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A Review of SMA Inverters

Solarkobo Score: 4.5/5


Manufacturer's Profile

SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA is short for 'System, Mess and Anlagentechnik') is a German company that was founded in 1981. SMA initially gained recognition for its string inverters, branded as Sunny Boy and Sunny Tripower, which consistently outperformed other competitors. During the solar boom in Australia around 2008, SMA's Sunny Boy inverters, in particular, held an unrivaled status among solar installers, irrespective of the price tag. Today, there are over 750,000 SMA inverters installed in Australia, accounting for more than 35% of all solar electricity in the country.


SMA is one of the leading solar inverter manufacturers in the world, with over 40 years of experience in the industry. SMA is the world’s longest servicing solar inverter manufacturer. It has offices in about 18 countries and in 2019, had 3,124 employees and generated worldwide sales of nearly a billion euros worth of sales. SMA has also ventured into the power optimizer sector by investing in Tigo, a company specializing in panel-level monitoring, rapid shutdown, and power optimization. This investment led to compatibility between Tigo optimizers and SMA Sunny Boy models, offering cost-effective shading solutions.


Key Highlights
SMA Sunny Portal - Proactive Monitoring

SMA offers one of the most impressive built-in monitoring systems in both residential and commercial markets. It was a pioneer in the early days of online monitoring. This monitoring system is intelligently designed to proactively detect faults and anomalies, promptly notifying both the system owner and the installer. Notably, SMA goes the extra mile by guaranteeing to supply a replacement within 3 days if a warrantied product fault is identified.


In 2020, SMA launched the ennexOS energy management system, catering primarily to larger-scale solar and energy storage systems. This system, built around an IoT data management device, manages power for various applications, including heating and refrigeration.


SMA Smart Meter - Enhanced Insight

For solar system owners seeking deeper insights into their energy consumption and generation, SMA provides the option of an SMA smart meter. This additional accessory empowers homeowners and businesses to monitor both solar power generation and energy consumption through the Sunny Portal. While it may be offered as an optional extra in the some markets, the smart meter unlocks valuable data for optimizing electricity usage. Moreover, it allows users to efficiently manage their solar system's energy output, especially in cases where regulatory restrictions limit exported energy to the grid.


Overvoltage and islanding protection:

SMA inverters feature overvoltage protection that protects the inverter from damage caused by voltage spikes and islanding protection that prevents the inverter from continuing to operate in the event of a power outage. This helps to protect the inverter and the grid from damage.


Warranty - Extendable

SMA offers a 5-year factory warranty on all its inverters, extendable to 10 years when registered on the SMA homepage within a year of installation. This is rapidly becoming one of the shortest inverter warranties, with many of the growing Chinese companies offering a standard 10-year warranty with the need for extensions. However, SMA's extended warranties of 15, 20, and even 25 years are available at an additional fee, depending on the region.


The company also provides a free active 'Smart Connected' warranty service, offering ongoing system monitoring and performance analysis. This service streamlines issue detection and resolution, sometimes eliminating the need for onsite troubleshooting.

Notably, while SMA offers 5 to 10-year inverter warranties, the warranties for devices such as the Sunny Home Manager, energy meter, and data manager are a relatively shorter 2-year period.


Series of SMA Inverters

SMA offers a diverse range of inverters, each tailored to specific needs and power environments:


Sunny Boy - Single Phase Residential Solar Inverters (1.5kW to 6.0kW)

Sunny Boy is SMA's name for its single-phase residential solar inverters. SMA's original SMA Sunny boy TL series was very popular in the market for a very long time until the explosion of other brands onto the solar inverter market. The second coming of these single-phase inverters prioritize simplicity and connectivity, evident in their Wi-Fi-enabled design with no display. Instead, they place emphasis on robust mobile app usage, allowing users to monitor and control their solar systems effortlessly. They are sleek, efficient, and lightweight options that are steadily gaining popularity in the solar market.


