250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

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Comments

  • boBboB Solar Expert Posts: 957 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    BB. wrote: »
    I think this review has been posted here before. The PhD rebuilt major sections of the PowerJack to make it work reasonably well and safely:

    http://ludens.cl/Electron/chinverter/chinverter.html

    -Bill


    Thank for that link, Bill !!
    We (MidNite) actually bought one of those little inverters to check out and it does work but I
    would be surprised if it lasted very long after reading that teardown article.

    And this one...
    here's a large, UL approved inverter that burned
    http://www.nctimes.com/article_8a32f...fe1e28c7e.html

    Is that an old Trace Engineering SunTie behind that woman ??

    Remember the Xantrex GT had the exploding capacitor issue just recently ??

    boB
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    enphasefan wrote: »
    Can someone please point me to one online news article of one of these inverters that has caused a fire?

    I think you should buy 6 of them and plug,them all into a single 15 amp household circuit and see what happened when some one plugs a 1500 watt hair dryer and a 1500 watt space heater into the same circuit. Guess what the breaker won trip.

    BTW tells us how long before the fire breaks out.
  • inetdoginetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    solar_dave wrote: »
    I think you should buy 6 of them and plug,them all into a single 15 amp household circuit and see what happened when some one plugs a 1500 watt hair dryer and a 1500 watt space heater into the same circuit. Guess what the breaker won trip.

    BTW tells us how long before the fire breaks out.

    Which is why the revised instructions specify that you plug them into an isolated circuit with no loads on it. That way the breaker for that circuit protects the wiring from overload. Of course if one of them partially shorts out, the other 5 will happily drive up to their full output into what is left of it, protected only by the internal breakers of all of the other GT inverters. Unless enough power is pulled from the grid to trip that breaker, in which case the anti-islanding circuits should shut them all down. Maybe....
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    inetdog wrote: »
    Which is why the revised instructions specify that you plug them into an isolated circuit with no loads on it. That way the breaker for that circuit protects the wiring from overload. Of course if one of them partially shorts out, the other 5 will happily drive up to their full output into what is left of it, protected only by the internal breakers of all of the other GT inverters. Unless enough power is pulled from the grid to trip that breaker, in which case the anti-islanding circuits should shut them all down. Maybe....

    Well instructions are all fine and dandy, but unless the circuit is Designed and added to prevent other uses some ones teenager or wife will come along and overloaded. And if it is built and added to the panel to prevent it why not use something like Enphase and do it right and pull the permits and provide thE proper hard wire attachment.
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    One thing that I don't believe has yet been mentioned is that even these cheap unsafe solar "systems" are not economically worth buying. They won't produce enough to justify the expense, the risk of fire and illegality factors aside. If you believe that for $250 you can buy something that will significantly reduce your electric bill, you have been very much deceived.
  • vcallawayvcallaway Solar Expert Posts: 157 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    There is another option. Just move part of your household off grid.

    I had setup a battery backup in our house and later added solar panels. It was a no brainer to move the circuits for our lights and a couple of dedicated outlets to that setup. Just make sure you at least consult with an electrician. Not handling the grounds properly can blow everything up.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    vcallaway wrote: »
    Not handling the grounds properly can blow everything up.

    Actually that should be "Not handling the wiring properly can blow everything up."

    Which is the whole problem with the "plug-in" inverters, in fact; far too easy to not do the wiring properly.

    Before anyone says anything, vcallaway already put in the battery-based system for back-up purposes. Making use of it during non-emergency times makes sense as it gives a better return on the investment. Installing one just to take stuff off the grid would not.
  • vcallawayvcallaway Solar Expert Posts: 157 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Should also note that it made very little difference in the power bill. We already shaved our bill down to an average of $90 a month. I would suspect based on what we ran on solar made about a $5 a month difference.
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    I have been doing some research on these types of instalations and have not come to any type of conclusions as to its legality. there are many sites explaining how to get this type of install setup and as far as if its legal... well I have seen many installs of this type of nature (however not plugged into a wall outlet but direct to the box) was cleared thru permits and even the utility company in the USA. as shown here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWRrjlDlPJs&feature=related using 2 powerjack inverters I am asuming the inverters are about 1000watts ech. since he said he can put out about 1.6khz on a good day.


