Best Solar Grid Tie Inverters

Best Solar Grid-Tie Inverters

Establishing a residential solar power system that’s connected to the local power grid can save you and your household big bucks, especially with the right solar grid-tie inverter.

These nifty pieces of hardware help to invert the energy your solar panels produce into usable AC power. This inverted power can then be used to power your household, and the excess can be fed back to the main power grid for some extra cash.

There are number of different grid-tie inverters that can service a range of solar arrays and setups. The best ones currently on the market are hybrid inverters. By capturing power and saving it for later use, you can maximize your energy production and charge batteries while still remaining on-grid.

6 Best Solar Grid-Tie Inverters

Best Overall: Outback Power Skybox Grid-Tie Hybrid Inverter

outback power skybox grid tie hybrid inverter
  • Watts: 5,000W
  • Peak Efficiency: 97%
  • The High Points: Allows for backup power storage.
  • The Not-So: One of the most expensive options on the list.

As one of the most notable names in the solar energy market, Outback Power is known for making top-of-the-line products. Their Skybox hybrid inverter is a standout in their catalog because of its ease of use, quality manufacturing, and ability to serve as a backup energy source.

Most solar grid-tie inverters don’t allow for power storage, but the Skybox can store energy for personal use, emergency backup, or sending to the public grid at a specified time. This is great for those that live in areas where utility bills have time-of-use charges or frequent blackouts. You can even hook up a back-up generator for extra protection.

What Do Reviewers Say?

As a brand-new product recently released in 2018, the Outback Skybox does not currently have any customer reviews online. However, based on expert opinions, the Skybox is a cutting-edge machine that’s easy to install and maintain. Based on Outback’s reputation for excellence in solar products, it can be assumed that this product is no different than the rest.

Features & Considerations

The Outback Skybox packs a lot into one sleek unit, eliminating the need for external charge controllers and communication boxes.

It’s very easy to install because the inverter, remote control, load center and PV inputs are packaged in a single primary console. This means there’s no need for complicated wiring, interconnection between units or mounting multiple boxes.

One of the key selling points for the Skybox is its hybrid configuration. While most grid-tie inverters only feed power to a household or public grid on a continuous basis, the Skybox can store power for later use. It works with any regular 48V battery bank and has an input for a backup generator as well.

The system is compliant with California and Hawaii’s solar grid requirements. It employs a NEMA 3R enclosure, which protects the delicate electronics from rain, snow and ice formation. While it can withstand inclement outdoor weather, it’s always recommended that inverters be installed in covered and protected areas.

With a 5-year warranty, Outback offers protection for buyers. They also have upgrade-able software and customer support to set your mind at ease. Should you require it, they offer an extended 10-year warranty upon request.

Runner Up: SolarEdge HD-Wave Grid-Tied Inverter

solaredge hd wave grid tied inverter
  • Watts: 5,000W
  • Peak Efficiency: 99.2%
  • The High Points: Incredibly efficient, lightweight and reliable.
  • The Not-So: Doesn’t include remote control.

With industry-leading technology, the SolarEdge HD-Wave Grid-Tied Inverter naturally rises to the top of the pack. Its incredible 99.2% peak efficiency rating means that you’ll be saving money and time by maximizing your power production.

With a low price and host great features, the SolarEdge inverter is a no-brainer for mid-sized residential solar arrays.

This top-tier model is lightweight and reliable and can be easily installed with very little maintenance. It offers built-in module-level monitoring, pure sine wave power and a great 12-year warranty period. Overall, the SolarEdge inverter packs a lot into a small package and offers great value for money.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Industry leading experts are very impressed with the SolarEdge HD-Wave inverter. In fact, the model won the 2016 Intersolar Award. This makes it a great choice for solar experts and novices alike.

Reviewers are also pleased with the durability of the inverter. One reviewer claims that their inverter has withstood rain and very high heat with little to no damage. However, it’s always wise to be careful with sensitive electronics and protect them from unnecessary contact with environmental hazards.

