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Can Chinese Solar Inverters Match Up With The German Masters?

A solar “inverter” is a vital piece of equipment in a solar panel installation. Its purpose is to convert the direct current (known as DC) produced by your solar energy system directly from the sun’s rays into a useable alternating current (AC). Germany use to be the global leader in solar technology, both in terms of manufacture and indeed number of installations. These days, as with so many things, China now produces most of the world’s solar equipment and it produces 75% of the world’s solar inverters.

Chinese inverters are considerably cheaper than the German equivalent but does cheaper mean better? We ask whether it is still worth paying the extra cash for guaranteed quality.

What Will a Solar Inverter Cost?

The high end German inverters will cost around £2,000, compared with around £1,000 for a Chinese inverter. You will usually pay for the inverter as part of a complete solar electricity generating package but you will often be able to choose which inverter you would like the installer to use, which will be reflected in the cost of the overall package.

So Should We Be Wary of Cheap Alternatives?

It is natural to wonder, when seeing one product that is so much cheaper than another, to wonder why it is so cheap and to be sceptical. Two reasons why the Chinese are able to undercut their competitors are state subsidies and cheap labour. Quality is not necessarily a factor.

Under laboratory conditions it has been shown that Chinese inverters are in fact as efficient as their German counterparts in terms of the electricity they are able to generate. What is more difficult to prove in the laboratory is how well the inverter will last and what support will be available if things go wrong.

Benefits of Using an Established Manufacturer

The problem with Chinese products is that they have a reputation for failing in the medium to long term. The German products on the other hand have a good reputation for longevity.

Furthermore, most of the major German manufacturers are well established over a number years and can demonstrate that where their products do fail they honour any warranties. By comparison, many Chinese firms are quite young and like many young firms, may fail before the expiry of the warranty.

So Should It Be German or Chinese?

Choosing a Chinese inverter is undoubtedly a risk, but it could be worthwhile one. If you don’t feel like a gamble, pay the extra, buy German and go for an extended warranty. You’ll have the peace of mind that it is likely to last and will be replaced with minimum fuss if it doesn’t. If you are prepared to take the risk though, buy Chinese and put the money you save in a high interest account. If it fails after 5 – 8 years and you find that you cannot claim on the warranty then use the extra money to buy a replacement Chinese inverter and you will have lost nothing. If it doesn’t then buy yourself something nice with the money!

1 Comment to Can Chinese Solar Inverters Match Up With The German Masters?

  1. Keith FP's Gravatar Keith FP
    October 23, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    This article highlights one of the hidden costs of solar electricity – the panels may have a guaranteed life of 25 years but inverters have a much shorter life expectancy, either German or Chinese. At least one replacement converter should be budgeted for over the 25 year life of the installation.

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