Let’s face it – warranties aren’t the easiest (or most gripping) documents to read. There are often a lot of details and fine print included that can be hard to digest, leaving many to wonder: what does the warranty actually cover? Am I vulnerable? Anything I might be missing?
To make it as easy as possible, we’ve read warranty documents for the top inverter equipment manufacturers–and talked to them to confirm what is and isn’t included–and plan to point out the most important aspects of each in a series of articles. In this article, we’ll be exploring the solar and storage technology company SMA, which debuted the world’s first serial produced solar string inverter over 30 years ago.
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Highlights of SMA’s warranty
- SMA provides a comprehensive 10-year warranty that covers the entire inverter solution
- The company offers an extended warranty up to 20 years on most devices, at an additional cost
- SMA covers repair and replacement of their devices, including labor (in the form of a rebate), parts, and shipping, provided they have verified the problem a SMA-approved installer conducts the labor
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Quick overview: SMA’s history and warranty
Founded in Germany in 1981, SMA’s inverters have enabled industrial and residential buildings across 18 countries to go solar. They are one of the few companies offering solar inverters designed for residential, commercial and utility-scale grid-tie systems, as well as small residential and large-scale off-grid solar systems.
SMA string inverters are unique in that instead of having power optimizers that sit on the roof, their ShadeFix optimization (a proprietary technology) is software built into the inverter itself. So, with SMA inverters, you don’t have to worry about having a separate string and power optimizer warranty. Instead, their warranty covers the whole system – and you can extend it up to 20 years (at a cost) for long term protection.
SMA also offers Smart Connected, a proactive monitoring solution that gives in-warranty troubleshooting or repair activities a streamlined path to resolution – this can also help installers eliminate a customer diagnostic site visit, meaning a quicker fix with less steps for you! If you purchase SMA’s Sunny Boy inverter, you’ll receive Smart Connected or free and can quickly activate it.
SMA warranty at a glance
|Category||SMA coverage||Industry standard|
|Product (inverter)||10 years||10 years for string inverters, 25 years for microinverters|
|Product (power optimizer equipment – for string inverter only)||10 years (ShadeFix optimization is build into the inverter and is covered under the same warranty)||25 years|
|Product (communication equipment)||10 years (monitors are built into the inverter and are covered under the same warranty)||5 years|
|Labor costs||Yes (fixed rebate)||No|
|Shipping of parts||Yes||Yes|
|Transferability||Yes, no transfer fee with written notice to SMA America||Transfer fee|
|Extended warranty offering||Yes, extensions are offered in 5-year increments up to 20 years, at a cost||No|
Also known as a materials warranty, an inverter product warranty covers the integrity of the equipment itself. If your solar inverter has a defect, mechanical issue, or experiences unreasonable wear and tear, that’s where your product warranty comes into play.
Many inverter manufacturers have separate warranties for the various components associated with their inverters. However, in the case of SMA, you only have to worry about one warranty for the whole solution. Their warranty covers the inverters themselves, the ShadeFix optimization, and the monitors – all for a baseline of 10 years as long as you register your system with SMA.
Inverter replacement: what happens if your product is no longer available?
Let’s say you have a solar inverter that dies after nine years – inverter technology continues to advance, and by then, SMA may have a brand new product stock. Will they be able to replace your broken inverter?
Should this happen to you, SMA will exchange the defective device for a new or like new device that is functionally equivalent to the old one, repair the device at a SMA depot, or refund you the cash value of the defective unit (as determined by SMA).
Does SMA offer extended warranties?
Need more protection for peace of mind? Many solar inverter companies offer extended warranties for their products. Depending on the company and the product, an extended warranty may come at an extra cost, or only be available for certain installers who have been certified and endorsed by the manufacturer.
SMA offers an extended product warranty up to 20 years. If you don’t think you need a full 20 years of protection, you can also choose to warranty your system for 15 years. Prices for SMA’s warranty extension vary based on the warranty length and size of your solar system, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $600 for residential systems. While they offer two types of warranty extensions, only their COMFORT extension is available in the U.S., which covers service compensation for any labor associated with repairing or replacing the inverters. You can purchase an extended warranty at any time during the original warranty coverage period, or on a repaired unit at any time during the one-year period following the repair.
More often than not, solar installers are the sole party responsible for providing workmanship–or labor–warranties for your solar installation – they’re performing the actual installation work, after all! However, it’s becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to offer an extra safeguard by tacking on their own workmanship warranty coverage. When applicable, it’s typically only an option if you work with specific installers in a manufacturer’s certified network.
SMA does not currently offer a workmanship warranty to their customers.
How to make a warranty claim with SMA: shipping & labor costs
If you experience any defects or performance issues with your equipment, SMA will be there to help.