    I am going to throw this out there and may get wacked for it but my thoughts on this type of setup however if I were to do it I would wire directly to the util box not a house plug. I believe these are the people that are solar installers, people that have spent thousands on installs, or people that dont believe its a good idea to do it. these setups are NOT recommended by some solar companies, mainly because they want people to think they need a installer to do it. however you do have to get a electric permit my area charges about $125 for the permit. you do not need a building permit unless your mounting the panels on the roof. nor do they need to be connected to a GFI plug if your panels are not on the roof. but in any case you do need a Disconnect switch at the box and near the panels.

    Westinghouse and CBD on June 5 announced they are to begin distributing Westinghouse’s DIY “plug n’ play” solar power systems, dubbed Instant Connect, in Australia."" here is the url to thier Datasheet that shows the system is UL
    http://www.westinghousesolar.com/images/stories/Resources/2012-Datasheet-WHS-Instant_Connect-AC-230-235.pdf

    Also the DOE Dept of Energy is researching plug and play setups ie Solar panel >>> Inverter >> Wall plug. so how illeagal can it be? As long as your using a grid tie inverter that can detect when the grid goes off line.

    If you are not comfortable with wiring it up get an electrician
  • inetdoginetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    kryton wrote: »
    I have been doing some research on these types of instalations and have not come to any type of conclusions as to its legality. there are many sites explaining how to get this type of install setup and as far as if its legal... well I have seen many installs of this type of nature (however not plugged into a wall outlet but direct to the box) was cleared thru permits and even the utility company in the USA. as shown here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWRrjlDlPJs&feature=related using 2 powerjack inverters I am asuming the inverters are about 1000watts ech. since he said he can put out about 1.6khz on a good day

    Well, there are two factors involved here, IMHO:

    1. A POCO definitely would not allow a plug-in installation if they knew about it. In the case cited, somebody may just have slipped up or not known their job, based on point #2.

    2. If, in a particular case, the POCO approved a hard wired system based on one or more of these inverters, that would not make it NEC compliant because of the lack of UL listing. So it would only be legal if there were no local or state regulations mandating NEC compliance. Now an NEC violation is not, in itself, a criminal offense, but it is still illegal in that it contravenes provisions of the law. And if any harm resulted from it, it would become a criminal offense.

    And to mangle a common phrase: "It's not just the law, it's a bad idea!"
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Welcome to the forum.

    The legal and safety issues with these inverters have been explained ad infinitum on this forum. No utility or insurance company in its right mind would allow unapproved equipment installed, no matter if it is hardwired or plugged in. That said, it seems there are some areas where they don't care. More's the pity. I do not doubt there are web sites promoting them as being 'legally installed'; the way the Internet is these days you can find a web site claiming almost anything. That doesn't make it true. Around here we like to give advice based on reality and facts. None of the dozen or so engineers and installers on this site would recommend anyone use one of these things. So whose word would you take? That of the qualified professional, or that of some guy you met in thee pub?

    As for putting out "1.6khz" on a good day ... that figure should be "1.6 kW hours" and amounts to 320 Watts output over 5 hours from 2 inverters. With a GT system it is difficult to tell what that means because the power will first be consumed by any loads in the house; the utility meter will only measure net export, if that.

    Powerjack and other such inverters remain uncertified and therefor not recommended for use in the opinion of qualified personnel.
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 843 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    kryton wrote: »
    there are many sites explaining how to get this type of install setup and as far as if its legal... well I have seen many installs of this type of nature (however not plugged into a wall outlet but direct to the box) was cleared thru permits and even the utility company in the USA.

    Yep. There are a lot of mistakes that, if you are lucky, you can get by inspectors. Talk to any solar installer who is called to fix someone else's install and they'll have a litany of bad/illegal/unsafe installs they have found. I went to a talk at a solar expo that was titled something like "best and worst practices" and it talked about best practices for solar installations - and for most points he had a picture of someone doing it completely wrong. Using conduit and racking to carry return current in a GT system, battery boxes made out of sheetrock, even alligator clips on batteries. And in all cases the owner claimed that it had been "approved" by the utility (or electrician in the case of off grid systems.)
    as shown here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWRrjlDlPJs&feature=related using 2 powerjack inverters I am asuming the inverters are about 1000watts ech. since he said he can put out about 1.6khz on a good day.

