An overview of Enphase microinverters

Enphase is the big player when it comes to microinverters. Here’s a look at their 2019 product lineup.

If you’ve read my article about how solar inverters work, you’ll know that one way to get the maximum output out of your solar panels in difficult shade conditions is to use microinverters.

The company that is far and away the largest player in the microinverter industry is Enphase Energy.

In business since 2006, the California-based Enphase has shipped over 20 million microinverters, so they have a lot of experience. They’ve gone through several iterations of their product lineup, and in this article I’ll take a look at their latest offerings.

Enphase IQ microinverters

In 2017, Enphase retired their Enphase M215 and M250 microinverter models and replaced them with their new IQ line. Enphase calls IQ an “architectural upgrade” that involves not just new inverters, but updated software across their product line. This means that there are also new Envoy IQ monitoring products that work with the new inverters.

Also, the cabling for the IQ inverters is simplified and involves only two cables (down from four in the M series). This should help reduce costs by making installation easier and faster.

Enphase IQ product lineup

There are 5 different microinverters in the IQ lineup. They differ primarily in their electrical characteristics: some models are designed to handle higher voltages and wattage, and will therefore be compatible with panels with a higher cell count or higher wattage.

Apart from that, you aren’t getting additional features by going with the IQ 7 versus the IQ 6, for example. Your installer will choose the microinverter that is compatible with your solar panels and system.

This means that no matter which specific IQ model you end up with, from the point of view of the homeowner you’re getting the same feature set.

But in case you’re curious or a DIY-type person, here’s the key specs for the IQ product lineup:

ModelSpecs
Enphase IQ 7X

• Maximum input voltage (DC): 79.5 V
• Panel compatibility: 96 cells
• Typical pairing: 320 W - 460 W panels
• Peak output: 320 VA
• CEC efficiency: 97.5 %
Enphase IQ 7+

• Maximum input voltage (DC): 60 V
• Panel compatibility: 60 and 72 cells
• Typical pairing: 235 W - 440 W panels
• Peak output: 295 VA
• CEC efficiency: 97.0 %
Enphase IQ 7

• Maximum input voltage (DC): 48 V
• Panel compatibility: 60 cells
• Typical pairing: 235 W - 350 W panels
• Peak output: 250 VA
• CEC efficiency: 97.0 %
Enphase IQ 6+

• Maximum input voltage (DC): 62 V
• Panel compatibility: 60 and 72 cells
• Typical pairing: 235 W - 400 W panels
• Peak output: 290 VA
• CEC efficiency: 97.0 %
Enphase IQ 6

• Maximum input voltage (DC): 48 V
• Panel compatibility: 60 cells
• Typical pairing: 195 W - 330 W panels
• Peak output: 240 VA
• CEC efficiency: 97.0 %

Enphase warranty

All of these microinverters come with a 25 year product warranty, during which Enphase will replace or repair any defective product. They will also cover shipping to the US or Canada, but the warranty does not include labor. This means you’ll be paying someone to go up on your roof to replace the failed component.

25 years is a great warranty to have, and it matches the warranty duration offered by SolarEdge for their competing power optimizer product. Many solar panel manufacturers also offer a warranty with this duration, so it will definitely give you peace of mind if you know all the major components of your system are covered for more than two decades.

Questions about Enphase product durability

It’s worth noting that Enphase did not always offer a warranty this long. Previous generations of their microinverters came with 15 year warranties. The longer warranty allows them to compete with SolarEdge, but it may also be a move designed to alleviate consumer concerns about the durability of their product.

Older Enphase microinverters developed a reputation for early failures, and it seems that Enphase has admitted as much when they recently launched their “Enphase Upgrade Program for Early Adopters”.

The upgrade program allows customers who have M190, M210, D380, or M175 microinverters to upgrade to IQ 7 series microinverters for a reduced cost. The promotion page for the program makes several references to increased reliability: they claim the new inverters are 10 times more reliable than the old ones.

It does read like a mea culpa:

In fact, our new IQ 7-PD Microinverter is an order of magnitude more reliable than our second-generation products. Higher reliability means fewer service calls and repairs. Plus, you'll enjoy the peace-of-mind of a 25-year product warranty and two-year service agreement while your legacy inverters are retired.

The general impression I hear from installers is that the newer generation of Enphase microinverters (they are now on their seventh generation) are indeed more reliable. Coupled with the long warranty offered by Enphase, I think you should feel comfortable with the durability of the IQ series.

Enphase monitoring

With Enphase microinverters, the monitoring application is a separate product called Envoy. It does all the things you would expect a photovoltaic monitoring system to do, including per-panel power monitoring, a feature that Enphase previously removed for a period of time.

It seemed like Enphase was trying to get you to buy a paid upgrade to their “Enlighten Manager” software if you wanted to get power statistics for individual panels. I’m guessing that not many people wanted to spend an extra $249 just to get that feature, so now it’s a basic feature again. This lets you examine individual panels in the system to see how much power individual panels generate, and not just the whole system together.

The system provides both a smartphone app and a web interface. You have the option of making the data public if you like. Here’s my system:

Example of the Enphase monitoring interface.
Example of the Enphase monitoring interface.

You can also go to the web page where you can explore the data in different ways. If you’re the owner of the system, when you log in you see a slightly different view with some more options. The smartphone app provides similar functionality for both iOS and Android.

If you want to learn more about the monitoring product lineup, go to the Envoy section of the Enphase website.

Bottom line

Not everybody needs microinverters for their solar photovoltaic system. In many cases, you’ll save money by going with a regular string inverter or power optimizers.

However, microinverters are definitely the most sophisticated approach to inverters, and there are situations where the added functionality provided by microinverters will help you get the most out of your system. If that’s the case for you, the Enphase IQ microinverters are a solid choice.

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