Chilicon Power microinverters: great products with big potential

Updated

microinverters attached to solar panels within a ground-mounted array
Chilicon Power microinverters installed on solar panels. Image source: Facebook

Optimizing power conversion is key to a smooth, hassle-free experience with solar panels. This is why choosing an inverter to seamlessly facilitate DC-to-AC conversion in your system is so important. 

In fact, inverters are one of the most important components of your solar panel system, and you can choose between buying a traditional string inverter, microinverters, or DC power optimizers. 

Microinverters have become popular for home solar over the past decade, and Chilicon Power is an emerging brand in the space. But how do the company's products stack up to big-time competitor Enphase?

What you need to know about Chilicon Power:

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    Overview of Chilicon Power

    Chilicon Power represents the next era of cutting-edge solar microinverter technology. Based in California, the company’s flagship offerings include two microinverter models, a compact gateway, and accessories. 

    Chilicon Power was acquired by Generac, a leading power brand serving the residential energy industry, in 2021. This acquisition helps solidify Chilicon’s presence in the solar microinverter market. For customers, the deal heavily legitimizes the business and its products.

    The role of microinverters in your solar system

    Inverters convert DC solar energy that the solar panels produce into AC power that your home can then use. Most appliances, electronic devices, and equipment run on AC power, making inverters essential in a solar installation. 

    Unlike traditional string inverters that support several panels along the system, microinverters are dedicated to supporting one panel only. This solution helps minimize problems caused by shading, as one microinverter is attached to an individual solar panel, instead of one inverter supporting the entire system. 

    Microinverters are installed on racking components and found on the back of the array, close to the connected panel or group of panels.

    Benefits of solar microinverters include:

    • Individual panel monitoring and optimization
    • Reduced shading issues experienced by solar panels with string inverters
    • Decreased exposure to high voltage DC power
    • Longer warranty periods compared to string inverters
    • Space-saving installations due to their compact size

    Which Chilicon microinverter is right for your solar panels?

    Chilicon microinverters have unique features that set them apart from their competitors, including: 

    • Unlike inverters that measure voltage, these microinverters sense current
    • Compatible with grid-tie and off-grid systems
    • Grid-interactive conversion with California Energy Commision (CEC)
    • 96% peak efficiency
    • The devices do not “clip” wattage from large-wattage solar panels, allowing you to tap into the full capabilities of higher-end panels

    Chilicon Power CP-720 microinverter 

    The Chilicon CP-720 microinverter is recommended for use with two high-wattage solar panels (up to 420 watts per panel) at a time. It works well with LG Neon, Panasonic HIT, and SunPower solar panels. It is also effective for most solar panels with 60 to 128-cell modules.

    When it comes to this model, it is not possible to connect to only one solar panel. Therefore, for supporting an odd number of panels, you would need to use a combination of this dual microinverter and the single microinverter that we describe in the next section. 

    For a 10 kilowatt (kW) solar installation, you can expect to have about 12-14 microinverters, depending on the type of panels you’re using. The Chilicon CP-720 costs $235-$280, meaning you would spend roughly $3,000 to $3,900+ on the microinverters for a 10 kW installation. The price does not include trunk cables and other supporting system components required during installation.

    With the CP-720, you can get by without needing to install an AC subpanel on your system for basic installations. This translates to lower costs and can help you save space on your property. A 25-year warranty ensures long-term reliability for this microinverter. 

    This is right for you if:

    You’re looking for less hardware on your roof, as this microinverter model gets attached to two panels at a time.

    Chilicon Power CP-250E microinverter 

    The Chilicon CP-250E microinverter is a smaller version of the CP-720. It is designed for supporting one solar panel at a time, up to 420 watts. You cannot connect more than one panel to this inverter. The device can be used with most solar panels consisting of 60 or 72-cell modules.

    Let’s now take a look at how much these microinverters would cost for a 10 kW solar installation. A 10 kW system requires 24-26 CP-250E microinverters, again depending on the type of panels you’re using. Each unit costs $140-$200 each, depending on where you purchase the devices. 

    At these rates and requirements, you would spend $3,600-$5000+ for the microinverters (does not include trunk cables and other accessories). This microinverter comes with a 25-year warranty.

    According to Chilicon, using single-panel microinverters for the entire system is not the best approach for an effective installation. The best approach is to use CP-720 microinverters as much as possible and to only use the CP-250E for the odd (last) panel.

    This is right for you if:

    You need to cover an odd number of solar panels.

    Monitoring microinverter systems with Cortex Gateway 

    Monitoring numerous microinverters within your solar installation can be difficult and very time consuming. As a solution, Chilicon Power offers the CP-100 Gateway to make the entire management process easy to implement at home. In fact, this scalable device can handle up to 1,000 microinverter systems per gateway! 

    The main function of this gateway is to closely monitor power production, energy consumption, and uptime for CP-720 and CP-250E microinverters. That’s really all you’ll be using this device for, though there are ways for you to control your home security system, as well.

    According to the datasheet, an integrated 7” touch screen display shows the real-time status of connected microinverters and facilitates basic configuration.

