PV solar panels and Solar Edge inverters

One of the joys of owning PV solar panels (photovoltaic), is that you can sit comfortably in the knowledge that your family is protected despite an energy industry that has no outlook farther than next year’s profits.

Should I upgrade my existing PV solar panel system?

Should I upgrade my existing PV solar panel system?

So you’re sitting comfortably with your newly installed photovoltaic array, then an unknown company comes along and offers you an upgrade. An upgrade to enhance your PV performance and squeeze a little more juice out of it.

Is this worth the extra expense?

Recently I was asked if it’s worth upgrading an existing PV solar panel system to a Solar Edge inverter with a voltage optimisers system for £4,000 – no this is nuts!

The reality is that all good quality inverters cost around the same apart from Solar Edge and Enphase that are individual micro inverters designed to optimise each panel’s output individually.

I understand that solar companies and installers are looking at new innovative ways to complement their core business, but the concept of tempting already satisfied PV users to upgrade for thousands of pounds with juicy financial carrots is wrong.

In my humble opinion; if it’s not broken then don’t fix it!

There is no doubt that Solar Edge products are second to none and are well-respected within time-served installer circles, but none of them would consider selling this technology by financial gain.

Anyone installing PV solar panels today should get comparison quotes with and without microinverters, but the reality is most people don’t need this extra expense, and a standard string inverter will be sufficient in most cases.

The real importance is the peak output value of the ‘actual panels’ that are far more likely to dictate performance output and should be more of a concern when choosing a PV system type.

For those who research the subject of installing PV, there is a noticeable difference in price between Solar Edge and non Solar Edge installations, but this is within hundreds of pounds and probably not thousands of pounds as proposed above.

In my humble opinion; Solar Edge and additionally Enphase are industry leaders and proven technologies, but expect to pay more for these system types – albeit not thousands of pounds!

The proposal as mentioned earlier is like getting charged for installation costs twice.

These system types benefited the user and recommended for:

  • Properties who have shading issues. With un-shaded and Southerly facing installations, they probably won’t produce more electricity than a standard string inverter.
  • PV solar panels with higher ‘peak output’ ratings (280 watt plus).
  • Split-roofs. East and West sloping roofs are popular types of installations in the UK, and microinverters can make the most of the solar technology within these constraints.
  • Daily monitoring of each panel’s performance. This unique monitoring aspect is prized within the industry and allows the PV owner to monitor and analyse performance over the day, month, year and lifetime – an analytical and engineer’s wet dream.

Solar Edge which is today commonly sold as aftermarket additions can only be worth the extra expense when used on the right occasions at the right price and only during the original installation process. However, spending thousands of pounds to upgrade an existing already commissioned and fully operational PV system is simply not worth it!

If I was Installing today and if money isn’t a problem, I would entirely go for the microinverter system, just for its ability to the monitor panels individually. However, if you’re not as nerdy as me, then a standard string inverter will do the job adequately in most cases.

The bottom line is; you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds extra to get the most out of your photovoltaic solar panels.

PV to hot water converters ‘versus’ voltage optimisers

Voltage optimisation based on a concept that; the voltage supplied to homes by the National Grid is around 242V. The maximum rating for all electrical devices throughout the UK and Europe and valued at 220V.

Voltage optimisation on residential sites does have its critics when sold purely by energy-saving and can vary depending on the type of electrical appliance.

Voltage optimisers can be purchased for around £350 as an PV to hot water converters. These hot water controllers are great devices that will effectively give you free hot water for around six to eight months of the year – provable.

What PV to hot water converters does is divert the spare electricity from your panels to power the immersion unit in your hot water cylinder, thus giving you free hot water when your panels are working well.

However, PV to hot water converters is not recommended with today’s ‘battery storage’ type installations because the hot water unit will be using up virtually all the ‘spare’ electricity from your panels in most cases.

If salesmen mention ‘voltage optimisers’ devices, then be very wary of the saving claims as the variables are plenty. YouGen ran tests and warned its members against selling them on the basis of any substantial savings. WHICH listed them as one of the five biggest wastes of money in saving energy.

In my humble opinion, the jury is still out on the benefits of voltage optimisers, but hot water converters is a proven technology today.

PV to hot water converters will give you plenty of hot water depending on the baseload of your property and makes a better case for spending your money on higher output panels than some aftermarket products.

Realistically, hot water is a must for all families each day, so if you have an immersion heated hot water tank, then hot water provided for your family for free using your solar panels is priceless.

Charge your car with PV solar panels

If you want to impress the neighbours and maximise its full potential, then charge your next car with PV solar panels.

Being one step ahead of the crowd is how most people create and keep hold on to their money. Many people installed PV because it was a ‘sure thing’ and they were ‘ahead of the crowd’.

Therefore, the next logical step is to trade in your old gas guzzler for a EV (electric vehicle) charged for free with your PV solar panels.

Most car manufacturers have their EV models, so once again opportunity strikes to expand your ability to benefit from solar panels with ‘free motoring mileage’ too.

Always food for thought.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2016-04-26
Founder of Power My Home.