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SolarEdge vs SMA String Inverters: What's Best?

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SolarEdge vs SMA Inverters

SolarEdge and SMA America are two of the worlds leading solar inverter manufacturers and innovators. Together, the companies have over 50 years of energy conversion technology; specifically the conversion of AC (alternating current) power into usable DC power (direct current). Both companies adhere to and outperform standard safety requirements such as California Rule 21 and NEC 2014 and 2017 (rapid shutdown). Both units require additional components; SolarEdge requires their module specific optimizers, while SMA does not require optimizers, Smart Modules must be used to meet NEC requirements.

SolarEdge and SMA have similar inverter technologies and offer solutions for grid-tied single and three phase systems, as well as hybrid systems which means the system is connected to the grid with battery backup. Battery backup for both inverters can be added at later dates, be sure to plan ahead of time when selecting your inverter. SolarEdge also offers EV charging capabilities with their HD Wave EV charging unit, the same single phase unit as their HD Wave but with an EV charging port and cable.

As similar as the technologies are, there are a number of factors to consider when selecting which inverter will work well for you both now and in the future. For example, if you live in an environment with low sunlight hours an inverter and optimizer combination will ensure your system runs more efficiently, and at a lower initial investment cost than microinverters. However if shading and low sunlight is not a site factor, you can take advantage of further savings with SMA's Sunny Boy and rapid shutdown Smart Modules.

In order to gain a better understanding of how SolarEdge and SMA inverters vary, we will be taking a closer look at their various inverter lines analyzing data such as: size range, average efficiency, average cost per watt, warranty and more. To gain a better understanding of the individual models, be sure to download the provided specifications in the tables below.

In this SolarEdge vs SMA string inverter comparison, we will be examining the following:

  • Lines, Technologies & Price Points
    • SolarEdge HD Wave vs SMA Sunny Boy
    • SolarEdge Three Phase vs SMA Tripower Core-1
    • SolarEdge StorEdge vs SMA Sunny Boy Storage
  • Warranty Comparison
  • Solaris Recommendations
Interested in SolarEdge or SMA? See our inverters here.

SolarEdge Lines, Technologies & Price Points

SolarEdge and SMA offer solutions for both residential and commercial applications. Residential homeowners will almost always utilize single phase systems, homeowners most interested in grid-tied systems should look into both the SolarEdge HD Wave series and SMA Sunny Boy series. 

While homeowners who plan for battery backup will want to focus on hybrid inverters. Commercial systems are typically three phase, which is offered through the Three Phase series from SolarEdge and the Tripower Core-1 from SMA. Currently there is not a three phase hybrid system from either manufacturer, however SolarEdge has recently announced plans for their HD Wave battery system.

SolarEdge vs SMA Inverter Breakdown

  • Residential - Single Phase Inverters
    • SolarEdge HD Wave
    • SMA SunnyBoy 
  • Commercial - Three Phase Inverters
    • SolarEdge Three Phase
    • SMA Tripower Core-1
  • Single Phase - Hybrid (On-Grid w/ Battery Backup)
    • SolarEdge StorEdge
    • SMA SunnyBoy Storage
Interested in a system quote? Fill out our form here.

SolarEdge HD Wave vs SMA Sunny Boy

HD WaveSingle phase inverter and optimizer combinations is the most popular inverter option alongside optimizers. Many installation sites do not fall perfectly within ideal site conditions, the system could be installed on multiple roof faces, on a non-south-facing roof, or the area that the system is being installed in often has low sun hours. Optimizers not only enhance the performance of your panels, they also protect the system from shutdown due to partial shading.

For single phase systems, SolarEdge offers their HD Wave inverters. When using traditional string inverters, the system may under-perform or shutdown altogether when one or more modules are exposed to shading. Optimizers work to enhance the performance of your solar system by mitigating all types of module mismatch losses, which increases the overall efficiency and energy output of the systems.

SolarEdge OptimizerSolarEdge optimizers are module specific, meaning the size of your solar panel, alongside site conditions such as sun hours, average ambient temperature and so on, will determine what size optimizer is recommended for your system. For any SolarEdge inverter optimizers are required in order for the inverter to run properly and allow for module level monitoring. SolarEdge's monitoring solution is available for free through their SunnyWeb Portal.

See Here: SolarEdge Design Tool

Sunny Boy -41SMA optimizers work in the same manner, however the Sunny Boy does not require optimizers to operate the inverter like SolarEdge does. With that being said, SMA does not have a stand alone rapid shutdown unit for the -41 inverter like the unit that was compatible with the earlier generation -40 model. Instead, they offer rapid shutdown Smart Modules. This means that installers will need to turn to SMA's alternative solution in order to meet housing authority, county and state rapid shutdown regulations.

SMA Smart ModuleIn order to meet rapid shutdown requirements all panels in the system must have individual shutdown functionality. Keep in mind the Smart Modules can be mixed, for example if you have an 8 panel system with only 2 panels exposed to partial shading, you can install optimizers on those panels and the lower cost rapid shutdown modules on the other 6 panels. SMA's optimizers act as both an optimizer and rapid shutdown unit, therefore, if you elect to use optimizers for the whole system, the rapid shutdown modules will not be required.