    The monitoring system features a plug-and-play setup for convenient installation and power line communication. You can monitor connected microinverters via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, cloud connect, or offline (standalone). Cloud connect allows you to check on your system from any location, using a compatible laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

    Without getting into the grainy details, this Chilicon gateway is a highly secure product due to encryption, proprietary protection from virus attacks, and automatic firmware updates.

    This is right for you if:

    You have a large solar installation with many microinverters, and you need to closely monitor power conversion and flow along your system. 

    Chilicon Power vs. Enphase microinverters

    Chilicon’s microinverters are comparable to Enphase’s IQ7A and IQ7X microinverters.

    Because all Enphase's microinverters in the IQ7 series are for single-panel connections only, we’re going to focus on the Chilicon CP-250E, Enphase IQ7A, and Enphase IQ7X models.

    Note: The IQ8 series is the latest line of microinverters from Enphase, however availability for the Enphase IQ8 microinverter series is limited at this time, so we cannot effectively compare the products with Chilicon microinverters. The products should be widely available starting Q2 of 2022, according to an Enphase representative. 

    Compatibility and Performance

    Chilicon vs. Enphase microinverters
      Chilicon CP-250E Enphase IQ7A Enphase IQ7X
    Input power 190-420 W 295-460+ W 320-460+ W
    Module compatability 60 or 72 cells 60, 66, or 72 cells 96 cells
    Max input DC voltage 60V 58V 79.5V
    Max output power  277 W 295 W 240 W
    Efficiency 96% 96.5% 97%

    The Enphase IQ7A and IQ7X are compatible with solar panels exceeding 460 watts, while Chilicon’s CP-250E works with panels up to 420 watts. Most residential solar panels range between 300 watts to 400 watts; therefore, it is unlikely that you will max out these inverters.

    The Chilicon CP-250E and the Enphase IQ7A are compatible with most 60 to 72-cell panels. Although the Enphase IQ7X offers the best performance out of the group, the devices only work with 96-cell modules. If you don’t have access to 96-cell panels for your solar installation, you’d have to go with a different microinverter.

    From a performance perspective, the Chilicon CP-250E and the Enphase IQ7A are very similar. The incremental differences in the table above typically go unnoticed for home solar installations.

    Enphase offers the IQ gateway for monitoring its microinverters, which can handle up to 600 units per device. Chilicon’s gateway handles up to 1,000 microinverters. For home solar installations, you would never need more than one Chilicon or Enphase gateway. 

    Cost

    When it comes to price, Chilicon CP-720 microinverters are the most cost-effective at $235-$280 per device. Although they seem more expensive, each microinverter can service two panels at the same time, so the overall costs end up being cheaper. A 10 kW installation consisting of CP-720 microinverters (and one CP-250E unit for the odd panel) costs $3,000 to $3,900+.

    For Enphase, a 10 kW installation that uses 420-watt solar panels would require 24-26 IQ7A microinverters. At $194 per unit, this would cost you between $4,660 and $5,000+. 

    A system that uses IQ7X microinverters for the same system would cost between $4,368 and $4,800+. These estimated costs do not include cabling and other supporting system components required during installation, such as connectors. Installation costs are also not included in these estimates.

    Warranty

    Both Chilicon and Enphase offer 25-year warranties for their microinverters.

    Chilicon’s warranty starts from the product’s date of purchase. For participation in the warranty program, the microinverter must be connected to the company’s cloud system using the CP-100 gateway. This warranty is only for the original owner of the equipment at the original location. 

    In the event the owner changes, a $50 fee per microinverter is applied for extending the warranty to the new owner for the rest of the warranty period.

    Enphase’s warranty works a little differently. The warranty starts on the date the microinverter is registered or the date the product is activated. The microinverter is considered activated when the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) gives the “permission to operate” for the solar installation, which is a part of the installation process. 

    Next, for participation in the warranty program, the units must be connected to the internet during the coverage period. This connection does not need to be facilitated by the IQ gateway. A transfer fee of $199 is applied when there is a change of ownership for the microinverters.

    Should you look into buying a Chilicon microinverter for your solar system?

    Overall, Chilicon Power offers one of the most promising lines of microinverters for residential solar on the market today, and the company’s flagship microinverters can match the performance of market-leading Enphase microinverters.

    Using the Chilicon CP-720 microinverter in a solar installation is more cost-effective than most microinverters, due to dual-panel support per microinverter. Plus, it means you have less hardware up on your roof. Warranty coverage for Chilicon Power microinverters is comprehensive and offers low-transfer-of-ownership costs.

    Chilicon Power’s products are available for both end users and distributors or solar installers. In addition to robust products, the company provides customer support for their devices via phone, help desk, and how-to guides. 

    The durable devices can easily meet future expansion requirements for homeowners with growing solar needs over the lifetime of their system.

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     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Michael Cheng

    Content writer

    Michael is a content writer at SolarReviews. He has more than six years of experience in industrial manufacturing and legal documentation, covering electrical safety, large-scale infrastructure and maritime legislation.

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