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I Can't Afford So-Called "Tier 1" Equipment. What's Good at Tier 2?

forbin

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Jul 4, 2022
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I live about 2 hours from SS and could easily drive there for sales and support, but the horror stories I'm reading in these forum threads have given me serious pause. What else is out there that people tend to consider relatively reliable and affordable?
 
What kind is system are you looking for?
Off Grid
Grid Tied
Hybrid
 
AIO wise I love my Sungold tp6048 :)
I'll give the TP6048 a 2nd vote.

No issues after running MWhs through the mppt. Starts my well pump just fine.
Still, my only complaint are lights flickering when washer agitates and high idle consumption. (full disclosure I haven't updated the firmware and SGP tech support was trying to work on troubleshooting but I gave up after they wanted multiple videos)

6548s would be my next choice for AIOs.

@forbin what are you trying to power / accomplish?
 
I live about 2 hours from SS and could easily drive there for sales and support, but the horror stories I'm reading in these forum threads have given me serious pause. What else is out there that people tend to consider relatively reliable and affordable?
Depends on your needs and abilities. I am doing just fine with a couple of dirt cheap 3kw Tier None AIO's (not stacked or parallel but powering different circuits) at the moment and a motley collection of solar panels bought a few at a time over many years. Over the years I have tried out several different approaches to see what would work for me.

So if you understand basic electrical work and theory, have tools to do what is needed (or willing to buy them as you go) research and experiment, have no real need to use the power you generate but it could prove handy, than there are many, many avenues to explore.
 
After the learning experience of a few years under my belt, I would suggest to anyone looking to start out now, consider:
1. Risk - is the solar the only power you will have, is it the back up to the grid, if it fails are you in trouble?
2. System costs - In my system the Inverters are the lowest cost components (after batteries and PV components)
3.Time line - in a few years there will better options, at better prices, how long does the new system need to run to pay.
4. Efficiency - better (more expensive up front) equipment has higher efficiency. this may matter more for some locations/risks than others.
5. Features - better equipment typically comes with better features, options, settings, comms.
6. Budget - if Tier-one is out of reach, a lower cost option rather than no-option. Learning with entry level equipment is less stressful too.
7. Reuse or Sell - do you see an opportunity to reuse or sell the Inverter equipment (cabin/cottage, RV, family member, neighbour) one day in the future if you decide to up-grade your initial inverter to a newer/higher Tier inverter.
8. DIY vs plug and play - depending on this, you may want 'set it and forget it equipment' or you may want to tinker, experiment, play with the set up.

I started with the MPP 6048 for it's low cost of entry into solar, it gave me 120 & 240 with a single Inverter, it allowed expansion (parallel connections) it was one of the early inverters Will posted on YT, it was an AIO with simple connections/set up and settings. It could be reused in the future at my cabin if I out-grew it's capacity or it became obsolete. Consider all of the above and then make a choice that suits your situation.
 
Since I like SMA, I'll suggest relatively affordable liquidation prices: $1500 for new Sunny Island 6048US (msrp $6000, street price $4500)
Two of these with up to 24kW of GT PV Sunny Boy for 120/240V, or one with separate SCC like Midnight Classic for a 120V system (can add transformer for 120/240V)


But you have to consider batteries - if using closed-loop communication, only some choices that talk to SMA. With EG4, their own batteries should talk.
 
Check facebook marketplace. Just bought an SMA Sunny Boy 5.0-41 for $800. It was only used for 3 months and never registered for warranty, I confirmed by calling SMA tech support. For some reason their are a lot of Solar Edge inverters for sale. Enphase micro inverters are also found.
 
Lots of Solar Edge because many failed units replaced by installers. I wouldn't touch them, but some people report no issue - it could be some models and some geographic locations don't have problems.
Enphase is popular, but IQ8 has trouble AC coupling to battery inverters. People are using IQ7 successfully with SolArk and Schneider.

When permission to connect not required (or grandfathered systems) I like the older transformer type Sunny Boy like 5000US. They support negative or positive ground PV array and have on/off grid parameter switching for use with Sunny Island.