One hallmark of the Sunny Boy brand has been its reliability, which has earned the trust of installers and homeowners alike over the years. However, it's worth noting that newer models, while promising, may require additional time to establish their longevity and track record in the field.

The Sunny Boy. Source: SMA
The Sunny Boy. Source: SMA
Sunny Tripower - 3-phase Solar Inverters (3.0kW to 10kW)

Sunny Tripower 3-phase solar inverters cater to a wide range of both residential and commercial installations, making them versatile choices across the solar spectrum. Recent iterations of these inverters have undergone revamps to enhance efficiency and compactness, making them more appealing to installers and system owners. The introduction of new AV Tripower models further elevates the brand, with a focus on delivering high-quality features and performance to meet the demands of modern solar systems.

The SMA Sunny Tripower Inverter. Source: SMA
Sunny Tripower. Source: SMA
Sunny Tripower X - 3-phase Solar Inverters (12kW to 25kW)

Launched in 2022, Sunny Tripower X represents a next-generation platform in the SMA lineup, incorporating innovative features designed to elevate solar system performance. Notable among these innovations is the inclusion of three MPPTs with high input current up to 35A and an in-built arc-fault circuit interrupter, enabling more effective management of solar panel arrays, especially in scenarios with varying sun exposure. These inverters find suitability in large residential installations and smaller-scale commercial solar systems. They come equipped with built-in safety features such as arc-fault circuit interrupters and advanced control systems with a new integrated control system built on the SMA ennexOS platform, that can monitor up to five different inverters and one energy metre, making system setup and configuration much more straightforward and further enhancing their appeal.

SMA's Sunny Tripower X Inverter
Sunny Tripower X. Source: SMA
Sunny Tripower Smart Energy - Hybrid Inverters (5.0kW to 10kW)

SMA's foray into hybrid inverters resulted in the Sunny Tripower Smart Energy series, representing the company's first all-in-one 3-phase hybrid inverter lineup. These inverters boast a wide MPPT voltage range, are able to be oversized up to 150%, have impressive backup power functionalities and an adjustable backup time, making them well-suited for medium to large households with an emphasis on adjustable backup time. Smart control features take center stage in this series, providing system owners with advanced monitoring and management capabilities to optimize their solar and energy storage systems effectively.

SMA Sunny Tripower Smart Energy
Sunny Tripower Smart Energy
Sunny Tripower Core 1 & Core 2 - Commercial Inverters (50kW to 110kW)

For commercial-scale solar installations, SMA offers the Sunny Tripower Core 1 and Core 2 inverters. Described by SMA as “the world’s first free-standing string inverter”, the Core 1 can be fixed to the ground, or roof, rather than onto a wall. Core 1 stands out with its unique free-standing string inverter design, providing flexibility in installation and system design. It allows up to 6 MPPT input units. It allows for small 50kW installs up to 1 MW. The Core 1 comes packed with features and at a reasonable a price point that makes it highly competitive in the small-to-medium commercial market.


The Core 2 represents SMA's most powerful inverter with 12X2 24-string MPPT inputs. Unlike the free-standing Core 1 is built around a more traditional wall or floor mounted design that is similar in layout to the offerings from other leading manufacturers. It is built in a collaborative effort with Sungrow, further expanding its capabilities for commercial applications.

SMA Sunny Tripower CORE2 Inverter. Source: SMA
Sunny Tripower CORE2. Source: SMA
Sunny Highpower & Sunny Central

Designed to meet the demands of large-scale power plants, the Sunny Highpower and Sunny Central inverters offer flexibility and scalability in their design. Sunny Highpower PEAK 3, in particular, caters to systems operating at up to 1500V DC, making it an ideal choice for high-capacity installations.

