Review of Northern Electric Power products: microinverters, gateways, and rapid shutdown
Individual panel prices
Prices of DIY kits
Installed system prices
Northern Electric Power Technology Inc. (NEP) is a U.S.-founded company that focuses on the manufacturing of module-level power electronics (MLPE) for solar installations. Although the first thing you think of when installing solar isn’t microinverters or rapid shutdown devices, they are key components to making sure a solar energy system powers your home safely.
Can NEP’s products be the right choice for your solar installation even if they’re not the most well-known ones on the market? Let’s take a look.
Solar inverters are responsible for turning the energy generated by solar panels into electricity that homes can use. Microinverters are a type of inverter that attach to the back of every solar panel in a system to maximize energy output.
Northern Electric Power offers five models of microinverters:
NEP advertises its BDM 500 model as a “macroinverter” because it can be paired with high-power solar panels up to 750 watts in size. This is way more than what many microinverters can handle, however, most home solar installations don’t install solar panels that large, so you probably won’t need to worry about taking advantage of this benefit.
The rest of NEP’s microinverters are compatible with solar panels up to either 385 or 450 watts in size. Each BDEM 800, BDM 600X, and BDM 600-LV can connect to two panels, reducing the total number of microinverters needed for a system.
All NEP microinverters have efficiency ratings between 95.5% and 96.5%, which is right in line with Enphase microinverters, the most popular brand on the market.
NEP microinverters typically cost somewhere around $160 each. This means installing NEP microinverters with an average-sized solar panel system would cost somewhere around $3,200.
At first glance, this seems like it’s just about the same price as an Enphase inverter. But, some of NEP’s inverter models are able to output more power than that of Enpahse, so you could get more bang for your buck.
NEP’s warranty terms are a bit confusing. Based on what we can find, there is a standard limited product warranty that states NEP will cover any defects in workmanship or materials for 25 years unless the “original purchase is for the lower cost 10-year warranty option”. It’s not entirely clear how much extra you pay for the longer warranty or even how to go about accessing it, and we haven’t been able to easily find this sheet on NEP’s website.
What we have found on NEP’s website is the warranty included in their installation manuals. All of the microinverters have a 10-year warranty listed, except for the BDM 300 and the BDM 600X which don’t have any warranty term length listed.
Most microinverters on the market today come with 25-year warranties. The shorter warranty is very low and suggests that you might have to replace the inverters after 10 years. This could be costly, as you would need to get an installer on your roof and attach new inverters to every panel.
To find out the exact warranty that your product actually qualifies for, it’s best to get in contact with NEP’s customer support.
NEP doesn’t just sell microinverters - the company also gateway systems and rapid shutdown devices. Gateways communicate with the grid and display the system’s energy production on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. NEP’s gateway also comes with a unique feature that shows the amount of carbon dioxide that the solar panels have prevented.
Rapid shutdown devices stop a solar system from generating electricity so first responders can safely access the roof in case of an emergency. Solar panels are required by law to have rapid shutdown capabilities. Many inverters have built-in rapid shutdown mechanisms, but you can opt for a NEP’s PVG-Guard device for those who don't.
Northern Electric Power’s microinverters have some pretty impressive specs, especially when it comes to the amount of power they can accept from solar panels, and they come at a reasonable price. However, the confusion surrounding their warranty and the fact that they aren’t a well-known brand could be a bit concerning for some.
Overall, it’s up to you to decide whether or not NEP equipment will meet your needs. The best way to determine if NEP is right for you is by talking to a solar installer. Local solar installers can give you a better idea of what brands they recommend, and what type of system will help you bring down your energy bills.