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ChooseSMA vs. ABB (vs. FRONIUS) Warranties

If you are asking this question, good work – you are asking the right question.

Read my latest review of the all new ABB UNO inverter 2017.
I’m not pretending this is a “Choice Magazine” solar inverter review – I haven’t done lab testing. What I have done is over 20 years as a sparkie, and over 6 years as a “solar accredited electrician” managing over 6000 installs, so I’ve seen what happens in the test of time.

(SMA, ABB (previously Power-One Aurora), and Delta inverters have powered my office/warehouse/showroom in Eagle Farm since 2013. So there is a degree of “lab testing” – for what it is worth).

Update, We have replaced 34 ABB inverters in the last 5 Months. If I had to choose between the two today, it would be SMA. But in 2015, Fronius released their new PRIMO and SYMO range or inverters. READ MY REVIEW HERE. This 2015 model from the 75-year-old Austrian company have taken the lead as the best inverter on the market.

SMA failures

We have had SMA failures.

#1 was in 2009 – water ingress. It may have been an install fault, (I’m unsure) but SMA covered it, they supplied parts and paid for our labour – no questions asked, no cost to the customer.
#2 was in 2012 – genuine SMA fault. I was at a solar conference at the time, so I didn’t record the detail. But obviously SMA covered it.
#3 was this year (2014) – Lightning struck a property at Boonah (Ipswich) and it blew the varistors (a lightning protection component). Regardless, SMA sent us 3 new varistors and paid us $160 to replace them for the customer. They knew it was due to lighting –but that’s how customer service works with SMA.
#4 was at Sherwood in September of 2014 – a SMA tri-power had a faulty display screen. Yep – I could not believe it either. Of course SMA came to the party.

ABB (previously Aurora Power-One) failures

On 1st May 2014, the Power-One Renewable Energy business transitioned over to the ABB name. It’s the same great product, now backed by a huge and reputable electrical company. Unfortunately ABB not only dropped the less known “Power-One” branding, but also the “Aurora” name that has been so well accepted in the industry. I’m sure we’ll all get used to it.

Since 2011, the majority of inverters we have installed are Aurora (we’ll call them Aurora because that’s what they were at the time).
We have had 2 job failures.
(Update 2015: We have had 34 failures in the last 5 months. While ABB honour the warranty with a replacemment inverter, we no longer recommend ABB inverters)

#1 was at a science lab in Brendale where we installed seven × 5kW Aurora inverters. Four of these were making a buzzing noise, (50dB as I measured it : less than the noise of their lunchroom fridge). Now this noise was not outside of the specifications of the inverter, but it was annoying to the scientists as the inverters were right above their work bench. Aurora covered it – they paid for us to replace them, again at no cost to the customer.
#2 was in 2013 at Brookwater. Genuine Aurora fault – the screen had incorrect historical readings. Aurora gave us a new inverter and paid us to replace it – no cost to the customer.

The Rest

Without putting too fine a point on it, compare this to other inverters (such as JFY, JFI, Clenergy, Sunny Roo and Eversolar). We have found these inverters regularly just stop working. The companies that sell these (e.g. Five Star\Solar Consultants) also “just stop working” (i.e. fold). When and before they do, you’ll have to pay for an electrician to test it, and pay for that electrician to order a new one and install it – and you have to pay for postage of the inverter. The chance of a JFY inverter failing before warranty is up? I’d guess 1 in 5.

So, SMA or ABB?

When you are talking warranties, these are two companies you can trust. And we haven’t even started talking performance – that’s for another blog. Guess who I rate on top?
Update: neither ABB or SMA. Read this blog for my new friend, The Fronius.

Mark Cavanagh

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