To start, if you notice an issue with your inverter, your first phone call should be to your original installer: having designed and installed your system, they are the most equipped to diagnose (and fix!) any potential issue. If you can’t get in touch with your installer, or they’ve gone out of business, you can work with SMA to find another installer to help out with the problem.
Once the installer has identified any issue eligible for a warranty claim, they can begin the return merchandise authorization (RMA) process with SMA directly. Depending on the problem at hand, SMA may also be able to diagnose the issue remotely! If you enroll in their Smart Connected monitoring service (which is free!), SMA will automatically check your inverter for any anomalies and will notify you if anything seems off. They’ll send you a replacement component as soon as the issue is diagnosed and will compensate you if the replacement components aren’t shipped within the agreed upon time period.
However, in some circumstances, the installer will have to make a site visit in order to either identify or confirm what’s going on with your system. Should the issue need to be diagnosed in the field, SMA makes it possible for qualified solar technicians to submit an RMA without placing a single call to them.
When it comes time for any repairs or replacements, there are two additional warranty considerations you’ll want to keep in mind: labor and shipping costs.
Labor costs for diagnostics, repairs or replacements
Many manufacturers cover replacement parts at no extra cost, but don’t pay for the labor costs necessary to re-install that equipment. Fortunately, SMA covers labor costs for replacing and repairing their RMA approved products. SMA provides a fixed rebate to installers so that system owners are insulated from incurring the full labor cost of replacement.
Shipping of parts
Similarly, not all equipment manufacturers will pay the costs to get equipment to you – but SMA isn’t one of them! If SMA determines that you need a replacement device, they’ll cover standard ground shipping costs to anywhere in the U.S., as well as the costs for return transport – such as export certifications, inspections, and customs duties – of the defective device.
Similarly, if your device needs to be repaired at a SMA facility, they’ll cover costs associated with shipping the defective device to them, and with shipping the repaired device back to you (which can otherwise amount to hundreds of dollars). If any costs pop up that they aren’t able to cover, they’ll make sure to notify you first and the repair will be performed depending on your consent to cover the costs.
Comparing product and power warranty terms: the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide
What are some of the most popular SMA products on the market today? Using the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide, you can compare the warranties, performance, and aesthetics of top solar inverters. There’s a lot in there, so we recommend using the filter and sorting functionalities to find the right inverter for you.
Limitations and exceptions
Every warranty comes with limitations and exceptions, including SMA’s. These limitations aren’t meant to make it difficult for you or other customers to take advantage of their offering; at the end of the day, they simply need to protect themselves from unreasonable claims.
Here are a few things that aren’t covered in your SMA warranty:
- Non-SMA authorized installations, modifications, changes, or attempted repairs
- Damage as a result of misuse, abuse, accident, negligence or failure to maintain their products
- Any damage from power surges, lightning, fire, floods, pest damage, accidents, action of third parties, or other events beyond SMA’s reasonable control or not arising from normal operating conditions
- Superficial defects, such as dents, marks or scratches that do not affect functionality
Other warranty considerations, and how SMA stacks up
- Transferability: As long as your equipment remains in place, you can transfer your SMA warranty to new owners of your system at no cost, provided you send written notice to SMA America.
- Bankability: SMA’s parent company, SMA Solar Technology AG, backs up their warranty claims. Their parent company is publicly traded on the Prime Standard of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (S92) and on the SDAX index. To learn more about SMA’s financials, you can visit their investor relations page.
- Escrows/insurance policies: SMA does not have an insurance policy or an escrow account to ensure that their warranties are upheld in the event that they go out of business. However, SMA has more than 40 years of experience in the solar industry and has strong financial security.
- Eligibility: Some manufacturers require customers to permanently connect to their monitoring system in order for their warranty to be valid. However, SMA’s warranty is applicable regardless of connection to their monitoring platform.
- Customer reviews: Another critical aspect of understanding a manufacturer’s warranty offering is investigating how their customers feel about their equipment and the services that they provide. Any warranty can look promising on paper, but how the installer or manufacturer performs when honoring their warranty is also critically important. If you are interested in reading SMA’s reviews, you can do so here.
The best way to compare solar inverter options – warranties and all!
The key to finding the right solar panel system for your home is comparing multiple quotes from solar installers. Using the EnergySage Marketplace, you can find local solar installers near you, and make easy side-by-side comparisons of all your solar options, including equipment. By shopping around first, you can find the right option at the right price. If you have a preference for one type of equipment over another–SMA or otherwise–simply note it in your account when you sign up so installers can quote you accordingly.
More reading on EnergySage
Are My Home and Roof Suitable for Solar Panels?
What Is A Solar Inverter? Types, Pros And Cons
Types of Solar Panels: What You Need to Know
String Inverters vs. Power Optimizers vs. Microinverters
Calculate Your Solar Panel Payback Period