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Best grid-tie, battery-based inverter options

Posts: 18
Location: Palmer, Alaska
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Hello, Solar Gurus! We are an off-grid family that would like to grid tie soon. Unfortunately, our current inverter (Outback VFX3524) doesn't permit it. Other components in our system are 9x250W monos, Outback Flexmax60 charge controller, Outback Mate2, 8 Trojan L16s (at 24V), and a 6kw Northern Lights diesel generator. Our desired improvements would make 120/240, operate off 24V (but going 48V wouldn't be deal breaker), grid interface, allow two AC inputs (generator+grid), have auto generator start, and have increased charge controller capacity for future panel expansions.

Options include:

Outback Radian 4048A+another Flexmax 60/80+ Mate 3 ($4,000)


Schneider Conext XW+ or SW  ($3,000-$4,000) + ??

Having lived years with the Outback system, I'm super familiar with Outback products and what I need. I hear, though, that Schneider makes a robust, intuitive inverter.

So, does anyone have any insights into these systems? I can't tell from the specs, but does the Schneider have integrated MPPT charge controller? Or is that separate? It looks like Schneider's generator auto start might also be a separate feature. If the inverter doesn't include integrated systems, then the cost difference could really add up.

Anyway, apologies for long-winded question. I would really appreciate advice from anyone with experience with these systems.

Kind regards,

Palmer, Alaska

Posts: 100
Location: out in the woods of Maine
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We have 4400 watts of Solar panels and a 48VDC / 600AH battery bank.

Our 'Electrical Panel' is a 'Four Star Solar Power Center' from http://www.wholesalesolar.com  

We use a 'Midnite Solar Classic' Charge Controller #150, [MPPT-type, 150VDC, 83A@48V],
a 'Magnum Energy' Inverter, [120/240volt, 4400watt, pure sinewave inverter],
and a 48VDC / 600AH battery bank.  

Our system has an 'aux' input rated at 30amp [220VAC] that we can use grid power to power our home when the grid is up.

Posts: 600
Location: Michigan
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Outbacks Radian series is the system i would call robust. No need for a seperate AGS for the generator, gfci, a load center that is made by Midnite Solar with a bypass, made for upgradability and ease of wiring. At some point you would really need to open them and examine the machines to compare what they are made of.

Outback gear is not easily bested by what others are offering, especially Schneider. That is an opinion of mine. For all practical purposes, they will both do the job for most uses.

Outback battery based system programability and modes of operation for offgrid/grid interactive is only rivaled by SMA (ac coupled sunny island) in my experience.

For all its worth, after dicing up capability and reliability, set them beside each other and for the same price, the Radian sells itself. (To me, anyhow)

A plus if you require more than 4000 watts and 240v, the Radian 8048 has two, 4kw inverter modules, for a layer of redundancy. This is a point where a person has to look at power requirements in the future, the Radian will do it all in one box without stacking for 240vac. Thats just parts talk, not labor. Digression...

I have found that if you need 240vac and want to grid tie, the Radian comes out a little cheaper compared to using e-panels with stacked FX inverters and an autotransformer, which is fine depending on the design purpose and some systems forgo e-panel wiring enclosures for the octopus wall of shame, which actually costs more unless you do it yourself or have no use for the functions of the panel.

The Schneider systems do require a charge controller if not ac coupled, have a higher battery charger current output , and do have a longer duration, higher surge output. My intuition tells me schneider is makin the pig squeal at those ratings!, but i am not positive and have a bias!

The schneider battery system seminar guy made it sound good anyhow. For my money and/or portfolio, we choose Outback... until Midnite Solar starts shipping their new B17 inverter/chargers!

A nice stroll down history lane to see how a small group of techs start big projects that even bigger companies then buy control of and crash'em on the rocks everytime. Like cargo cults, they arrange the shattered parts, but it cant fly because the brains and passion left.

One of my favorite stories.

Posts: 401
Location: North central Ontario
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Make that two votes for the Radian system.  The schneider and radian are very similar in terms of what they will do.  Two ac inputs, the ability to sell back the ability to use the grid to supplement.  Outback has built their rep on solid products and great tech support I would choose their gear for those reasons.  Another biased voice I suppose.
Steve Turner
Posts: 18
Location: Palmer, Alaska
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Thanks to all for the feedback. I guess I can't see any reason-- either economics or performance-- to justify switching to Schneider. Outback it is!

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