    No way was that installation inspected by any utility or building inspector. Exposed high current conductors on the top side of a wall mounted inverter? One loose nail and you have at best bad burns, at worst a fire. BTW "1.6khz" is nonsensical; that's a frequency. They probably meant either kilowatts or kilowatt-hours, which are two different things.
    I am going to throw this out there and may get wacked for it but my thoughts on this type of setup however if I were to do it I would wire directly to the util box not a house plug.

    That's fine. And provided you never generate more than you use they'll probably never notice. However if you do generate more than you use, your meter will flag it, and depending on the mood of your power company you'll get a nastygram, or a disconnection notice, or just a disconnect with a requirement for a full inspection before power is reconnected. If that's worth it to you . . . . .
    I believe these are the people that are solar installers, people that have spent thousands on installs, or people that dont believe its a good idea to do it. these setups are NOT recommended by some solar companies, mainly because they want people to think they need a installer to do it. however you do have to get a electric permit my area charges about $125 for the permit. you do not need a building permit unless your mounting the panels on the roof.

    Then there's me, who thinks it's a bad idea because I used to do it when I didn't know any better. (Microsine array plugged into the wall.) Nowadays I take a lot more care, since my family lives in the house that my system is on.
    nor do they need to be connected to a GFI plug if your panels are not on the roof.

    This statement shows a severe lack of understanding as to what GFI is and why grounding is important.
    Westinghouse and CBD on June 5 announced they are to begin distributing Westinghouse’s DIY “plug n’ play” solar power systems, dubbed Instant Connect, in Australia.

    That is very different. That's a method of connecting panels on the roof, and there are many connectorized systems out there that do the same thing. Indeed most panels today come with quick connection systems, and one of the most popular micro-inverter systems has close to a "plug and play" connector system. The reason that these work well is that they have been designed to work in that environment.

    Just plugging an inverter into the wall is not the same.
    Also the DOE Dept of Energy is researching plug and play setups ie Solar panel >>> Inverter >> Wall plug. so how illeagal can it be?

    That's like saying that since cars are street legal, that a hacked together dune buggy contraption should be legal as well. That misses the point; the reason it is illegal is not that people dislike it, it's that it doesn't meet the basic safety requirements that things on the road (or on the grid) have to meet.
    As long as your using a grid tie inverter that can detect when the grid goes off line.

    They all certainly say they can. Generally there is a reason they can't get UL certification.
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    I am new to the solar thing (as you will be able to tell by my questions). I have been watching YouTube and the videos of everyone's very basic beginner systems. Most are using low cost (cheap) 250w to 400w grid tie inverters. Most say they have "island protection" but are not UL listed.

    So my question is: are these people putting power back to the grid and the power company really doesn't know it? Meaning they are producing much less then they consume? I guess you can say they are doing this illegally?

    My second question: If the manufacture says it has island protection...which seems to be the main safety issue for the PUD. Does that mean it doesn't work? I realize the whole UL listing comes down to cost most of the time, the cost of getting the listing. But what about actual performance...has anyone seen these say they have island protection yet it doesn’t work?

    Just wondering what other people are doing....doing to get started without dropping thousands of $'s on systems???

    I was thinking amoung these lines a low power inverter would be incapable of "Feeding the grid" meaning making your meter run backwards due to the fact that it produces far less electric than whats being pumped into the grid. like you said earlier about $5/mo savings. the only time this would actually happen is if everything in your house was off and or unplugged. you might consider http://enphase.com/products/microinverters/ they are UL approved they start around $150 you can find them on ebay and other web sites however these are small inverters and are usually made for a 200watt or 2 100watt panels.

    usually when people talk about GTI's there talking about the cheap 200watt china made ones.... but the enphase inverts cost about the same as a "Good" china made one though you will need many mores enphase inverters to bring up the wattage produced IE 1 2000 watt inverter or 10 micro inverters. the micro inverters can be mounted under the panel itself.


    as for performance the GTI's seen on Ebay they have to work within thier specified details... Every electronic item has a data sheet that the item is required to operate under.
    the item can not! be sold as a GTI if it is not. with this said.....

