March 27, 2024

What Are iBoards?

Exploring iboards with penrith solar centre, featuring solar panels and electrical equipment.

You’ve reached a point in your solar journey where you feel reasonably confident that you’ll invest in an Enphase microinverter solar system. They’re built to last, and they deliver a return on investment that most string inverter solar systems can only dream about.  

But your sales representative is discussing how we’ll need room around the main switchboard to install something called an iBoard or maybe an IQ Controller. What are those? You thought you were buying solar panels, why is there other equipment? What does it do? 

At Penrith Solar Centre, we install dozens of microinverter solar systems every week. We understand the ins and outs of componentry and installations. We know how to maximise your hard-earned dollars. An Enphase system offers great financial incentives for your future, so hang in there with your questions about iBoards. We’re here with answers. 

In this article, you will learn: 

  • What is an iBoard? 
  • Why Do I Need an iBoard? 
  • How Does an iBoard Save Me Money? 
  • How Do I Know I’m Getting a Genuine iBoard? 
  • Does the iBoard Have Any Safety Features? 
  • How is an iBoard Different from an IQ Controller? 
  • Who Makes iBoards? 

By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert in all things componentry related to microinverter solar systems.  

What is an iBoard? 

iBoards is a company in Wollongong that designs and manufactures a piece of equipment used in the Enphase ecosystem: a solar distribution board. A solar distribution board houses components that need to be installed in the main switchboard. The iBoard is installed next to the main switchboard. It houses the Enphase Envoy, CTs (current transformers designed to measure the current of a circuit), and relevant isolation devices neatly and effectively. 

Solar distribution board with multiple electrical switches and warning labels, mounted on a white background.

Now, iBoards emerged because when Enphase first launched, there were several components that didn’t belong on the roof, such as circuit breakers, Enphase envoy, CTs, relays, and other components for large commercial projects.  

iBoards noticed this and realised that some components needed to be integrated into the switchboard. However, in some cases, these components didn’t fit, so installers would use enclosures next to the switchboard. Michael and his team at iBoards saw a problem with this approach: the finish wasn’t always optimal, with messy wiring being a common issue. They realised that building the board in a controlled environment would result in a better finish for clients and save time on site, ultimately reducing costs. 

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Why Do I Need an iBoard? 

Main switchboards are often very cluttered, especially the ones found in older homes. There is often little to no room for mounting the Envoy, the circuit breakers, and the CTs. All of these things are installed in the iBoard, saving solar installation teams time and money on site.  

The Enphase Envoy is an electronic networking device that transmits information about how your system is performing over the Internet to MyEnlighten, the consumption monitoring software you’ll need to track the performance of your microinverter solar system. 

A person holding a smartphone with a smart home app on it.

iBoards come completely pre-wired with exquisite cable management. The consumption CT cabling is installed to make the connection to that cabling easy and fast. There’s enough room to fit the Envoy inside the iBoard.  

It’s built for electricians by electricians.

Learn more!

How Does an iBoard Save Me Money? 

At Penrith Solar Centre, we charge a flat rate for all our installations. It’s a day rate that will double if the installation is too big for one day. An additional day rate installation charge will increase your upfront cost for the system and extend your payback period. We like to wrap up an installation all in one day when we can. For that reason, we love working with iBoards. 

iBoards are built in a controlled and tested environment. They manufacture their solar distribution boards so companies like us can purchase them pre-assembled with relays and breakers wired up for less time on site, which reduces the installation cost, and saves you in upfront costs. 

Electrician installing or servicing solar energy equipment.

It’s an incredibly neat product that’s been precisely assembled with their automation processes and machinery. For example, they have a cable-cutting device that consistently cuts and delivers a perfectly cut cable. That cable is fed to another machine for crimping. There’s consistency in every cut and termination. This is impossible for electricians to achieve on-site.  

We trialled iBoards back in 2020 and found that while they may cost a bit more upfront, they save on labour and provide a consistent experience for clients. It’s neat and tidy wiring that’s pre-labelled by a computer.  

When our installation teams prepare for the day, there’s a lot to load on the truck to make certain our installation is flawless (as it so often is). Grabbing an iBoard with all the writing enclosed and prepared for connection saves our team time and eliminates the possibility of forgetting any aspect of the componentry.  

The entire system is designed to help our electricians save time on-site. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how working with an installation company like PSC can save you money and headaches, you might want to check out the following article titled, In-house Installers vs. Subcontractors: Which is Better? 

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How Do I Know I’m Getting a Genuine iBoard? 

Because of their logical, economic design that saves time on-site, iBoards have been widely adopted and installed by Enphase solar installation companies nationwide. In fact, solar distribution boards (which is what iBoards are) have become synonymous with iBoards.  

It’s like calling a Bobcat a Bobcat, when it’s actually a Toyota, or referring to an Esky as an Esky, which originated from the first brand to make the cooler box.  

The entire Enphase installation industry says that they’re using iBoards. Often, they aren’t. They’re just buying similar components to what iBoards is doing. They don’t have the same level of quality control.  

Only genuine iBoards have a sun shield, made with precision on a CNC machine, a tool not commonly found in other solar companies because it costs a quarter of a million dollars. While some wholesalers attempt to replicate iBoards, their products don’t match the same level of quality.  