Features & Considerations

The best feature of the SolarEdge HD-Wave inverter is its record-breaking efficiency rating. Most traditional grid-tie inverters operate with a peak efficiency of 90-97%. The SolarEdge inverter maximizes energy production with an incredible 99.2% efficiency.

The SolarEdge HD-Wave is also small and lightweight, making installation a one-man job. By using a unique power conversion technology that reduces the need for magnetics and heavy cooling elements, SolarEdge was able to shrink the size of the unit. This offers flexible installation for home owners as it only weights a mere 25 pounds.

With an optional built-in revenue grade meter, SolarEdge makes it easy to connect to the local power grid. It’s also equipped with automatic rapid shut-down that meets NEC requirements. And should you need it, you can add additional remote monitoring functionality as well.

Best Microinverter: Enphase IQ7+

enphase iq7+
  • Watts: 290W
  • Peak Efficiency: 97.6%
  • The High Points: Allows for future expansion and individual monitoring of solar panels.
  • The Not-So: Can only accommodate one solar panel at a time.

As one of the “smartest” inverters on our list, the Enphase IQ7+ really lives up to its name. The small microinverter works with a single solar panel and can carefully track and record data. It pairs with a variety of other Enphase products to create the ultimate home solar setup.

While its single-use design makes it more expensive than other inverters that can handle larger arrays, the Enphase offers a variety of benefits you can’t find in a string or hybrid inverter. For example, if one solar panel in your array fails because of poor weather, your other panels and their energy production won’t be affected.

Other benefits include the ability to start small and grow with time. If you’re currently using a solar array with only a few panels but are looking to upgrade at some point, then an Enphase microinverter is a great choice.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Overall, Reviewers are very satisfied with their Enphase microinverters. They appreciate that if one panel fails, the others are not affected. This maintains the quality of power supply no matter what.

Other reviewers appreciate the detailed data Enphase offers through its analytics program. This is a great help for homeowners servicing their own solar array. However, one annoyance is that Enphase doesn’t offer much direct customer support, so buyers will need to go through the seller if they need assistance.

Features & Considerations

Microinverters are unique in that they don’t service a series of solar panel kits, but rather a single panel at a time. This is great for those with only a few panels who may expand their array in the future. It’s also good for those placing their panels in different locations in “subarrays”.

The Enphase IQ7+ is intelligent and can seamlessly operate with other smart Enphase products. Their branded line includes the Enphase IQ Envoy, Enphase IQ Battery and the Enphase Enlighten monitoring and analysis software.

The unit is lightweight and easy to install. It only requires two-wire cabling and comes equipped with a double-insulated enclosure for extra protection.

This unit complies with various standards like the CA Rule 21, NEC and is UL listed. It can also accommodate advanced grid support and remote updates to meet changing or updated grid requirements.

Each Enphase IQ7+ inverter can be paired with a panel that’s 300 watts or less. It’s not compatible with panels of a higher wattage. It’s important to note that because of its relatively low wattage, the price for a multi-panel setup is quite high compared to a string inverter.

Best “Stackable” Inverter: Eco-worthy Auto Switch MPPT Solar Grid Tie Inverter

eco worthy auto switch mppt solar grid tie inverter
  • Watts: 1,000W
  • Peak Efficiency: 90%
  • The High Points: You can “stack” multiple inverters for a large solar array.
  • The Not-So: The inverter cannot connect with a battery bank.

As a budget-friendly option, the Eco-worthy Auto Switch Inverter is a steal. It offers buyers the opportunity to expand their solar arrays in the future by “stacking” inverters. As a standalone, the inverter can only handle 1,000W, just enough for small homeowners with a few solar panels.

The model comes with a standard range of features and options. It’s important to note that it will only work with 24V DC input as anything lower will not charge the unit. While it’s not the best model on the market, it does the job and is fairly no-frills.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Reviewers are generally pleased with the Eco-worthy Auto Switch MPPT Solar Grid-Tie Inverter. The unit is mostly reliable and works well with dynamic systems. As long as buyers checked the minimum DC input, their inverters worked as expected.

