Tigo TS4 product overview
Tigo makes solar optimizers and rapid shutoff devices with a unique feature: they can work with inverters from other brands. Here's a deep dive into the Tigo product lineup.
Almost all home solar installations these days use microinverters or inverters with power optimizers, and the market is dominated by just two companies: Enphase and SolarEdge.
While the Enphase IQ series of microinverters and the SolarEdge HD-Wave with power optimizers are the two most commonly installed inverters for homes, an under-the-radar choice that deserves more attention is the Tigo series of devices.
The unique feature of Tigo devices is their flexibility. Depending on the needs of your installation, you can choose from rapid shutdown, monitoring, power optimization, or all of the above. You also have the option of installing Tigo electronics only on the solar panels that need them, helping to reduce costs. Finally, Tigo electronics can pair with inverters made by more than 50 manufacturers, including Fronius, SMA, and Sol-Ark.
If you have a system that doesn’t need microinverters or power optimizers on every panel, or you need power optimization or monitoring on just some of the panels in your system, the Tigo TS4 series is definitely worth a look.
Power optimizers, microinverters, and rapid shutdown: an overview of MLPEs
With a solar panel installation, there some functions that you sometimes need to happen at each solar panel. DC-to-AC power conversion, which is performed by a microinverter, and compensating for shade, which can be done by microinverters or power optimizers, are two examples.
If you’re not familiar with the different types of solar inverters and the benefits that microinverters and power optimizers provide, you can read my article on the subject.
Depending on your local fire codes, you might also need rapid shutdown ability.
Finally, monitoring the power output of individual solar panels is a useful feature, especially if you have partial shading or want to better understand how your system is performing. A string inverter will tell you how much power your system overall is generating, but it has no way to report on the power output of a single panel. Panel-level monitoring also makes it easier to diagnose failures in a system.
The devices that perform these functions - microinverters, power optimizers, and rapid shutdown devices - are collectively known as module-level power electronics (MLPEs) in industry lingo, because a solar panel is also known as a module.
According to Berkeley Lab, MLPEs are installed in 94% of residential solar installations. Given the extremely high market penetration, having another brand option like Tigo is a great thing for consumers.
Tigo company overview
Founded in 2007, Tigo Energy was originally a Silicon Valley startup. They’ve grown, having acquired almost $200 million in venture funding since then, including an investment by SMA, one of the largest inverter companies in the world.
Today they’ve got offices throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In addition to MLPEs, Tigo has recently added string inverters and battery storage to their product lineup.
Tigo recently announced that it’s intending to become a publicly-listed company on the Nasdaq (through a SPAC) and estimated the value of the company to be about $600 million.
The fact that Tigo has grown from a startup into a large, financially-stable company makes choosing their products for your solar installation a less risky bet. A solar system should last for a couple decades, and you want the manufacturer to be around to provide warranty service.
Tigo TS4 product lineup overview
Tigo Energy has other products, including string inverters and batteries, but this article will focus on their MLPEs, which all fall under the Tigo TS4 product line.
Depending on what you need, you can select a model that has one or more of these features:
- Power optimization
- Rapid shutdown
There are five devices in the TS4 lineup. Here’s a summary of their capabilities:
• Power optimization|
• Rapid Shutdown
• Rapid Shutdown
|TS4-A-F||• Rapid shutdown for 1 panel|
|TS4-A-2F||• Rapid shutdown for 2 panels|
As you can see, the TS4-A-O is the most fully-featured model and the one that most homeowners would probably choose. However, you might not need every feature. For example, if you have no shading issues that affect your system, you can save money by choosing a model with fewer features.
Compatibility with other inverter manufacturers
The big feature that distinguishes Tigo devices is the ability to work with inverters from other manufacturers. This means that you can have a string inverter from another company - even one that does not offer power optimizers or rapid shutdown devices - and add one or more Tigo devices to boost the functionality of your system.
This gives you the option to choose from a wide range of inverters and still have features that often cause people to choose Enphase and SolarEdge.
Tigo achieves this with an open architecture that allows other manufacturers to design their software and hardware to work with Tigo devices.
Over 50 inverter manufacturers have had their products tested to be compatible with Tigo devices, including the popular brands Canadian Solar, Fronius, Schneider, SMA, and Sol-Ark. You can see a complete list of compatible inverters at the Tigo website.
In addition to standard compatibility, some inverters are certified as Tigo Enhanced. This means that they have additional hardware built-in to make Tigo rapid shutdown devices work. It’s not required to use a Tigo Enhanced inverter if you want to use a Tigo device for rapid shutdown, but having one eliminates the need to have additional hardware (like the Tigo RSS Transmitter) connected to your system, which saves some cost and installation labor.
Install power optimizers only on the panels that need them
Another Tigo feature that’s a major advantage is the ability to install MLPEs only on the solar panels that need them.
With Enphase and SolarEdge, you have an MLPE installed on every solar panel in the array. That’s fine if you need power optimization or monitoring on every panel, but it’s often the case that shading is only an issue for a few panels in an array. For example, a pretty common situation is having a chimney that casts a shadow on some panels for a few hours a day.
Using the Tigo TS4-A-S power optimizer, you could install the device on just the panels that are affected by shade. The latest Enphase IQ8 series microinverters cost roughly $200 each, so with a large array the savings can be substantial.
Tigo refers to this feature as selective deployment. You can even mix Tigo MLPEs in a selective deployment. For example, in most states the electric code requires that solar arrays have rapid shutdown capability. In that situation, an array could have the Tigo TS4-A-S power optimizer (which also includes rapid shutdown) installed on any panels that are affected by shade, while the remaining panels have the less expensive Tigo TS4-A-F to handle rapid shutdown.
Bottom line: flexibility is the defining feature of the Tigo TS4 series
The Tigo TS4 series fills an important role by letting you add module-level features to most of the string inverters currently on the market. This opens up a wider selection and possibly less expensive inverters. The flexibility of selective deployment is another way that the Tigo TS4 can save you money.
The main downside? According to some installers, limited availability. Supposedly Tigos can be hard to find, so if your installer has access to them, they might be one of the lucky ones.
The other thing to be aware of is that if you live in a region where rapid shutdown is required, the difference in price between a system with a string inverter with rapid shutdown devices on every panel and one with microinverters will be relatively smaller. The biggest advantage of selective deployment comes with installations where you don’t need a device on every panel.