    It goes under truth in advertising. yes this is a law... If I sold you a car and told you its color was black but when you received the car and it was Burgundy for 1 you would be upset. 2 you would ask for a refund or replacement for the correct color. If I did not have the correct color and still told you its color was black that is false advertising. with that said; Ebay will be held liable for allowing people to sell GTI inverters that are advertised as a GTI inverter but are not. the nitty gritty of this is that in USA most if not all utility company will require that your equipment is UL certified, still I have not really seen any hard evidence that this kind of setup is Illegal more so just not recomended. If it was truely illegal they would not even be allowed to sell them on ebay and would have to resrtict sells of these items to the US. Ever see an item that has Shipping restricted? well same thing applies. Ebay would be liable for allowing the sale of these items to the US and has to refuse sales to the US.

    What truth-in-advertising rules apply to advertisers?

    Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

    Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
    Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
    Advertisements cannot be unfair.

    Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, 900 telephone numbers, and products sold through mail order or telephone sales. And every state has consumer protection laws that govern ads running in that state.



    Island protection
    Most inverters detect the islanding condition by looking for some combination of the following:
    1. A sudden change in system frequency.
    2. A sudden change in voltage magnitude.
    3. A sudden change in the df/dt (rate of change of frequency).
    4. A sudden increase in active output power (kW) well beyond the expected 'normal' level.
    5. A sudden change in reactive output power (kVAR) well beyond an expected 'normal' level.

    Depending on their internal control programming, one or any of these events could indicate that the small generator and some amount of load have become disconnected from the grid. (For example, it could be just your home with its PV system, or it could be your whole neighborhood disconnected as a block from the larger grid.)

    If the inverter claims they have it but it does not again that goes under truth in advertising.


    now my 2 cents for what its worth
    this is interesting though. I have not seen any HARD CORE evidence prohibiting the hookup of plug n play solar except what I have read on the internet... ie people in forums, websites, blogs, etc.... so for now my guess would be to call and ask your power company about it... Well you guys that say its Illegal to have this type of solar panel install
    show me the money :) direct link to NEC 690 that forbids these installs... city codes etc.... All I have heard is hearsay and the occasional not recomended.
    ohh and btw a GTI found on ebay can be UL listed.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,124 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Show me a UL or CSA listing number! Last time I checked,, the NEC required UL listed components, and I have never seen a plug an play GTI inverter with a UL listing. Additionally, in every jurisdiction that I know of requires an electrical permit to install grid tie PV, and ergo, see rule number one above!

    Tony
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    BTW "1.6khz" is nonsensical; that's a frequency. They probably meant either kilowatts or kilowatt-hours, which are two different things.

    I meant kwh not khz and khz really meant hertz
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    enphase micro inverters are UL listed

    Overview

    The Enphase M215 is the world’s most efficient microinverter.

    Based on Enphase’s third generation technology, the M215 incorporates the latest innovations in power electronics and custom microchips to deliver 96% CEC efficiency and a range of patented performance features that maximize the performance of 60-cell solar modules.

    In addition, the M215 is light weight and offers a “single-bolt” mounting bracket that makes installation easier than any other inverter on the market.
    General Features

    25 year limited warranty (PDF)
    Integrates with Enphase Engage Cable
    CSA listed per UL 1741/IEE1547
    Works with 60-cell modules ONLY

    M215 Metrics

    96% CEC efficiency
    Output power: 215W
    Recommended max input power: 260W
    MPPT Range: 22-36V
    Low-voltage operation capability
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Truth in advertising may be the law, but it isn't reality. The marketplace is full of unscrupulous sellers who will at the very least mislead to get your money. Many of them are not opposed to outright lying.

    The National Electrical Code, which applies to all of the U.S. (and is virtually identical here in Canada) does not allow the installation of any component that is not approved. Period. No matter if it is a piece of wire or a 10kW GT inverter. Local codes/authorities may add requirements, but they can not subtract from them.

    It's a good bet you haven't dealt with many AHJ's. They can be far more stringent than the NEC.
  • jaggedbenjaggedben Solar Expert Posts: 230 ✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    There are so many things to respond to here but I'll just make two points...

    1) Does using these cheap inverters really save you any money compared to using, say, an industry leading inverter like an SMA? Probably not. They have terrible efficiency, and what is their warranty? You are basically wasting your investment in your solar panels if you use this kind of crap.

