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The Enphase Energy System: what are its components?

Enphase recently announced their vision for electric homes: smart, all-in-one home energy systems, which they’ve named the Enphase Energy System. This system can come in four different configurations based on the different components installed. In a two-part series, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about the Enphase Energy System to help you determine if one of these set-ups is right for you.

There are a number of products you’ll need for your Enphase Energy System, which will vary depending on the set-up you choose. While most of the components are made by Enphase, others can come from a different manufacturer of your choosing. In this article (part one of our series), we’ll break down all of the various components that you may need. Skip to part two if you’re interested in learning about the different configurations of the Enphase Energy System. Find out what solar + storage costs in your area in 2023

Key takeaways

  1. All Enphase Energy Systems include a few key components: solar panels, IQ8 Microinverters, IQ Combiner 4/4C, and the Enphase App

  2. IQ8 Microinverters are Enphase’s newest and most powerful inverters to date and allow for solar-only backup in the event of an outage while the sun is shining

  3. The IQ Battery is the same as Enphase’s original battery, with two different size options (3.36 kWh and 10.08 kWh); however, both size options now offer lighter and slimmer models as well

  4. To start your solar journey today, visit the EnergySage Marketplace

What’s in this article?

Solar panels

Solar panels are an integral component of all configurations of the Enphase Energy System, as they’re responsible for generating the clean energy that powers the whole system. You don’t need a specific brand of solar panel for an Enphase Energy System; instead, you’ll be able to work with your installer to determine which solar panels are best for your home or business. To browse and compare solar panels available from EnergySage installers, check out our Solar Panel Buyer’s Guide.

Enphase IQ8 Microinverters

The primary components of all Enphase Energy System setups are Enphase Microinverters. Inverters work by converting the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into usable alternating current (AC) electricity for your home. The difference between string inverters and microinverters is that with microinverters – like the IQ8 series – the DC to AC conversion happens at the individual panel level, rather than at a central string inverter. This means that if one solar panel in your system fails, the rest of your system will continue to operate without being impacted.

Enphase’s IQ8 Microinverters are unique in a few key ways. First, they are the first ever microinverters that can react quickly enough to changing loads to allow for islanding – i.e., keeping your home powered without the grid – without storage. Additionally, the IQ8 series eliminates solar and battery sizing restrictions: earlier series of Enphase Microinverters had a maximum solar to battery power ratio of 1.5:1. Finally, the top of the IQ8 series, the IQ8H, is Enphase’s most powerful microinverter to date with an AC peak power of 384 volt-amperes (VA) – allowing you to pair up to 530 Watt solar panels!

Do only IQ8 Microinverters integrate with the Enphase Energy System?

While a lot of the information about Enphase Energy System is centered around the newest IQ8 Microinverter series, you don’t necessarily need IQ8 Microinverters to install an Enphase Energy System. The components of the system are also compatible with IQ6, IQ7, M 215 and M 250 Enphase Microinverters. However, you can’t mix and match microinverters from different series, and if you’re looking for a Sunlight Backup setup – which we’ll explain more in part two of our series – you’ll need IQ8 Microinverters.

Enphase IQ Combiner 4/4C

The Enphase IQ Combiner 4 or 4C is also necessary for all Enphase Energy System setups. This product is a single enclosure that consolidates the necessary connection equipment, including the IQ Gateway, which provides monitoring and control over your system and ideally should be connected to broadband Internet. You’ll also need the Enphase Mobile ConnectTM LTE-M1 cell modem with your IQ Combiner to provide cellular data for your system. The IQ Combiner 4C comes with an integrated 5-year Sprint data plan, but if you’re hoping to use AT&T or Verizon, you can also opt for the IQ Combiner 4 with a separate Enphase modem. If you’re looking to install storage, you’ll also need a communications kit, but this is purchased and installed separately from the IQ Combiner.

Enphase IQ System Controller 2

Hoping your Enphase Energy System will provide off-grid functionality? You’ll need the Enphase IQ System Controller 2: a microgrid interconnect device (MID) that allows you to continue using the electricity generated by your system in the event of a power outage (AKA islanding). Islanding is critical for safety reasons – if you were to still be connected to the grid during an outage, your solar panels would continue sending excess energy back to the grid. This would create a dangerous situation for utility line workers responding to power outages, as the transmission and distribution lines would still be energized.

