of the hype… is exactly that..

      However very poor system design by a lot of installers who basically know buckleys about de-rating curves, proper design, UV stabilisation and engineering have created a hell of allot of problems such as fires and poor performance from string systems.. mostly.. its bad design and poor quality products.. not the technology itself..

      hint – check out the peak efficiency ratings on the micros you mentioned.. . not so good? then check out the true de-rating curves under high heat conditions 😉 ouch….

  28. I had experiences with Zeversolar having bought a huge amount of their inverters and can tell you with question. They do not honour their warranties.

    Massive failure rates, highly dishonourable and generally a total peace of garbage.

    I wont touch anything chinese now as anyone in the know. in the solar industry knows.. the chinese have a simple way of doing things.. you have a warranty.. till the day you stop buying their product..

  29. We have been using JFY inverters from China for over 4 years now and are impressed with them.
    Low failure rate.
    Inexpensive
    Good WIFI monitoring or with Ethernet
    and Excellent Support under warranty for faulty inverters in Australia.
    they have just bumped up their warranty from 5 years to 10 years also!

    A great inverter!

  30. Julia Eyles says

    Hi Finn,

    I’m just trying to compare apples to oranges, and have read most of your website info.
    We are currently negotiating with Sunsource Group who have offered a “lease” type arrangement, which I believe will cost about $10,200 for a 6kw system (Phono panels) and 5kw inverter (Sungrow), though this isn’t really very clear as their quotes are based on financing the system via the expected savings made on the bills. They’re offering a $.15kw FIT through their energy provider as well. We don’t have the money to pay for this upfront, but I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing. I couldn’t find any info on your blog about them. Any ideas?

    • Hi Julia,

      This is called a PPA, and they can be a way to get solar for $0 up front. As you have worked out the overall cost is greater because you have a cost of finance in there. Another option for financing is simply to use home equity where rates are very low right now!

      If you want me to look over the terms of the lease for you shoot it to finnATsolarquotes.com.au and I’ll see what’s what. Sunsource are a good mob from my experience – so I imagine it is one of the better lease agreements.

      Finn

  31. Martin Lewis says

    Hi Finn,

    What a wonderful industry we are dealing with. Thank goodness I found this site – the best forum on the net.

    My 1.5Kw system was installed 6 years ago. True to form, the inverter (Sharp JH-1066E) has just died – 8 months out of warranty. OK. No complaints.

    These discussions have put me right off most Chinese makes of inverter.
    What I haven’t seen here is any discussion about ABB/Aurora here. Do you or your readers) have any experience with Aurora as far as reliability and warranty issues are concerned.

    I’ve virtually spent the whole day researching Inverters and I’m not much further agead than when I started – except that I do have indications of what not to buy.

    Thanks,

    Martin

    • If you want a really reliable inverter then look at SMA or Fronius. Fronius comes as standard with a 10 year warranty.

      ABB are nearly as good. But not quite as reliable from what I’ve seen.

  32. Hi Finn,
    Ive just been quoted for 3 systems from your website.
    First one which is 5kw opal panels and a sungrow 5000 inverter for $7200.
    Second one for a 5kw system using SMA inverter plus Canadian tier 1 solar panels for $7000
    Third quote a 5kw system using a SMA inverter and Risen panels for $5892.
    Not sure which is the best one for price.
    Ive heard good things about the Opal panels and the Sungrow inverters but the Risen panels and SMA looks like a good deal.
    All companies ive spoken to rubbish each others panel system so im a little confused.
    The guys selling the Opal panel system were great, non pushy and gave me all the info to do my homework.
    The other guys rubbished the opal panel system as very inferior and classed the canadian panels as best followed by Risen then opal as bottom of the heap?
    Now im confused, can you offer any wisdom?

    Cheers
    Dave

    • Opal panels have a good reputation. They are made for Australian wholesalers ‘solar juice’ who are very reputable by a third party panel manufacturer. This means they are not classed as Tier1. But that in itself does not mean they are bad. It just means you don’t have any info on the panel manufacturer. We’ve asked multiple times who manufactures them but they won’t tell us. As I said they appear to be good quality and I’d be confident that the warranty service would be very good. Canadian and Risen are both good Tier 1 panels. Canadian tend to be more expensive than Risen, and Canadian are a bigger company. Sungrows are one of the better Chinese inverters but SMA are a more premium brand with a great reputation for quality.

  33. Hi Finn,

    I am just about to purchase a 5 kw Sungrow Hybrid system that has been calculated on being more than I require right now however two considerations are that I am going to in the next 12 -18 months put in 2 x A/C units and I would like to later on put in a battery system when it becomes more cost effective to do so?

    The quote includes GCL 250w Solar Panels so I am wondering what your opinion is on this type of system and what your opinion is on the two Chinese manufacturers?

    Regards

    Matt

    • I would rank Sungrow as a good budget inverter. I’ve heard good things about their hybrid units, so I think you’d be fine with it.

      GCL panels are Tier 1 on some lists – but I’d urge caution. Although they are a huge cell manufacturer, they have not been making their own brand panels for very long at all, and the jury is still out on their quality. Pay $50 per kW more and you’ll get a better known Tier 1 manufacturer like Trina, Phono, Yingli, Jinko, Canadian, JA Solar, Suntech, Hanwha, Q-Renesola, ET Solar etc

      • Firstly, Fronius and SMA(made in Germany are the best. Don’t need to compare with chinese brands.Chinese brands are in the same level. You can’t expect too much of the quality for budget price. Secondly, every electronic device can break down one day. Under the warranty you can get the service. Thirdly, the suppliers/wholeseller can run out of business. Choose a trustful company. Every company has its own problem. Longterm service is quite important.

  34. Hi Fin,
    I have just installed a 5 kW Sungrow system and would like to monitor it through the ethernet port, it is possible to just connect a laptop to it and get operational info?

    Regards,

    B Jozsa

  35. Graham Alexander says

    Why is everyone talking about Klyne and dodgy installers going out of business? That has nothing to do with the article. The article simply reported on a PHOTON article regarding a test.
    Your dodgy systems failing because you were too miserly to pay for a proper system are a different matter and nothing to do with Sungrow or SMA
    The test result says it all – Sungrow are up to similar standards of German inverters now and can take some punishment, but at a cheaper price.
    Nothing more, nothing less.

  36. Bela Jozsa says

    Hi Ron and Graham,
    Was trying to save myself the cost of the dongle. Ron downloaded the Quick User Manual, looks like it might just work. Thanks for that.
    Another question if I may.
    As I mentioned I have a 5 kW Sungrow, firstly on hose 40C days we had over summer the unit was so hot I could not touch it, is this going to fry the innards.
    Secondly when I first got it on those clear hot sunny days, I was registering well over the 4.5kW of the system. Now it seems to be clipping output at around 3.7 kW. I noticed on a couple of occasions that the output was registering at around 3 kW, then for one time unit it would shoot upto over 5 kW.

    Is the heat issue a know problem, will it kill my inverter.
    Is the spiking output a know issue, any idea why output may be clipping.
    Have photos if interested.

    Regards,

    Bela

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