However, some reviewers had a range of issues when it came to installing their unit. This included problems such as the controller not receiving power, the net metering being inaccurate at a low current, and the limiter not functioning correctly. This caused several buyers to abandon their purchases and opt for different models.

Features & Considerations

One of the key highlights for the Eco-worthy auto switch inverter is that it can be used independently with a grid-tie system, or it can be set up as a large solar array with multiple units working simultaneously. This is a great choice for those with small setups that may want to upgrade or expand in the future.

The inverter can handle a max output of 1,000W, which equates to roughly two to four mid-sized solar panels per inverter. If you produce too much power in a given day, the system will feed it to the local utility grid. It is a 110V type with an AC output range of 90V-140V.

The inverter offers protection against over current, over temperature, reverse polarity and more. As an MPPT model, it is also more efficient than other types. However, it is worth noting that its peak efficiency rating is significantly lower than other top-tier models.

Best for Large Residential Solar Arrays: SMA Sunny Boy 7.7-US Inverter

sma sunny boy 7.7 us inverter
  • Watts: 7,7000W
  • Peak Efficiency: 97.5%
  • The High Points: Offers direct access via smartphone.
  • The Not-So: Is quite heavy and large compared to other similar models.

The Sunny Boy 7.7-US inverter is an iteration of the SMA Sunny Boy line- a collection of multi-gen models that continue to shine in the solar market.

The 7.7-US model is great for those with large residential solar arrays that produce 7500W of power or more. This is equivalent to 15 or more mid-sized solar panels tied in a string.

This much power can easily service a household and produce an excess to feed back into the grid. The Sunny Boy also offers a host of other top-shelf features at a reasonable price. With so much packed into one, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better mid-range solar grid-tie inverter.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Reviewers appreciate the overall quality of SMA products, including the Sunny Boy 7.7-US inverter. They especially like the data logging and presentation, which is comprehensive. The system works well and has saved users money by reducing their reliance on the grid.

However, some issues have occurred due to overheating and other mishaps. Some reviewers also found the connectivity to be faulty. By and large, these issues aren’t too concerning for users.

Features & Considerations

Compared to other Sunny Boy models, the Sunny Boy 7.7-US inverter is a great choice. It offers an improved voltage input window, three MPPT inputs, and secure power supply. It’s also the only inverter on the market that allows for direct smartphone access, which helps to minimize installation and maintenance time.

The Sunny Boy 7.7 includes up to 2,000W of secure power supply. There are multiple independent MPPT inputs which can accommodate different panel stringing options. And the SMA OptiTracTM Global Peak technology prevents against shade loss.

As with other SMA products, the Sunny Boy 7.7 meets the NEC requirements. It also comes with enhanced AFCI technology to prevent safety and operational issues. However, should you encounter a problem, the company offers a standard 10-year warranty.

For Those on a Budget: iMeshbean 300W Microinverter

imeshbean 300W microinverter
  • Watts: 3000W
  • Peak Efficiency: 90%
  • The High Points: A great price for a mid-range model.
  • The Not-So: The actual peak efficiency is arguably lower than its specified rating.

As a low-cost option, the iMeshbean 300W microinverter does the job. It works well with single panel set ups or can be used in a combination with other units when there’s more than one panel. At its current price, the total cost of establishing a multi-panel array still isn’t as high as purchasing a high-wattage grid-tie inverter.

While some buyers are disappointed with the peak efficiency, the overall impression of iMeshbean is positive. As a budget-friendly inverter, iMeshbean offers an easy and simple way to dump excess power back onto the local power grid.

What Do Reviewers Say?

Overall, reviewers are happy with the simplicity of the iMeshbean microinverter. It allows for easy feeding into the grid. They also work best when connected to a single solar panel.

However, many complaints have been lodged regarding the advertised peak efficiency rating. Currently, it’s listed as 90%. However, buyers argue that the actual efficiency is 80%. This can be an inconvenience for some who rely on heavy power production.