See Here: SMA Design Tool
SolarEdge HD Wave
SolarEdge HD Wave
  SMA Sunny Boy (-41)
SMA SunnyBoy
Size Range: 3kW - 11.4kW 3kW - 7.7kW
Avg. Efficiency: 99% 97.37%
Optimizers Required: Yes **No
*Avg. Cost per Watt: $0.78 $0.23
*Avg. Cost of Optimizers: $84.80 ea $43 ea
*Avg. Cost of Shutdown Module: N/A $41 ea
Warranty Period: 12 Years 10 Years
Downloads: HD Wave Specs
Warranty
SunnyBoy Specs
SMA Warranty

*Averages based on pricing as of the posting of this article. | **Smart Module rapid shutdown unit required for NEC 2014 and NEC 2017 requirements.

Winner: Tie

The SMA Sunny Boy offers an all around more affordable solution to SolarEdge, however, the HD Wave inverter has a higher efficiency rating and longer warranty period. In addition, the HD Wave has a wider kW range than SMA. However, both inverters should be considered, particularly if your project has cost constraints.

SolarEdge Three Phase vs SMA Tripower Core-1

SolarEdge Three Phase w/ SynergySolarEdge offers multiple options in their Three Phase series, the newest of which is the Three Phase with Synergy, Three Phase 277/480V and the Three Phase 208V. Which inverter you will use will largely be site dependent. The Synergy series offers 66.6kW and 100kW primary inverters, with integrated rapid shutdown and integrated monitoring through Ethernet or cellular GSM. Installation is simple with all three lines, requiring only two people per inverter to install, each unit is mounted separately with simple connections between units.

TSolarEdge Three phase Optimizerhree phase systems using SolarEdge inverters will require optimizers just as they do with the single phase residential inverters. SolarEdge's three phase optimizers are specifically designed to increase the output of the system as well as mitigate mismatch loss, on average optimizers can increase your energy output by 25%. The optimizers are recommended for high watt/high output panels, which are the ideal solution for commercial installations as higher watt panels lead to fewer bill of materials and lower initial cost of investment.

SMA Sunny Tripower Core-1SMA's Tripower Core-1 three phase inverter is the worlds first free standing inverter. This makes the inverters highly versatile in commercial locations with large, flat roof spaces where wall space is scarce as well as garage ports and many other locations. The inverters come with integrated SunSpec PLC technology for module-level shutdown compliance according to 2017 NEC standards. This means that optimizers are completely optional and the rapid shutdown units are not necessary to bring the system into compliance.

Unlike SolarEdge, SMA carries a single line of three phase inverters, capable of handling 480/277V systems, this series includes three inverter sizes, 33kW, 50kW and 62kW. This makes their inverters less versatile than SolarEdge in part due to the limited number of options provided for three phase systems. With that being said, they may offer a more cost effective solution for commercial systems that have high energy demand.

SolarEdge Three Phase
SolarEdge Three Phase Inverters
SMA Tripower Core-1
Tripower Core-1
Size Range: 9kW - 100kW 33kW - 62kW
Avg. Efficiency: 97.91% 97.83%
Optimizers Required: Yes No
*Avg. Cost per Watt*: $0.09 $0.11
*Avg. Cost of Optimizers: $80.85 $43 ea
*Avg. Cost of Shutdown Module: N/A $41 ea
Warranty Period: 12 Years 10 Years
Downloads: Three Phase w/ Synergy Specs
Three Phase 277/480V Specs
Three Phase 208V Specs
SolarEdge Warranty
Tripower Specs
SMA Warranty

*Averages based on pricing as of the posting of this article.

Winner: SolarEdge

SolarEdge wins out on three phase inverter lines due to their number of options, longer warranty period and lower initial price point. However, when optimizers are considered, SMA comes out on top as the more cost effective solution. Both companies offer excellent in-field technical assistance and troubleshooting, saving time and money in repairs and less down time. Which inverter solution is the most ideal solution will largely depend on the site's energy demands and budget.

SolarEdge StorEdge vs SMA SunnyBoy

SolarEdge StorEdge Hybrid InverterThe SolarEdge StorEdge hybrid inverter is a grid-tied inverter designed to pull from the grid and charge the battery during the day while supplying backup power at night or in the event of a power outage. Currently, the hybrid inverter is compatible with lithium ion technology such as the LG Chem RESU battery. The inverter can be installed ahead of installing your battery backup solution, which allows for more freedom when planning for your present and future energy usage. Current homeowners can also take advantage of SolarEdge's trade in program to take advantage of battery backup.

LG Chem RESU10H BatteryBoth the SolarEdge inverter and LG Chem are meant to be tied to the grid, meaning, both the inverter and the battery are not compatible for off grid systems. Like the single and three phase lines, the inverters must be paired with optimizers in order for the system to run and report properly. The LG Chem RESU battery must be installed by a certified installer, to find out more about how to find an installer or become certified, read our article below.