SMA Sunny Highpower Inverter
Sunny Highpower. Source: SMA
Sunny Island - Off-grid Multi-mode Inverter-Chargers (3kW to 6.5W+)

These multi-mode inverter-chargers are suitable for off-grid installations where they can ensure uninterrupted power supply in remote locations and off-grid scenarios. First launched over a decade ago, they quickly became the first choice inverter for off-grid installation for both single phase and advanced three-phase remote power systems. Newer versions, however, have been updated. It is the only high powered multi-mode inverter with an IP54 weather rating meaning that it can be installed outside in relatively exposed locations. Most competing inverters in this class are only IP20 rated, meaning that they can only be installed in well-protected areas or indoors. In addition, they also incorporate an advanced active cooling system that helps improve performance in high temperatures.


It is also highly scalable in ways that is unrivalled by other brands. With SMA's managers, it can be used to power large scale micro-grid’s remote communities and commercial operations as well as homes.

SMA Sunny Island Inverter.
The Iconic Sunny Island
The Data Manager M. Source: SMA
The Data Manager M. Source: SMA
Sunny Boy Storage - Battery Storage Inverters (2.5kW to 6.0kW)

Designed specifically for AC-coupled energy storage systems, the Sunny Boy Storage inverters play a pivotal role in maximizing the efficiency of battery storage solutions. Originally released in 2015 with a second generation release in 2018 that is far more powerful, it is the first ever battery inverter with multi-string battery connections that makes it capable of being connected with up to three separate batteries. They are AC-coupled and are compatible with high-voltage batteries, such as the LG Chem RESU-H series. They can provide backup power with the addition of a backup box of which there are two options, namely, the standard manual changeover switch for ‘essential circuits’ or the fully automatic backup unit if larger loads are needed to be backed up in the event of a lengthy blackout.

Sunny Boy Storage. Source: SMA
Sunny Boy Storage. Source: SMA

Series

Application

Key Features

Sunny Boy

Single-phase residential

Sleek design - Wi-Fi-enabled with mobile app focus - Known for reliability

Sunny Tripower

3-phase residential/commercial

Efficiency and compactness - AV Tripower models for high-quality performance

Sunny Tripower X

3-phase residential/commercial

Next-gen platform with multiple MPPTs - Built-in arc-fault circuit interrupter

Sunny Tripower Smart Energy

3-phase hybrid

Wide MPPT voltage range - Adjustable backup time - Smart control features

Sunny Tripower Core 1 & Core 2

Commercial

Core 1: Free-standing string inverter - Core 2: Multi-string inputs, collaborative design

Sunny Highpower & Sunny Central

Large-scale power plants

Flexible and scalable - Sunny Highpower PEAK 3 for high-voltage systems up to 1500V DC

Sunny Island

Off-grid multi-mode

Highly regarded for off-grid reliability - Challenged by grid-connected hybrid storage

Sunny Boy Storage

Battery storage

Designed for AC-coupled energy storage - Compatibility with high-voltage batteries.


Conclusion

SMA's journey in the solar industry spans decades, marked by unwavering quality, reliability, and innovation. For decades, SMA held a prestigious position as a leading manufacturer of solar inverters, particularly in the residential and small-to-medium commercial sectors. Their reputation was unmatched, and their inverters were the go-to choice for installers worldwide. However, recent years have witnessed a transformation in the solar inverter market that reshaped the competitive landscape.


Nonetheless, with its revamped product lineup, focus on hybrid inverters, and investments in monitoring and power optimization, SMA remains an iconic brand and industry leader, especially in the commercial and utility-scale solar inverter market. SMA is poised to regain prominence in the residential and small commercial sectors.


SMA offers a wide range of inverter models to choose from and are available in a variety of power ratings and can be used in both residential and commercial applications. Also, as other 'made in Germany' pieces of technology, SMA inverters are known for their high quality, technological sophistication and reliability. They are backed by a strong warranty and are supported by a global network of service and support centres. They are however more expensive than other brands, mostly the Chinese brands that preponderate the Nigerian and African markets that are manufactured in China where manufacturing costs are cheaper. These brands have introduced new possibilities for buyers, offering sophisticated inverters at low price points. Regardless, for their quality and durability, SolarKobo is always confident to recommend SMA inverters to our clients.

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