Features & Considerations

The iMeshbean is a microinverter, meaning you’ll need to purchase one unit per solar panel. Based on its budget price, the total cost for a full setup of 4 or more panels is not unreasonable and is much cheaper than other competitors.

However, you do get what you pay for. The iMeshbean invertor only offers 300W and a peak efficiency of 90%.

One great benefit of the iMeshbean is that it produces pure sine wave power, a much “cleaner” version of energy when compared to modified sine wave options. This is better for sensitive electronics and can be fed directly into the local power grid.

Of course, you’ll still need to check whether the power grid voltage is within the inverter’s usable range (90-140V) before operation.

The inverter offers protection against over current, over temperature, reverse polarity and anti-islanding. It also uses MPPT technology with a standby power consumption of less than 0.5W. If your solar panels are 12-24V, the iMeshbean is a great budget choice.

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The Complete Solar Grid-Tie Inverters Buyer’s Guide

What to Look for in a Solar Grid-Tie Inverter

Choosing the right solar grid-tie inverter is an important decision. When connecting to the public utility grid, you’ll need to guarantee that your chosen unit is up to spec.

Besides the variety of essential safety and operational features you can’t skimp on, there are some options you can choose between based on your designated use.

What are your specs?

Each manufacturer will offer a “data sheet” for their units. This will provide important information about the capacity of the inverter. You’ll need to pay close attention to these details in order to choose the correct inverter for your solar array and utility grid.

  • Output Voltage: This indicates the utility voltages the inverter can connect to. For residential use, an output of 240VAC is generally sufficient. However, larger commercial systems will need 208-600VAC.
  • Rated Output Power: This will fluctuate depending on the output voltage. Some inverters can be configured for different output voltages and each rating will be different. The rating will be in either watts (W) or kilowatts (kW).
  • Maximum Input Current: This dictates the maximum amount of current the inverter can handle. If the solar array produces more than the maximum, the current will be lost.
  • Maximum Output Current: This is important because it determines the rating of protection devices, such as breakers and fuses.

Where do you live?

Based on your location, you’ll need to adhere to specific requirements before accessing the local utility power grid. These standards are set in accordance with safety and operational guidelines. You can find out more on your local government’s website or through your power provider.

If you’re struggling to determine what specifications your unit needs, you can always contact a local solar supply company and have them service your home. They can assist in setting up safe solar arrays and hooking your inverter up to the grid.

Besides the actual regulations, your location will also determine the type of weather your unit will be exposed to. Some inverters are relatively weatherproof and meet the NEMA 3R/4X standards. However, some don’t offer any protection against rain, dust, corrosion, ice formation or other hazards.

If you live in an area that’s prone to heavy rain or snow, you should place your inverter in a sheltered area, like a garage or porch. You should also invest in a model that offers NEMA certification as it guarantees your unit won’t malfunction because of dripping or dust.

Do you want the option to store power?

If you’re looking to capture power and store it for later, a hybrid inverter is your best choice. These are more expensive as they use modern technology to function as both an on and off-grid system.

They allow you to store excess energy in solar battery banks, which you can then use to power devices at night or feed back to the grid at a later date.

Will you be expanding your solar array in the future?

If you have a small solar system and are looking to expand in the future, then you should go for a microinverter. These inverters control a single solar panel at a time so they may be more expensive overall than a larger inverter that can handle an entire array.

However, they do allow you more control over your panels so you can expand slowly, one panel at a time.

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Selection Criteria: How We Ranked the Best Solar Panel Kits

Based on our specified criteria, we’ve narrowed down our list to the 6 best solar grid-tie inverters. Our rankings specifically focus on the watts and peak efficiency. We also took the overall quality of the unit into consideration.

Watts

The watts (W) of the inverter refers to how many watts the unit can handle from a solar panel. Basically, the inverter will need to closely match the number of watts your solar array produces. If it doesn’t, then energy will be lost as the inverter will not be able to invert it.

For example, if you have four 220W solar panels, your total array will be 880W. You’ll then need purchase an inverter that’s rated at 900-1000W to guarantee efficiency. If you’re looking to maximize your energy production, then you’ll want a high-wattage inverter with a series of high-wattage panels.

