SMA’s Sunny Boy: Under The Hood. Chinese vs German Manufacturing

chinese and german sma sunny boy

2 x 5kW SMA Sunny Boy Inverters. One made in China (SMA SB 5.0-1AV-40), one made in Germany (SB5000TL-21). How do they compare?

SMA have released a new single phase inverter. They kept the same joyful name of “Sunny Boy” however the model has changed from what was known as the “dash 21” to the “dash 40”.

But let me tell you a well-known secret about the SMA “dash 40”. The respected German manufacturer is manufacturing these new SMA inverters in China.


Has this turned the single phase model of SMA inverters into a cheap Chinese inverter? To find out, I bought myself a 5kW Chinese-built SMA “dash 40” and pulled it apart to compare it to the 5kW German made “dash 21”.

In this post, I’ll first look at the external features: the “smart screen”, the Sunny Home Manager, and the inbuilt DC isolator.

Then I’ll look at the internal build quality, and where the different components are manufactured. Finally, we’ll discuss the after sales service and warranty of SMA. [Read more…]

The Sonnen Battery: Expensive & Warranty Unclear


a marketing shot of a sonnenbatterie in a living room

The lovely looking Sonnen Battery. Don’t ever put one in your living room. That would be silly.

Sonnen is a German company who have been making home batteries longer than Tesla.  They were originally known as sonnenBatterie but shortened their name and called their battery system that.  Its full name in Australia is the sonnenBatterie eco.

Their system is 100% made in Germany using 100% made in Japan batteries and their inverters appear to be 100% made in either Spain or Bulgaria.  All other components are 100% made in whatever countries they were made in. [Read more…]

Solarwatt Solar Panels’ 30 Year Product Warranty Is World’s Best

solarwatt homepage

SolarWatt’s German homepage claims their panels are “Perfekt”. That’s a big call, but their warranty certainly seems as good as it gets.

When it comes to product warranties for solar panels, the American company SunPower has long been king with one that lasts for 25 years.  Not only will they replace any of their panels that fail in that time, but they will send people around to install a new one free of charge and cart away the corpse of the dead panel for autopsy to discover why it died so young.

But SunPower is no longer king.  They have been dethroned. Their quarter of a century product warranty has been beaten by the 30 year product warranty Germany’s Solarwatt has placed upon their double glass panels, which is three times the 10 year industry standard.

That is a very long time.  With the average age of first time home owners in Australia now around 38 years, people could buy a set of Solarwatt panels for their first home and they won’t be out of warranty until after they retire. And maybe they’ll die of old age before any of their panels start to fail.

While in practical terms for most homeowners there is not a huge difference between a 25 year and a 30 year product warranty, But I am very impressed with the confidence Solarwatt has in their solar panels and I am interested in seeing if SunPower will eventually extend its product warranty to meet or beat theirs. [Read more…]

Hanwha Q Cells Q.ANTUM Solar Panels Smash Record For Polysilicon Efficiency

q-cells solar panel efficiency

Q-Cells clever Q.ANTUM design of solar cell promises better efficiency for cheaper, multi crystalline panels.

Hanwha Q Cells has smashed the record for polysilicon solar panel efficiency like a robot driving a steel fist through a fragile silicon wafer. They have achieved an efficiency of 19.5% with a standard sized panel, 1.67m by 1m in size. The module is 301 watts and Hanwha claims it was produced using standard processes on industrial scale production equipment, which means it should be ready to go into production. [Read more…]

Chinese Sopray, Risen and ET solar panels come top in German testing.

chinese panels and a trophy

China win #1 solar panel for 2013 (although US firm Sunpower was robbed!)

Note: this post was written in 2014 and is out-of-date. To get my latest recommended solar panel brands please read my constantly updated Solar 101 Guide.

Hot off the German Press: industry bible Photon Magazine has announced the winners of its 2013 solar panel test. Basically, a bunch of Germans in white coats mount a gazillion solar panels in a field in Germany and measure their power output over 12 months.

At this point, I must point out that 3 separate Sunpower models would have won all of the top 3 spots, but they had to remove them from the table due to a testing machine malfunction…so it is by no means a totally fair test. But it is useful to see which brands perform well despite this rare cock up from our German friends.

So here here are the top 20 for 2013: [Read more…]

Are “Munchen Solar Panels” Actually German? And Are They Any Good?

A German and Chinese Dude

Are Munchen Panels German or Chinese or Both?

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of emails along the lines of:

Hey Finn, Have you ever heard of Munchen Solar Panels? Are they any good? I really want “German Engineered” Panels and these look better than any of that Chinese engineered rubbish!

Well, the short answer is this: “Munchen Solar? Never heard of them. (and btw there are some great Chinese panels out there..)”

But after the quadzillionth email asking the same thing, I thought I’d do some digging to try and discover why there is a sudden spike in interest for these I’ve-never-heard-of-them-before German sounding solar panels. [Read more…]

Bosch Solar : RIP your panels were awesome

a grave

We’ll miss you Bosch Solar

Yesterday was a really sad day for fans of top-of-the-range solar panels. German giant Bosch announced that it could no longer bear to haemorrhage any more cash from its solar division. So it is going to shut the whole shebang down ASAP. [Read more…]

Australia’s solar sector from a German perspective

How much solar contributed to german electricity production on July 23

Great illustration of how much solar can contribute to a nation’s power needs. Source:

Reading news of the Australian solar industry, the recent carbon tax and our energy industry in general can become a little wearisome. The constant carping, criticisms from conservative politicians and vested interests can make it difficult to “see the light” in news reports and articles with regard to the solar industry.

Dare I say certain fossil-fuel interest-driven politicians, combine with (again unnamed) news outlets to paint the renewable energy picture as one of risk and expense instead of a brave new sustainable and clean energy future for the country? [Read more…]

Germany takes knife to solar subsidies

Solar Power in Germany

A German Solar Installation – Are the Solar Glory Days over in Deutschland?

From manufacturing quality cars to leading the continent in economic policy, Germany is often considered Europe’s “go to” country. The “engine room” of European manufacturing also is well out in front of its neighbours in renewable energy policy, with its clear and consistent support for solar installation legendary. [Read more…]

German magazine tests 10 solar panels

In September 2006, respected solar power magazine, Photon International, bolted 10 different solar panel manufacturers panels to a test rig in Germany and measured the performance of those panels over 12 months.

The panels they tested were:

  • Photwatt
  • Solarworld
  • Shell Solar
  • BP Solar
  • Solar Fabrik
  • Isofoton
  • Kyocera
  • Sunways
  • Sanyo
  • Sharp

The results of the testing were that the difference in power produced across all the solar panel brands was 9.85%.

The results are shown here:

Solar Panel test

From Photon International Magazine September 2007

As you can see Photwatt panels came top.

Interestingly the Sanyo panels which many vendors claim are the “best of the best”, came second last. Apparently Sanyo’s excuse was that the magazine were supplied with defective panels, oh and the dog ate their homework too I imagine.

The well known brand “Sharp” came a surprising last place.

Of course this test was 3 years ago. I imagine that the losers of this test have upped their game in recent years. The latest issue of the magazine has some more recent results in it as soon as it arrives in the mail from sunny Germany, I’ll let you know the latest winners.

Wouldn’t it be great to put the top 10 most popular Australia panels through a similar test (including the many ‘own-brand’ panels). Let me know if you think that is a good idea in the comments. If I get enough interest I may organise such a test myself. Watch this space…

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