    2) The Youtube video amazes me. For all the time, effort and extra expense that guy put into installing voltmeters, kill-a-watts, etc, it would have been worth his while to buy a proper inverter instead. He's got exposed DC terminals that he could shock himself on. The funniest part is when he says "there are my batteries, haven't got them hooked up yet". It would interesting to see how he reacts when he figures out that they are useless.
  • jaggedbenjaggedben Solar Expert Posts: 230 ✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    kryton wrote: »
    enphase micro inverters are UL listed

    Yes, and Enphase inverters are not things you find on eBay for an impossibly cheap price.
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay
    jaggedben wrote: »
    Yes, and Enphase inverters are not things you find on eBay for an impossibly cheap price.

    Enphase M215 Microinverters w/MC4 connectors found on ebay not really cheap but about $150 NEW which puts it in the low price ballpark

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Enphase-M215-Microinverters-w-MC4-connectors-/170840031616?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27c6dc0180
  • krytonkryton Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    I have found NEC requirements for solar panel instalations.. they are long so I will send you the link

    http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/education/cont_ed/pv/handbook/Inspector_NEC.pdf
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Two things must happen in my locale. First a permit must be pulled and a design drawing must meet NEC requirements. Second an interconnect agreement must be made with the utility.

    Both of those require testing agency like UL approval equipment, meet fire department codes and be signed off by a master electrician. Those include a master disconnect, a solar generation meter, proper roof clearance for fire venting and proper labeling. Also to get the utility rebates a solar installer must be involved.

    Magic jack inverters would not be approved.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,124 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Enphase inverters are not "plug and play" inverters in the context we re talking bout. They require a wiring scheme through a proper dedicated breaker installtion, UN like the plug and play type inverters that show up on EBay,,that simply plug into an existing outlet.

    So, once again, plese show me a try " plug and play" inverter UL or CSA listing documentation.

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,002 admin
    Re: 250w grid tie inverters on E-bay

    Don't get the wrong idea here--Most of us have done some very dumb things in our life and survived :blush: (and a few friends that probably did not :cry:).

    More than happy to discuss the details/issues of where things are flat out dangerous, vs the things that are "not legal" and probably would never be found by the average utility/meter reader.

    There are multiple safety issues here.

    We have using non-Listed (no UL/NRTL) devices (does not always mean something is safer or "works better"--But usually a company that goes to the trouble/expense of listing will usually be a more reliable product).

    We have panels that may not be permanently mounted as a reason grounding is not needed... In general, you should "earth/safety" ground all metal boxes/structures around electricity (or if there is a possibility of lightning strike, falling power lines, shattered panels, etc.). More than a few folks have been electrocuted when grabbing a metal structure that has been energized. A properly grounded metal structure will probably never become energized during "typical" fault conditions. Adding safety to the overall project.

    We have the "plug and play" talk with normal house hold plugs/outlets--Which for "Standard" GT Inverter topologies, can never be approved. It is possible to connect multiple GT inverters to a circuit and cause a fire hazard (too much current--15 amp house breaker + up to ~15 amp of GT inverter--You have upwards of 30 amps available in a 15 amp socket--not safe or legal).

    There is the issue of AC and DC ground faults. Outside outlets (and outlets near sinks) need AC GFI to detect if there is a short between Hot and Earth Ground (person touching a Hot wire and foot in puddle--for example). There are no AC GFI breakers used with GT inverters, I believe, because they are "hardwired" into the building electrical system and are not "portable/pluggable devices).

    And then there is the issue of DC GFI systems. NEC requires them for off grid and GT power systems. I believe that these DC GFI systems, as currently designed and implemented are very dangerous and should never have been implemented. But that is another long discussion here.

    With utilities, there are many different types of power meters out there... From straight mechanical which will turn forward or backwards (depending on direction of power flow) to meters that will only turn forward (i.e., utility charges you for power you generate--originally to stop power thieves that installed meters "upside down" to run them backwards). And meters that will report GT inverters back to the utility (if they can detect one is connected).

    And there are a few reports that some of these "plug and play" GT Inverters are simply under designed (run hot) and not reliable.

    So--If you connect a small GT Inverter to your AC outlet and to a 200 watt panel--Will you start a fire and/or have the utility with a "red tag notice"--probably not.

    But, in my humble opinion, there is a big difference between having a setup on a lab bench vs another that is "installed" and expected to operate unattended for the next 20+ years in an "unprotected" environment (typical home with kids, others nearby, working on home, etc.).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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