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Simplicity = Enphase

For people new to Enphase Energy and microinverter technology, there’s one thing to consider when choosing an energy solution: the simplicity factor; that simplicity includes both the energy solution’s ease of installation as well as its ease to maintain, with the former being more important to installers and the latter being more important for customers. Like Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which simplified our view of the universe by simplifying the relationship between distance, rate and time, Enphase is simplifying solar energy solutions likewise.

For most solar installers who are familiar with both optimized-string and microinverter solar energy solutions, given a choice between the two, Enphase is usually chosen due to its simplicity, and that’s a major endorsement of the technology.  For customers who have purchased Enphase energy solutions, it’s not needing service that is the true power of the solution.Who in their right mind wants to buy an energy solution that will need service in 3, 5, 7, 10 years timeframe and always has a chance to completely break down? Enphase’s solution is the most reliable because there is no single point of failure which the competing solutions have.

In reality, it is service-related issues that have plagued solar energy solutions going all the way back to the 1980s when solar technology first debuted; however, with the rise and maturation of Enphase’s microinverter technology, solar energy systems have reached an entirely new level of safety, reliability, and longevity. This is not to say that a microinverter cannot fail, but if one does, the rest of the energy solution will keep on working regardless of that failure, and that is is the true power and simplicity of Enphase, an attribute that makes Enphase’s microinverter technology the champion of the residential solar energy arena.

Let’s look further into Enphase’s simplicity factor, starting with some of the specific products, then discuss a customer testimonial on why Enphase is superior to its competition.

There’s an old saying, “Time is money” taken from William Faulkner’s "The Sound and the Fury". It’s quite easy to apply this to a solar energy solution’s cost, because the longer it takes to install, then the more it will cost. In the early days of solar, installations could take days to complete, requiring a team of installers. With the evolution and optimization of solar energy solutions, a solar installation on average takes no more than a single day by 2 installers to complete; that means the cost of the solution can attract a much wider customer audience than has ever been possible.Think of solar energy solution proliferation like the Dot-com Revolution, when no one had a PC on their desktop due to the expensive price tag, and then, everybody had one once the price tag became affordable.

  • Simplicity for Installers

The “Holy Grail” for solar installers is being able to complete 2 solar installations in a single day. This was unheard of years ago, but with Enphase’s optimization and simplification of the solar installation process, it is now possible. Enphase’s simplifying of the solar solution can be easily recognized from the 3 points discussed below:

  1. The increased usage of AC Modules for installations versus using a separate solar panel and microinverter components. An AC Module is a solar panel that has an integrated but detachable microinverter, basically a single product. By installers not having to mount microinverters first, then attach solar panels second, a major step is removed from the installation process; the microinverter mounting components are no longer necessary. Fewer parts needed equates to a simpler installation. Furthermore, by not having to attach the microinverter cable to the solar panel, yet another part of the installation process has also been removed. Removing steps from the process ensures a more problem-free and faster installation. Furthermore, Enphase’s microinverters now have a status LED allowing the installer to quickly see the working status of the microinverter before the system is deployed; this helps eliminate repeat service trips, for DOA’s can be pinpointed at the time of installation and not thereafter.
  2. One of Enphase’s newest products called the Aggregator is a novel approach to simplifying the solar installation process. Solar installers usually put multiple “strings” of solar panels on a customer’s roof. Enphase uses specific Q-cabling for attaching each solar panel with the solar panel next to it, and connecting all of the panels together creates an interconnected “string” of panels. At the end of the “string”, the final connection must be made to normal electrical wiring; that connection is made inside what is called a “junction box”, usually no bigger than a 2”x2”x4” sealed weatherproof box. For a home with a 10-kilowatt system, for example, 3 junction boxes would be required with wire cones and faceplates. Enphase’s Aggregator combines the functionality of up to 3 junction boxes; furthermore, Enphase’s 2- wire Q-cabling, uses a plug-n-play connector that easily snaps onto the microinverter, and also snaps onto the Aggregator using the same connection interface; this device saves time and by removing multiple installation components and steps, it ensures a more problem-free and simpler installation.
  3. Another one of Enphase’s key products is the Combiner box; its concept is simple — take the separate Envoy communication gateway which monitors the microinverters, the separate CT's (current transformers) for measuring energy consumption and production, and the separate sub-panel with circuit breakers connecting each solar string, and “combine” them into a single device; this reduces installation time for these components by more than 50%.    For older Enphase installations, the installer would have to mount a NEMA-3R box outside the home to hold the Envoy communication gateway; then the installer would have to install a sub-panel with 20- Amp double-pole circuit breakers to connect each of the junction boxes wiring coming from the roof through conduit; then the installer would need to add current transformers or CT’s to the main panel and wire conduit to connect them to the NEMA-3R box holding the Envoy. Combining all of these procedures into a single box has removed multiple components from the installation, reduced wiring costs, and seriously optimized and simplified the installation process, ensuring a more problem-free installation.

For an installer switching to AC Modules, Aggregators, and Combiners, serious labor and time can be shaved off the installation process; multiply that out by days, weeks, months and years, and that equates to a major cost savings while increasing competitiveness. When and if the Federal ITC ends in 2021, installation companies will have to be as optimized and simplified as possible to compete in the marketplace; in the meantime, Enphase is providing installers with the necessary products too make that a reality before that time arrives.

  • Simplicity for Customers

The simplicity offered by an Enphase solution over its competitors is most easily understood by the following scenario which could happen anytime after installation is completed — 3 months, 2 years, 5 years, et cetera — there is a failure. For a competing solution, a failure could mean the entire energy solution is inoperable; it is possible, but for an Enphase energy solution, it is impossible. For a potential solar energy solution customer, understanding that superiority of solution is critical to making the right purchasing decision.

I am not just a writer promoting Enphase, but a customer with 85 microinverters, 6-strings, and a 20,000-Watt AC solar solution; since 2013, my solution has never been inoperable, except for when the utility grid was down or overnight. In 2015, I did have a slight problem, but I was able to easily diagnose the problem because Enphase’s Enlighten per-panel web monitoring software showed me a troubling issue with a particular solar panel- microinverter pair.  The problem’s status was not easily discernible, so as a typical DIY-er, I decided to diagnose the problem in the simplest fashion: I swapped the solar panel that was the potential source of the problem with the working solar panel next to it on my roof. In that way, if I went back to the Enlighten monitoring software, and the problem had moved to that new panel location, then I would quickly know that the problem was with the solar panel and not the microinverter. As it turned out, the problem did “move” and the solar panel was the crux of the issue. Since I was not dealing with a complete system failure, in due time, I got an RMA from the solar panel company and replaced the solar panel with a brand new one. The beauty of the problem was that it did not result in any system downtime. In a competitor solution, that might not have been the case, and diagnosing the problem might have required a professional, but would have definitely included an unforeseen cost. This is where Enphase’s simplicity of solution shines.

In summary, simple beats complex. Simple attracts a much wider audience than complex. Simple solutions are easier to fix because they are more easily understood. Simple saves time and money. Simple is Enphase.

TJ Roberts is an Enphase customer in the Sunshine State of Florida with 85 Enphase microinverters on his home and no utility bill! TJ has worked with solar outfits in Florida and volunteered with GridAlternatives in Colorado, installing Enphase energy solutions. TJ attended SEIA in Colorado for solar training in the various solar technologies. TJ has written many articles on promoting Enphase awareness.