All the Rule-21 inverters ought to work AC couple, but IQ8 is having trouble (suspect aggressive anti-islanding.) The newer Sunny Boys are transformerless like almost all inverters today, so use "PID free" PV panels; some older panels degrade when biased to the wrong voltage. The newer SB can be set for looser off-grid voltage and frequency or for Rule-21.

SolArk is relatively expensive, except compared to MSRP of complete Schneider or SMA system. People seem happy with it.

Midnight Rosie ain't cheap, but we expect very good performance and reliability considering its pedigree.

We do need to know if OP is on or off grid, and wants to backfeed or not. If off-grid, are you sure "relatively reliable" is good enough? If on-grid, can just bypass.
 
Need to post a rough budget and system requirements or goals, and if you have any equipment already or need everything.

The issues I see people having with SS are:

1. Not reading the return and replacement policy in detail and then getting mad about shipping cost, turnaround time, or refund only policy and then getting mad about it. You're probably immune to these if you can pick up.

2. Not researching and learning about known quirks and limitations EG4 equipment before purchasing. Avoidable.

3. EG4 equipment comes with unknown quirk due to unknown mid run product change. These suck, but they own up to them.

4. New EG4 product comes with unknown or poorly described quirk that first buyers discover and is not something that will be resolved.

I really only feel bad for the 3rd and 4th category, and it sounds like SS sometimes offers refunds for these cases. You can just stay away from brand new products though.
 
I'm satisfied with my Growatt SPF 6k AIO. Some of the shortcomings it had were solved by putting in a Solar assist to manage it.
 
I live about 2 hours from SS and could easily drive there for sales and support, but the horror stories I'm reading in these forum threads have given me serious pause. What else is out there that people tend to consider relatively reliable and affordable?
Don't sell SS short just yet. They have certainly had some problems but James and many of his team are very active on this forum and have proven, at least to me, that they are determined to resolve those problems and provide quality products and service. Obviously some here will disagree and it usually depends on individual experience. But you have a huge advantage in that you are only 2 hours away so if you really have an issue you can drive there if needed.

A lot depends on what your goals are for your system but if you're looking for inverters with more of a track record SS carries the Schneider line. I would consider those Tier 1 or damn close. Their EG4 batteries are at least as good as anything I've seen and priced very competitively. Solar panels are solar panels, but being only two hours away you can save a ton on shipping for those.

I'm running two of the MPP LV6548s and they have been rock solid even though many here call them Chinese junk. In a few of Will's videos he has praised them as well and you'll find a lot of people on the forum running them who are very satisfied. Are they a Solark? No. But they cost less than half and so far have a good reputation. All my panels and batteries came from SS and the minor issues I've had with the batteries were resolved and SS was very responsive.

Even though my 6548s are doing pretty well, I'm a little under powered. I'm looking to upgrade sometime in the next year to two of the EG4 18kpv. Are they Tier 1? Well, they are actually LuxPower relabeled so maybe they are. Certainly not junk.

My two cents, FWIW.
 
Solar panels are solar panels, but being only two hours away you can save a ton on shipping for those.

Not entirely, some panels degrade rapidly. Buying used, harsh environments may also have degraded some.



I favor buying panels with good reliability history. In the case of used even more than new, purchase price is just a fraction compared to mounting hardware, other PV equipment, and labor. But some people are happy with cracked backsheet and snail trail Santan/Trina panels. So even those may be a good value. But I've bought SunPower and REC (be aware early SunPower suffered badly from PID when negative grounded.)
 
Not entirely, some panels degrade rapidly. Buying used, harsh environments may also have degraded some.



I favor buying panels with good reliability history. In the case of used even more than new, purchase price is just a fraction compared to mounting hardware, other PV equipment, and labor. But some people are happy with cracked backsheet and snail trail Santan/Trina panels. So even those may be a good value. But I've bought SunPower and REC (be aware early SunPower suffered badly from PID when negative grounded.)
Yeah, that's true. My statement was meant to convey that solar panels in general are more of a commodity. Brand X solar panels from SS are not going to be any better or worse than the same model from some other source and there are a lot of sources. I certainly agree on doing the research on the panels, no matter where you get them.
 
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