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Get to Know Your Top Solar Brands: Enphase

Short on Time? Here’s The Article Summary

Enphase, founded in 2006, is a leading micro-inverter manufacturer known for high-quality, reliable products. Their IQ7 and IQ8 micro-inverters are top sellers, with over 52 million micro-inverters shipped globally each year. Enphase's products are made in China but the company is US-based with a large global presence. Their micro-inverters convert DC electricity from individual solar panels into AC electricity. This design increases efficiency, reliability, and flexibility compared to string inverters. Enphase's micro-inverters are monitored and optimized individually, offering better performance and easier system design.

Enphase's leadership, including co-founders Martin Fornage and Raghu Belur, has been instrumental in their success. They have a range of micro-inverters, with the IQ8 series being their latest, offering grid-forming capability and compatibility with various panel types. Enphase has recently launched the Ensemble energy storage system and a bidirectional EV charger, expanding their product offerings. They compete with SolarEdge, with Enphase holding a larger market share in the US. Enphase is known for its reliability, warranty, and ease of installation, making them a top choice for solar projects.

Introduction

Enphase was founded in 2006 and is considered the world’s leading micro-inverter manufacturer. A micro-inverter is a very small inverter that is attached to your individual solar panel. Many solar power systems use string solar inverters fixed on a wall away from the actual solar panels and use DC cables to connect them. We’ll dig into the advantages and disadvantages of microinverters a little later on.

Enphase makes high-quality, reliable products and both the IQ7 and IQ8 range have been top sellers. Most of their products are made in China but the company is based in the US, with more than 2,834 employees across the globe. They also have a solid network of more than 6,522 approved installers and claim to ship over 52 million microinverters around the world every single year.

microinverter wallpaper

About Enphase Energy 

Enphase Energy, Inc. was founded in 2006 in Fremont, California. They were the first company to ever successfully commercialize the solar microinverter. The M175 launched in 2008, but the next-generation M190 that followed in 2009 really put the company on the map, gaining massive market share in North America.

Today, they manufacture and develop microinverters, battery energy storage, and EV charging stations for residential customers and businesses in over 140 countries.

One of the driving forces behind EnPhase's success is the company's stellar leadership. Enphase co-founders, Martin Fornage and Raghu Belur, are both well-known entrepreneurs and innovators. Martin Fornage spent twenty years designing power supplies, radio communications systems and fiber optics for telecommunications companies before leading the development of Enphase’s micro-inverter system. He retired in 2019 but still serves as a technical advisor. He holds 77 US patents.

Raghu is still the Chief Product Officer of the company and has more than 25 years of experience in the clean energy sector. As a skilled electrical engineer, he was instrumental in developing Enphase’s leading integrated energy system, which includes solar generation, storage, monitoring and control.

Many members of the leadership team have strong engineering backgrounds and technical knowledge. The current CEO, Badri Kothandaraman, holds eight US patents of his own.

This has really given Enphase an edge when it comes to product decision-making. In 2022, the company was worth more than $3-billion. 

What Makes Enphase Special? 

Enphase are industry leaders when it comes to manufacturing and selling microinverters.

In a solar powerl system, an inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in homes and businesses.

There are two main types of inverters used in solar panel systems: string inverters and microinverters.

A string of inverters convert the energy from a group of solar panels that are connected together in series and is the most common type of inverter used in solar power systems.

Microinverters convert the DC electricity from each individual solar panel into AC electricity. Microinverters are typically mounted on the back of each solar panel, so each panel works independently from the rest of the solar array. DC power is immediately converted to AC on the roof. Here’s why that matters:

  • Increased efficiency: microinverters can increase the efficiency of a solar system by up to 20%. This is because they convert the DC power from each panel directly into AC power, which eliminates the loss of energy that can occur with string inverters. On the flip side, that means you need to purchase as many microinverters as you have panels, rather than just one string inverter, so the cost is higher.
  • Increased reliability: microinverters are more reliable than string inverters. If a microinverter fails, it will only affect the power output of the panel that it is connected to. This means that the rest of the system will continue to operate, but it also means that there are many more potential points of failure.
  • Increased flexibility: microinverters allow you to design your solar panel system to fit your specific needs. You can choose to install microinverters on each panel, or you can group them together in smaller arrays. It makes it far easier for you to install.
  • Better performance: WIth microinverters, each panel is monitored and optimized individually. Your solar panels might generate different amounts of power due to shading or dirt buildup. When one panel performs badly or becomes dirty, the entire string’s performance is reduced. Microinverters solve that problem.