Solar distribution board with shutdown instructions and multiple circuit breakers.

We offer three main models of iBoard: single-phase for up to 22 panels, single-phase for 23 to 26 panels, and three-phase for up to 36 panels. We’ve worked closely with iBoards to improve products, giving them feedback that they’ve taken on board. 

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about what the phrases “single-phase” and “three-phase” mean, you might want to check out the following article titled, Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase: How Are They Different?   

For example, a problem we encountered was the harsh Australian sun degrading iBoards mounted directly in sunlight, causing discolouration and deterioration. To address this, we developed our own sun shield made from ALUCOBOND, a durable material designed to withstand heat. We’re retrofitting these sun shields onto all outdoor iBoards as a solution to this issue. While it’s a downside to iBoards, it’s a problem we’ve overcome with a contingency plan in place. 

This is just one way iBoards will work with your installer to customise their product to their needs (and ultimately, yours!). 

The durability of an iBoard depends largely on its enclosure. Genuine iBoards use Legrand enclosures, while others may use different styles. We exclusively purchase outdoor-rated and tested boards, suitable for both indoor and outdoor solar systems.  

We’ve recently collaborated with iBoards to create commercial boards housed in metal enclosures. For instance, the 100 kilowatt board measures 1,200mm tall by 600mm wide by 250mm deep. It features a line filter and a clear Perspex door for easy inspection. Our boards include both the normal iBoard and a grid protection unit, all in one. Additionally, we’ve added a 250 Amp in-line filter to reduce electrical noise from the factory and its machines and appliances, ensuring smooth communication between microinverters and the Envoy. 

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Does the iBoard Have Any Safety Features? 

We’ve integrated surge protection into the commercial iBoards, complete with LED indicators. These protect the solar system from surges or lightning strikes. When they absorb a voltage spike, they trigger an LED indicator, visible when you open the board — a signal that it needs replacement.  

Electricians can easily swap out this sacrificial part to restore functionality. Despite this, the system remains operational. These features enhance the neatness of our installations and offer specific benefits for Enphase systems. We value iBoards for their local manufacturing and innovative approach, making them our go-to choice for Enphase installations. 

Get more info!

How is an iBoard Different from an IQ Controller? 

The Enphase IQ Controller is a device that is compulsory for your solar system if you install an Enphase solar battery with your panels on the roof. You do not need an IQ Controller if you don’t have an Enphase solar battery. If you want to install a different type of solar battery, you will still need an iBoard.

There are many great reasons to invest in a solar battery. If you’re interested in reading up about it, you might want to check out the following article titled, Adding a Battery to a Solar System

An IQ Controller is mounted next to or near the main switchboard. It senses when the grid goes down and makes sure your home transitions from grid power to the battery or solar system, depending on what you have installed.  

An overhead view of an open computer tower highlighting the internal components and cable management.
The inside of an IQ Controller, Source:

iBoards has developed a new product, which complements Enphase systems. They’re now offering a fully equipped IQ Controller, complete with circuit breakers and pre-wiring, along with a standardised labelling kit. This streamlines our installation process and ensures consistency across projects. The finished product is of higher quality and consistency compared to on-site assembly. iBoards remains committed to using genuine Enphase products and assembling them in a consistent manner. 

As for incorporating tech from the IQ Controller, iBoards pre-wires much of the electrical work in their factory, simplifying on-site installation. It’s akin to receiving a pre-built computer where most internal components are already in place, requiring only basic setup on-site. This approach ensures efficiency and maintains quality control, which may not be achievable in a non-factory environment. 

More about IQ Controllers!

Who Makes iBoards? 

iBoards is a small electrical contracting company based in Port Kembla, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, owned by our friend Michael and his family. They run a tight-knit family business and specialize in solar installations. They are exclusive Enphase installers and offer air conditioning and general electrical services as well. 

Two men posing with a document, one of them wearing a hat, standing in a booth with electronic products on display.

The benefits of iBoards lie in its family-oriented approach, supporting Michael and Julia’s vision for their children’s future. Michael created iBoards to ensure his kids would always have a place in the business. This personal touch resonates with us, knowing our support directly impacts their family’s livelihood. 

Our relationship with iBoards has been exceptional, with them going above and beyond to assist, even at odd hours. It’s been an incredible long-term relationship we’ve had with them, one that we hope lasts for many more years.  

Reach out!

My Neighbour Gave Me Solar. It Was on the House.  

Now you know what iBoards do and how this family business is saving the industry time and money. They work with Enphase and Enphase installers to develop and perfect their componentry. Using them in our installations has saved our customers thousands of dollars every time we rock up. They’re easy on the eyes as well – we’re suckers for efficiency, but when it’s coupled with a sleek design? Well, how could you resist? 

At Penrith Solar Centre, we carefully vet our suppliers and make decisions about our partnerships based on how they will best serve our customers. iBoards gives our teams out on the trucks more time on each installation, which saves you money. 

A group of people posing in front of a building at Penrith Solar Centre.

We’ve spoken in this article a great deal about reducing your upfront cost with the help of this product. If you’re interested in learning more about how long your solar installation will take, you might want to check out the following article titled, How Long Will My Solar Install Take?  

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