SMA Inverter review

SMA Inverters- Last updated October 2022 

SMA are a German company who have been making inverters longer than almost any other company.

SMA are extremely successful in the large commercial, industrial, solar farm inverter market, especially in Europe.
As a result, they sit 3rd behind Huawei and Sungrow as the largest manufacturers of solar inverters in the World.

When we started installing solar back in 2011, SMA were the benchmark for quality.
People were paying $2,500 for a 5kW SMA Sunny Boy when a Chinese brand inverter was closer to $1,000.

Over time, in order to become more price competitive, SMA moved some of their residential manufacturing to China.
The single phase AV41 models were, and still are made in China, the three phase models (TriPower) in Germany.
Every now and again some rumours spring up saying SMA have moved all their manufacturing back to Germany.
I pick up the phone, most recently October 2022 and call SMA Australia. Nothing changed.
Single phase made in China, Three phase in Germany.

Please note that this relates to AUSTRALIA only.
SMA Sunny Boy inverters for the USA and some other markets ARE made in Germany.
They are different models to the ones we get.

SMA inverter residential products
Single phase 'Sunny Boy' AV41, 1.5kW to 6kW models
Three phase 'Tripower' AV40, 3kW to 10kW models
Single 'Battery only' Sunny Island inverter, 3kW to 6kW

SMA don't have any hybrid inverters at this time, so no direct coupling a battery to a solar inverter.
They used to have another, cheaper, 'battery only' inverter, the 'Sunny Boy Storage' but that is no longer available.

Quality & reliability
Irrespective of whether their inverter is made in China or Germany, the quality is still good.
I've got our service records going back to 2011 and SMA have performed, on the whole, very well indeed.
The three phase 'Tripower' models haven't been as reliable as the single phase Sunny Boys.

Consumption meters/Smart meters
If you want to see your solar self-use, exports to the grid and imports from the grid, then you need the SMA 'Energy meter'
This costs $650 and is the same meter for both single and three phase.
With a Fronius (SMA's biggest European rival) single phase meter costing $220 and a three phase meter $460, it make SMA look expensive.

SMA Australia inverter warranty.
With everyone else offering 10 years warranty and SMA offering 5 years, something had to give.
Finally in late 2021, SMA relented and now give 10 years warranty as long as you register your inverter for the extra 5 years.

SMA WIFI and Browser based reporting.
A WIFI antenna is included with residential inverters.
SMA 'Sunny Portal' and 'Energy' app are what you need to setup an account and view your solar data.
It's shows the same information as you'll find with any other solar inverter, but I like the SMA design.
It's more intuitively comprehensible than some others.

SMA features
The lack of a battery connection to their inverters is a draw-back to me, especially these days where demand for hybrids is high.
However, if that lack of battery support doesn't bother you, then SMA is as good as it gets for a quality 'solar only' inverter.

It has been my very long experience that Europeans 'do marketing' a heck of a lot more, and 'better', than most of the Chinese.
I use this as an introduction to one of SMA's much-touted feature advantages called 'ShadeFix' that's been around for 13 years.
The guys at SolarQuotes have done a good write-up on it here so I'll not dwell too much on it.

I put "ShadeFix" to the Euro guys at Fronius and they said, "Yes, we have that feature as well. We call it 'Dynamic Peak Manager'
I put it to the Chinese guys at Goodwe and they said, "Yes, we call it 'Shadow Scan'
I put it to the Chinese guys at Huawei and they said, "Yes of course...doesn't everyone? No special name for it."

As I said, Europeans do marketing better than most of the Chinese.

Adding a battery to an SMA solar installation.
With no 'hybrids' in the SMA range, you can't plug a battery into any SMA inverters, but you can still AC Couple a battery.
You can connect a Tesla Powerwall 2, or SMA's own Sunny Island 'battery only inverter' + a variety of batteries that work with it.
There are also other 'battery' only and 'hybrid' inverter options with batteries that you can AC Couple.
I have done a video on this.

This review was written by Andrew MacKeith, Solar4Ever service manager since 2011.