One word of caution though: Enphase is one of the few companies in the world that gets microinverters right. Remember how we said they were the first company to successfully launch microinverters? You will find cheap micros everywhere, but most of these fly-by-nights are extremely poor quality, with high-failure rates and non-existent customer support. If you really want to install a microinverter, you have to go with a brand you can trust. 

What Is Enphase Known For?

Enphase has two main families of microinverters: the seventh-generation IQ7 series and the newer eighth-generation IQ8 series, which is only available in North America at present. IQ8 micros come in a range of sizes. You can even pair them with more powerful 550W solar panels.

Many of their microinverters come with a 25-year warranty, which is much longer than you’d get from string inverters. These micros have been tested and held up in extremely high temperatures, including in Australia during the 2014 heatwave where temperatures of 115F was recorded. If you’re living in the desert, they won’t let you down. 

The IQ7 Series 

The IQ7 series has been around since 2018. The latest release is the smart grid-ready IQ7A microinverter. Because solar panels are getting bigger and more powerful, the IQ7A has a higher continuous power rating of up to 349VA, which is an improvement from the IQ7X’s 320V. A volt-ampere (VA) is the measurement of power in a DC electrical circuit. It’s also used in AC circuits, but represents the apparent power and not the true power, which is often expressed in watts. 

The downside is that the maximum DC input voltage is limited to 58V, which is compatible with the latest 60 and 72-cell panels or the 120 and 144 half-cut high-powered solar panels.

Here’s how the products in the range compare:

Enphase IQ 7+

Enphase IQ 7X

Enphase IQ 7A

Nominal Power 295VA

Nominal Power 320VA

Nominal Power 349VA

Recommended with 235 - 420W

Recommended with 295 - 460W

Recommended with 320 - 460W+

60/72 cell modules

60/72/96 cell modules

60/72 cell modules

Max DC Voltage 60V

Max DC Voltage 79.5V

Max DC Voltage 58V

 

The IQ8 Series

This is the latest and greatest in microinverters and it’s perfect for preppers, remote cabins, or anyone that wants to go off-grid. Enphase claims the IQ8 series is “the industry’s first grid-forming microinverters with split-phase power conversion capability”. It comes in a range of sizes from 240VA to 380VA, so you can use it with nearly any panel type, from old school 60-cell panels all the way to the new 540W+ powerhouses used in commercial buildings.

What really gives the IQ8 series the edge is its speed and accuracy, thanks to its application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The ASIC allows the microinverter to become a rapid load-following inverter, so the performance is excellent in off-grid and on-grid mode. You get basic backup power without a battery (during daylight hours), remote automatic updates, and it’s really configurable so it supports almost any type of grid profile.

The IQ8 series has also been designed to work seamlessly with Enphase’s new battery storage equipment, which we’ll look at later on. 

Enphase IQ8

Enphase IQ8+

Enphase IQ 8M

Enphase IQ 8A

Enphase IQ 8H

Nominal Power 240VA

Nominal Power 290VA

Nominal Power 325VA

Nominal Power 349VA

Nominal Power 380VA

Recommended with 235-420W

Recommended with 235-440W

Recommended with 260-460W+

Recommended with 295-500W

Recommended with 320-540W+

60 cell modules

72 cell modules

60/72 cell modules

60/72 cell modules

60/72 cell modules

Max DC Voltage 50V

Max DC Voltage 60V

Max DC Voltage 60V

Max DC Voltage 60V

Max DC Voltage 60V

 

What’s New with Enphase? 

Enphase has recently launched two exciting new products, including their own energy storage system and a home EV charger.