The IQ System Controller 2 product serves as an automatic transfer switch, which ensures that when the grid goes down, utility workers are protected and your power supply transfers to your system fast enough that you don’t even notice that the power went out (i.e., you won’t have to reset your clocks). The IQ System Controller 2 can run in a solar-only backup setup but also supports up to 40 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of backup storage. It can also be integrated with standby generators and can be installed both indoors and outdoors.

Enphase IQ Load Controllers

If you’re looking for backup power, you’ll also need at least one, and up to two, IQ Load Controllers – which automatically shed any unnecessary loads or electrical subpanels in the event of an outage. The IQ Load Controller acts similarly to an Energy Management System, allowing you to control individual circuits from the Enphase app. You can configure your loads based on your battery’s state of charge or based on the status of your generator, if these are integrated with your Enphase Energy System. Each IQ Load Controller controls the power to two circuits, so with two IQ Load Controllers, you’ll have power over four of your circuits. If your system includes solar-only backup, you’ll need two IQ Load Controllers, but if you have storage, you’re only required to have one with your setup.

Essential loads panel

Essential – or critical – loads panels function as a second electrical panel, allowing you to backup any essential devices and circuits and ensuring that you don’t provide electricity to any phantom loads that you don’t need. With many backup storage systems, you’ll need an essential loads panel to ensure reliable power supply and protect your batteries from being overloaded. However, with the Enphase Energy System, you don’t need an essential loads panel with storage because of the IQ Load Controller – but, you do still need an essential loads panel if you want a solar-only backup setup to make sure you’re only running loads that your solar panels can support. Enphase doesn’t stipulate which brand of essential loads panel you need, so you can work with your installer to determine the best product for your setup.

Enphase IQ Battery

With the launch of the Enphase Energy System, Enphase rebranded their storage product, the Enphase Encharge, to the Enphase IQ Battery. This product provides all the same functionality as their original storage system, including: lithium iron phosphatase (LFP) chemistry, integrated Enphase Microinverters, AC-coupling, a 10-year or 4,000 cycles warranty with 70 percent end of warranty capacity, and two size options. The first size option, the IQ Battery 3/3T, offers 3.36 kWh capacity, 1.28 kW power, and 1.92 kW peak power and the second, the IQ Battery 10/10T, has 10.08 kWh capacity with 3.84 kW power and 5.76 kW peak power.

Importantly, the IQ Battery does come with a few upgrades. First, all IQ Batteries are now integrated with IQ8 Microinverters. Additionally, each battery size is now available in two different shapes. The IQ Battery 3T and 10T are designed to be more compact with larger side-profiles: they’re both 40 percent thinner and 20 percent wider than the 3 and 10 versions, respectively. The 3T is also 7 pounds lighter than the 3 and the 10T is 25 pounds lighter than the 10, allowing for slightly easier installation. All battery versions are compatible with each other so you can mix and match – and, importantly, add batteries to your system later if needed – to design a storage system that meets your backup power and space needs.

Enphase App

So what ties all of these components together? The Enphase App! With the Enphase App, you’ll be able to monitor how much power your system is generating, how much you’re consuming, and how much energy you’re saving – both in real time and over an extended period of time. Your app will notify you of extreme weather events headed your way so you can prepare for outages. If you do experience a grid outage, the app will help you to prioritize which loads you need. You can also use the Load Control feature in the app to turn off and restore essential loads during an outage to conserve your battery and/or generator.

Start your solar journey today on EnergySage

Whether you’re looking for an Enphase Energy System, or a different type of solar or solar-plus-storage setup, the best way to start saving money on your utility bill is by going solar. When you sign up for free on the EnergySage Marketplace, we’ll gather up to seven quotes for you from local installers. By comparing quotes, you can find a system that meets your needs at the right price. Only interested in Enphase equipment? Make a note in your profile to let installers know so they can include it in their quotes.

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