Peak Efficiency

The peak efficiency will determine the maximum efficiency the inverter can achieve when working in ideal environments. For an inverter to meet its rated power, it must have an input that exceeds its output if its efficiency rating is below 100%.

Most inverters are in the range of 90-96% efficiency. Overall, the higher the percentage, the better the inverter.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does a solar inverter work?

Basically, a solar inverter converts the direct current (DC) energy produced by solar panels into alternating current (AC) power. Most appliances use AC power, which is why an inverter is necessary for home energy systems. Without an inverter, the energy produced by a solar array would be unusable.

There are a variety of different types of solar inverters. Grid-tie inverters are unique in that they feed electricity into the local power grid. In order to do this, they must accurately match the voltage and phase of the grid’s system. The system’s computer can sense the grid’s waveform and will output a corresponding voltage.

To prevent damage or waste of money, it’s important for homeowners to compare the specs of their chosen inverter with that of the utility system before purchasing. You can check regional policies and regulations on which inverters are acceptable for your local grid system.

What are the different types of solar inverters?

There a few different types of solar inverters. They vary significantly in price and function and can offer flexibility to those with renewable energy setups.

  • Off-grid: An off-grid inverter doesn’t connect to the public grid and instead operates as a self-contained system for home power. It converts DC power running from the solar panels to AC electricity that you can use to power appliances. Be aware that this type of inverter is NOT for grid-ties.
  • Micro: A microinverter is only paired with a single solar panel. This means that each individual panel will have its own inverter. This is a great option for those looking to expand their systems later or monitor each panel individually. The downside is that you’ll need to purchase multiple units to service a full solar array.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid inverter is a great new addition to modern solar technology. It combines solar inversion with batteries, allowing you to store excess power. This all-in-one model is great for those who want the flexibility to connect and disconnect from the grid as they please.
  • String: A string solar inverter links several solar panels together into a series. They are generally the least expensive option out there. While they are great in the right conditions, a single panel can shut down your whole system if it fails or is shaded. They should only be used in full, direct sunlight that’s unobstructed to prevent unintentional failure.

What is net metering?

Grid-tie inverters allow for the feeding of electricity from a home-based power system to a public utility grid. Local electricity companies will pay for this injection of electricity, allowing for homeowners to contribute to the community’s power supply. Net metering is how the electricity company tracks the amount of power sent to grid from an individual system.

The benefit of a grid-tie system is that you can easily switch from a solar system to the electrical grid. If it’s night time and your solar panels aren’t producing electricity, you can pull from the local grid and maintain your supply of power.

The meter on your property will record how much you’ve contributed versus how much you’ve used, and either you or the electricity company will pay the difference. This is called the feed-in tariff.

For example, if you produced 600kW and only consumed 400kW over the course of a month, then you’d have sent an excess of 200kW to the grid. In turn, the electric company will pay you a fee or “turn back” your meter. The specific amounts and policies will vary by jurisdiction.

How can I connect to the public grid system?

Before purchasing equipment and connecting to the grid, you’ll need to understand the requirements. It’s best to call your power provider and check what their specific standards are. If they are unable to accommodate your grid-connection request, you can try calling your state utilities commission or state energy office.

While specific requirements vary greatly by region, some states adhere to national guidelines established for equipment manufacturers, such as the IEE, UL and NEC standards. You can research these standards to check if your inverter is up to code online.

You’ll also need to sign an interconnection agreement with the power provider. Some general criteria include required liability insurance and payment of fees for inspections or other services.

The rate you’ll be paid for sending power to the grid will be established in the contract. Based on national law, this must be equal to what it costs the power provider to produce the power themselves.

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Mariah Grimwood

About Mariah Grimwood

Mariah Grimwood has been producing web content for two years and counting, with an extra special focus on things she's passionate about: eco-friendly options, travel and education. With her knack for research and eye for unsightly syntax, she's on a mission to revitalize informational resources for online readers.