Enphase Ensemble

One of the disadvantages of using microinverters is that they’re not compatible with many of the popular DC battery storage systems on the market. Because most battery systems are DC-coupled, you’ll need a hybrid string inverter or multi-mode inverter, or you’ll need to use an AC battery system like the Tesla Powerwall 2. 

Enphase tried to solve this problem by launching the very compact 1.2kWh AC battery module that you could use and expand through the Enphase Enlighten portal. While it did what is said on the box, you couldn’t use it for backup power, so you’d still need to use the Tesla Powerwall 2 or something similar if you wanted backup. 

Recently, Enphase finally launched their own energy storage system known as the Enphase Ensemble, which was built around all new batteries known as the Enphase Encharge IQ batteries and the IQ8 series. These AC-coupled batteries come in two sizes (3.4kWh and 10.1kWh). The energy storage system delivers peak power of 5.7kW, ten times more than the old generation Enphase battery. It has full back-up capabilities thanks to the embedded grid-forming IQ8 micros and the additional Empower smart switch unit that contains a grid isolation device.

The IQ system controller 2 that provides all of your backup power is incredibly easy to install (and good-looking, too), combining all of the grid interconnection gear in a compact enclosure. It will automatically detect grid outages and switch to backup power (for either the whole home or just partial backup), so you never have to worry about losing power. 

Enphase EV Charger

Enphase launched their unique bidirectional EV charger in February 2023, enabling vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home functionality. It’s no small feat and something the company has never been able to do before. Thanks to the new IQ8 microinverters that can operate in on-grid and off-grid mode, you can now add an EV charger to your Enphase home energy ecosystem. It’s a great option if you are going with the Enphase Ensemble, and happen to drive a Tesla. 

How Does Enphase Stack Up Against the Competition?

Enphase and SolarEdge are the two biggest companies in the inverter market. Enphase holds around 48% of the US market to SolarEdge’s 40%. In terms of quality, they are on pretty equal footing. SolarEdge are a little more limited when it comes to scalability because they are limited by the size of the central inverter which can only hold so many solar panels. With Enphase, you can scale up by just adding more solar powers with compatible microinverters. 

On the downside, many of Enphase’s models aren’t backward compatible, so while scaling is easy in theory, it might not be that simple in practice if you have an older model. You’d need to buy all new inverters to upgrade, which isn’t cheap. 

Up until Enphase launched their new battery system, SolarEdge had a real advantage over them with their StorEdge DC-coupled backup solution. A single phase inverter manages all of the solar production, consumption, and backup power, providing automatic backup during outages. StorEdge was compatible with LG Chem RESU batteries, which are not only affordable but very reliable, too. Enphase still uses proprietary batteries (Enphase Ensemble), which means you are forced to use a more expensive option. 

SolarEdge has also beaten Enphase consistently in terms of efficiency (99.25% vs 97%) but it’s hard to compare them because their technology is so different. 

Both companies offer 25 year warranties on most of their products,  but SolarEdge only offers a 12-year warranty on their central inverter, which the whole system depends on. 

Enphase is definitely more expensive, but it’s by a margin, and their new battery system is going to solve a lot of the gripes that may have driven home owners to choose SolarEdge instead. 

Who Is Enphase For?

If you are looking for really sophisticated, reliable and warranty-backed microinverters, you really should look at Enphase before you look anywhere else. Are they pricey? Yes. Are they going to do the job? Hell, yes. Enphase microinverters are great for DIYers because they are much easier to install and maintain, especially if shade is an issue.

You can find different Enphase products, along with all of the advice you need to get them installed, on ShopSolar.com.

 

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Article by

Alex S

Alex is a co-founder of Shop Solar, a company that he established in 2018 to revolutionize the solar industry by simplifying the process and making it more simple and cost-effective. Under his strategic leadership, Shop Solar has grown into a comprehensive one-stop-shop, empowering over 40,000+ customers to access top-quality solar and storage solutions, comprehensive information, intuitive tools, and professional installation services.

With a passion for innovation and sustainable energy, Alex has successfully expanded the business's reach and impact, serving as a driving force in the company's growth and development. You can browse best seller's here.

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