A new German made solar inverter has entered the market: the Bosch BPT-S Series. Bring it on!
Update: Well that didn’t last long! Bosch apparently read my post and saw the flaws in their inverter 😉 They pulled the pin on the Bosch Inverter in January 2016. It seems they sold their remaining stock to True Value Solar who are currently selling the Bosch inverter at a “Premium European” inverter. Read on, if it’s still relevant, or move on to our pricing page.
Bosch first joined the solar-coaster with their premium solar panels, but while competing with formidable Chinese panel manufacturers, Bosch in their words “failed to achieve competitiveness”. They graciously bowed out of the panel game in 2013. For Bosch to now introduce an inverter seems a logical move, if the rule of thumb “Chinese panels and European inverter” holds true. How does the German made stack up in the Australian market?
A few months ago a Bosch rep rocked up at the front office asking to talk to someone about their product. I hate it when reps cold call but, “What? Bosch is now doing an inverter…tell me more!” I asked for the specs and spent a few minutes going over them. Particularly underwhelming! I went back to my desk and got sidetracked with the rest of my day.
Last week at the “All Energy 2015” convention in Melbourne, I visited the Bosch exhibit and gave it another shot. I asked for a spec of their 5kW inverter and reviewed it one more time with the rep.
Major restrictions in the Australian market
- Its voltage window is narrow. The MPPT voltage is 170V with a minimum of 125V. An Ideal minimum of 7 panels in a string is restrictive with complex rooflines.
- Its maximum input current is only 12.6 amps: we can only put one string of panels per tracker. This may be fine in European homes with large simple roof lines and 1000v limit – but not here.
- As Australian regulations effectively allow us a maximum string of 14, if we wanted to install our standard 6kW of panels we have only three variations available: 10&13 panels, 9&14 panels, or 11&12 panels. Fine if you have a large and simple east/west gabled roof.
- If you are sold a Bosch inverter by a sales rep, the installer will rock up and just have to make it work – it probably won’t work efficiently.
- You most likely won’t get remote monitoring. This is important! It does not have WiFi, so to connect it for remote monitoring will involve a data cable run to your router. We connect to WiFi as standard. Even if our customer is not interested in remote monitoring – we are. We can check system performance from our office the inverter is connected to WiFi.
Minor points / whinges
- Its nominal output is 4.6kW rather than the 5.0kW Energex allows us. (Brisbane area only).
- Its standard warranty only 5 years. Sounds ok, but inverters entering the market often offer 10 to gain market share.
- The gesture e.key card thingo for installers is an amazing German innovative effort – gone to trivial waste!
In tradie terms: if the Bosch inverter was a Bosch drill, it would be green.
The Response from Bosch
The Bosch rep candidly admitted that he had heard these complaints before. “They are trying to compete with the SMA inverter, at a little more competitive price,” he was attempting to recover. “They set the bar so low” I cheekily replied – but they didn’t even clear it. I’m not a fan of the restrictions of the SMA inverter either, but SMA’s trump card is it’s proven reliability.
There is an inverter that is made by men with equal anal retentiveness for the Australian market. The Austrian-built Fronius Primo-AU has none of the restrictions listed above, and it is a big one hundred bucks cheaper again. After visiting various other inverter exhibits, I returned from Melbourne convinced that Fronius really is the best string inverter on the market in 2015. Check out my take of Fronius here.
As I left the Bosch stand, I felt sorry for the bloke but gave him one last dig. Here’s my card mate, pass it onto the engineers and I’ll give them a few tips about designing it for the Australian market. Cheeky bugger.
On Wednesday, 20 January 2015, RFI (a solar wholesaler) received a phone call from Bosch saying they have made a worldwide decision to pull out of the solar market again. No more Bosch BPT-S inverter. This would explain why True Value Solar are flogging them off for peanuts – they probably bought bulk direct from Bosch in a fire sale. Dodgy.