5 out of 5 Sun Rating
This review has been updated as of February 1, 2009, now that I have
had one year of history and performance information to judge.
An inverter is the heart and workhorse of a PV solar plant.
If it goes out, you lose solar energy production for that inverter and
all the modules connected to it. Typically
these devices last 15 years before replacement is needed.
Warranties are usually for 5 years or 10 years. SMA is at the top
of my list for a choice of inverters. To put things into
perspective, keep in mind that I am looking at the product from a
critical engineering point of view. I'm not a specialist in
Inverters, but I have done electronic systems design and software
engineering for decades, so I know a bit about product design.
I chose SMA-America
inverters after doing research on this critical piece of equipment.
They have a great design and good features. This is a
competitive market and there are other good inverters, but SMA really
has their act together on this piece of equipment. Their
pre-sales support people have also been fabulous with giving answers to my
a few tough questions during a call to
their facility. I wish I could say the same for the online customer forum
which was poor at the time I bought the equipment. Stick with
talking to them on the phone. They are smart people. SMA is
clearly going to continue being a leader in this field for decades to
This device is the whole reason I chose SMA equipment.
I looked carefully at specifications as compared to competitive devices.
I talked to many dealers about various inverter pros and cons. I
think SMA inverters are superbly designed and have been well engineered
from the start. Now, that's the German engineering I'm used to
I'll come back to this page in the future if there is new information to
post. Otherwise you can assume they continue to work reliably.
I have two of the 4KW "Sunny Boy" 4000US models mounted side by side.
After using the inverters for a year, I can see that these units are solidly built with quality
components and clearly designed for long life. I'm quite impressed
with what I see. Here are some observations:
- Built like a tank... solid construction and nice looking.
- Very efficient (as high as 96.8% Peak). All
manufacturer's inverters are efficient these days, but SMA beats a
lot of the others. They are also doing something clever with their MPP (maximum power point)
algorithms where the unit quickly adapts and tracks the MPP during
times when energy production radically shifts such as when the sun
is obscured by rapidly moving clouds and then becomes clear again.
I've seen other manufacture design do this job poorly and result in
lost power during those times.
- Quiet... I expected them to buzz like a bee hive, but no. I
hardly notice them running. Even when the cooling fan is on during
heavy conversion loads, I barely hear it running. My laser printer
makes much more noise than the inverters!
- Fast startup. From power on to full operation, it is about
one minute. I understand that older units were slow and took as much
as 5 minutes to start up, so SMA must have corrected that.
- The LCD display has a very limited viewing angle. This is not a
big deal since you look will rarely look at them.
- They turn off completely at night. To me that is a
disadvantage. I'd prefer to see the LCD display in operation
so I can review daily energy production and status if I come home
after dark. Only a tiny amount of power would be needed to do
that. Fortunately I can review status with my WebBox, but for
95% of customers who won't have that device, it is not possible to
review daily production after the inverter shuts down.
- This is another minor point, but I noticed when the
inverter is turned off during the day for any reason (example...
temporary utility company power
failure) then it loses information about daily production.
Thus, "Daily Production" is not really an accurate term. It is
actually the amount of energy produced since the inverter was placed
in an operational state for that day. Since startup usually occurs at dawn,
it presents accurate daily information unless a power failure
occurs. Note: Total energy production over the life of
the unit is properly tracked.
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