LG Chem RESU Battery: The Complete Review

SMA Sunny Boy Storage InverterThe SMA SunnyBoy Storage hybrid inverter is also compatible with LG Chem RESU batteries, however there are specific models of the batteries that are compatible with different inverters. For example, the LG Chem RESU10H we carry at Solaris is compatible with the SolarEdge StorEdge inverter and is not compatible with the SMA SunnyBoy Storage inverter. Both inverters are compatible with other high voltage AC batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall. It is important to research your inverter and pair it with the correct battery backup unit.

LG Chem RESU 10MIn the event of a power outage, up to 2000 watts of convenience power is provided by the inverter thanks to SMA's innovative Secure Power Supply feature. Full backup power for the SMA inverters is provided through third party battery suppliers such as LG Chem. Like the StorEdge, the Sunny Boy storage inverter can be installed prior to the addition of battery backup power, this makes project planning flexible particularly for systems working within a limited budget. The most important thing for you to remember if you plan on battery backup in the future is your inverter, if you currently have an SMA single phase Sunny Boy, you will not have battery backup capabilities and will need to upgrade or exchange your existing inverter. 

SolarEdge StorEdge

SolarEdge StorEdge

SMA SunnyBoy Storage
SMA SunnyBoy Storage
Size Range: 3.8kW - 7.6kW 3.8kW - 6kW
Avg. Efficiency: 98% 97.5%
Optimizers Required: Yes **No
*Avg. Cost per Watt*: $0.53 $0.45
*Avg. Cost of Optimizers: $84.80 $43
*Avg. Cost of Shutdown Module: N/A $41
Warranty Period: 12 Years 10 Years
Downloads: StorEdge Specs
SolarEdge Warranty
SunnyBoy Storage Specs
SMA Warranty

*Averages based on pricing as of the posting of this article. | **Smart Module rapid shutdown unit required for NEC 2014 and NEC 2017 requirements.

Winner: Tie

SMA has a lower cost per watt and comparable efficiency rating to SolarEdge which comes out slightly ahead (0.5%). Optimizers add to SolarEdge's already higher cost per watt, however, they also offer a longer warranty period. Ultimately which hybrid inverter is best for your project will likely be determined by your individual site and project specifications.

Warranty Comparison

SolarEdge offers a 12 year limited product warranty whereas SMA offers a 10 year limited product warranty. This means that both companies will cover replace defective inverters that fall within their respective criteria. This criteria falls within industry standards through comprehensive support and replacement for any inverter that is not damaged due to shipping or improper installation. Both can be easily ruled out and overall feedback on support and warranty claims have been positive for  both SolarEdge and SMA .

Both SolarEdge and SMA will cover any shipping expenses of sending back a damaged inverter or sending out a replacement inverter. Likewise the warranty does not immediately extend to labor costs unless previously agreed upon in writing with the manufacturers.

For more in-depth warranty coverage, SolarEdge and SMA both offers extended warranty programs that will increase the years of coverage on your system, provide additional support as well as further grantees for shipping and labor cost coverage.

SolarEdge
SolarEdge
SMA
SMA
Standard Warranty: SolarEdge Warranty
SMA Warranty
Extended Warranty: SolarEdge Extended Warranty Pricing
SMA Extended Warranty Brochure

*Contact SolarEdge or SMA directly to learn more.

Winner: SolarEdge

Although the warranty periods are similar, the additional two years provided by SolarEdge wins out. Both manufacturers offer excellent in-field troubleshooting and support as well as cover costs of shipping in the event that inverters or other equipment need to be exchanged. If labor costs are a concern be sure to address than when you initiate your warranty claim.

Solaris Recommendations

8.82kW SolarEdge System

*8.82kW system with 7.6kW HD Wave inverter. Click picture for project details.

In summary, both SolarEdge and SMA offer high efficiency inverter and optimizer solutions that are designed to enhance the efficiency of your solar energysystem, provide module level monitoring, rapid shut down abilities, battery backup and more. The inverter technology from both manufacturers is cutting edge and backed by companies with long standing histories in technological innovations in power conversion and storage.

Where the inverters mainly differ is their capacity to operate without optimizer units, which increase projects bill of materials and overall costs. While SMA's Smart Modules offer a more cost effective solution to SolarEdge's inverter and optimizer requirement, the necessity to include even the rapid shutdown units puts its overall cost above string inverters with other rapid shutdown solutions like Fronius. Between SolarEdge and SMA however, SMA is consistently the more cost effective option.

SolarEdge's overall efficiency rating and optimizer technology comes out ahead of SMA, this is in part due to their requirement for optimizers to be installed on the back of each unit, however the integrated technology for monitoring, troubleshooting and enhancing your system performance is a worthy benefit for the higher initial cost of the system.

Ultimately, which inverter you select will likely vary depending on a number of variables such as your site location, budget, sun light hours, irradiance levels, and so on. Selecting the correct inverter series for you is among the most important decisions you will make beyond which inverter manufacturer you trust to run your system now and in the future. If you plan for battery backup, be sure to opt for the hybrid solution. If not, the lower cost one phase on grid inverters will provide high efficiency energy conversion for your next residential or commercial solar installation.

See Here: SMA vs Fronius String Inverters: What's Best?


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