Inverters are an essential component of a solar energy system. They convert the DC electricity generated by your solar panels into AC electricity that can be used in your business or home.
Without a properly working inverter, your system won’t be able to provide electricity to your building. However, they’re often one of the first components that require replacement. That’s why it’s so imperative to choose the best solar inverter for your system.
In this blog, we’ll see how two of the best solar power inverter brands stack up against one another. We’ll be comparing SolarEdge and SMA on the following criteria:
Without further ado, let’s find out which is the best solar inverter brand for your system.
Inverter Components: How Each Brand Works
SolarEdge and SMA are leading manufacturers of string inverters. String inverters are one of three main inverter options and tend to be the most affordable.
While both SolarEdge and SMA manufacture string inverters, SolarEdge works a little differently.
In standard string inverters, like those made by SMA, multiple solar panels are grouped together into strings. Because each solar panel is connected to other solar panels, the inverter is constantly adjusting to average the current’s flow through each panel.
As a result, the solar panel that’s producing the least amount of electricity in the string sets the amount of power each solar panel can produce. If one solar panel is shaded and can only produce a small amount of electricity, it impacts the production of all the solar panels in that string.
If your solar system gets full, direct sunlight throughout the day, an SMA string inverter may be the way to go. However, SolarEdge offers another option.
Like SMA, SolarEdge inverters are string inverters. However, the system will also include power optimizers in addition to the string inverter. These are small boxes installed on each solar panel that allows for panel-level optimization. That means energy can be optimized on a panel-by-panel level.
If one solar panel is shaded, it will only impact that specific panel, not the other solar panels in the string.
Efficiency: Which Converts the Most Energy?
Due to the panel-level optimization offered by SolarEdge’s power optimizers, a SolarEdge inverter system tends to be more efficient. Shade’s effect on your solar system’s production is limited to just the shaded panel instead of the entire string.
Additionally, a small amount of energy is lost when the DC electricity is converted to AC electricity. SolarEdge power optimizers condition DC electricity before it is transferred to the inverter. This makes it easier for the string inverter to convert to AC power and leads to higher efficiencies.
That said, SMA string inverters are still an efficient option. They work well for many solar systems, particularly systems that have unobstructed exposure to sunlight.
Price: Which Brand Offers the Better Value?
Neither SolarEdge nor SMA will be the least expensive option when it comes to an inverter. However, high failure rates and illusive warranties typically make the cheapest options unappealing.
While these two brands won’t be the cheapest, they both provide great value backed by quality craftsmanship and extensive warranties.
Specific pricing will vary from model to model and size to size. However, in general, SolarEdge will likely be more expensive than SMA in terms of the price tag. The addition of power optimizers means more equipment and more labor to install them.
That said, power optimizers can help improve the efficiency of your system, which could mean more free electricity is produced.
Learn more about the total solar system installation cost.
Warranty: Which Lasts Longer?
Having dependable, well-made equipment is a big part of a solar system’s payback and ROI. If you end up with equipment that needs to be replaced, you’ll be using the money your solar system is saving you. Manufacturer warranties help ensure this won’t happen.
SolarEdge string inverters will be covered with a 12-year warranty. Depending on the model you choose, you’ll also be able to purchase an additional eight- or 13-year extended warranty. That brings the total warranty to 20 or 25 years. The power optimizers are backed by a 25-year warranty.
The terms of an SMA inverter’s warranty depend on whether you’re installing a residential or commercial solar system.
Commercial SMA string inverters come with a standard 10-year warranty with the option to add a five- or 10-year extended warranty. This brings the total warranty to 15 or 20 years. Inverters installed for home solar come with a 15-year warranty at no additional cost, with the option to add up to 5 additional years.
Another important factor to consider when comparing warranties is the business’s long-term outlook. However, these warranties are only worth something if the manufacturer is still in business.
Both SolarEdge and SMA have a solid long-term financial outlook and product roadmap. Obviously, there are no guarantees but both should be around for many years to honor those warranties.
Monitoring: Which Brand Offers Better Insight?
Both SolarEdge and SMA inverters come with remote system monitoring, replacing the typical display panels inverters have had in the past. Many of the leading inverter brands have shifted away from digital displays as extremely cold temperatures cause display issues.
Instead, these inverters have remote monitoring systems that are reliant on a Wi-Fi or internet connection. These can be accessed via an online portal on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
When it comes to the monitoring of SolarEdge and SMA inverters, there are some differences.
Because SolarEdge offers panel-level optimization through power optimizers, you can monitor the power output from each individual panel, as well as the system as a whole. This gives you greater insight into how your solar system is working. It also makes it easier to locate issues should something go wrong.
SMA, on the other hand, offers solar monitoring on a broader scale through their Sunny Portal. You can see how much solar power your system produces each day. However, you won’t be able to tell how much each individual panel is producing.
That said, SMA still makes it easy to detect potential issues, even without panel-level monitoring. Their SMA Smart Connected program works to continuously monitor the string inverters for any issues. If a problem is detected, the installer and system operator will be notified. If needed, a replacement part will automatically ship to the customer.
Which Solar Inverter Brand is Better for Your System?
When it comes down to it, both SolarEdge and SMA offer high-quality grid-tied inverters. Both brands have inverters that will suit a wide variety of solar projects.
SolarEdge’s string inverter and power optimizer combination offer panel-level optimization and monitoring. They can be great for partially shaded areas, increasing the system’s overall efficiency. However, SMA’s string inverter setup is typically the more affordable option. And with fewer components, it should be simpler and easier to service should the need arise.
It all comes down to the sunshine available on your property and your specific goals for your project.
At Paradise Energy Solutions, we help businesses, farmers, and homeowners across the mid-Atlantic region save money with solar. Reach out to our team of solar experts if you're unsure of which solar inverter is best for you or you want to compare your options.