How to explain Secure Power Supply to homeowners

From on 05/24/2016 in Category Technology with 31 Comments

SMA’s Secure Power Supply does something that no other grid-tied solar inverter without added storage can: provide power during a grid outage. Solar professionals have been talking about this amazing feature since its inception with the Sunny Boy TL-US and our data shows consumers love it. Now with even more power in the all-new Sunny Boy-US, it’s important to make sure you truly understand how to convey the benefits of this groundbreaking feature so that you can better differentiate your SMA proposal from your non-SMA competition.

To best showcase the value of Secure Power Supply (SPS) it’s important to start talking about it during the initial customer meeting. Let’s take a look at the top things to consider when explaining SPS to homeowners.

1. Make sure the homeowner understands that grid-tied inverters can’t make power during an outage

This seems obvious to those of us in the industry, but average homeowners haven’t been educated on this and it’s our job as industry professionals to teach them. Once they understand why, it’s an easy transition to talk about how SPS can provide up to 2,000 watts to a dedicated outlet without costly batteries while keeping the system fully code compliant.

2. The most cost-effective security you can buy

The $350 to $400 average cost for installing SPS is well worth the security and peace of mind it provides. The additional expenditure equates to only about $.05 per day over the lifetime of the system! And if your customer isn’t ready to commit to SPS right away, it’s a simple retrofit at any time after the system is commissioned. We’re fairly certain that after the homeowner’s first grid outage, you’ll be getting a call to come back for SPS.

3. SPS has a maximum of 2,000 watts and homeowners will want to know what that means

SPS can provide a maximum of 2,000 watts but most homeowners only equate watts with lightbulbs. Don’t be afraid to tell a homeowner what 2,000 watts can power. Help them by relating stories of previous customers who have used it to charge cell phones after a storm or to power gaming equipment for a family competition during an outage. We’ve even heard about a neighbor who used it to keep his beer cold. Your customer stories and suggested uses will make SPS more relatable. One handy and light-hearted way to show some example SPS uses come from our What Can You Power with SPS video (keep in mind this was made for the Sunny Boy TL-US’ 1,500 watt SPS).

4. Nothing bad will happen if you try to use more than 2,000 watts

SPS is undersized relative to most Sunny Boys’ AC output. This ensures that even during cloudy or other low irradiance conditions, SPS will operate at or near nameplate. Think of SPS like a checking account. A homeowner can write as many checks as he or she wants, in the form of various devices being plugged in. He or she will simply be limited by the amount of money in the account. Though a homeowner can overdraw from their SPS checking account, SMA has built-in automatic over-current protection that simply deactivates the feature when either 2,000 watts or 20 amps is exceeded…and there’s no overdraft fee (someone needs to relay this concept to my bank!). The system will wait 20 seconds to reconnect and ensure the energy demands are below the maximum. That wait period allows the homeowner enough time to unplug one or more devices and bring the demands down, then check the inverter’s display to verify the amount of energy being used. This process can be repeated as often as needed for the homeowner to make the best use of the available power without any risk to the integrity of the inverter or the rest of the solar system.

5. If the homeowner has frequent outages and relies on SPS often, maybe they need a Sunny Island

SPS is the perfect first step for homeowners that are concerned about needing backup power. For those living in areas prone to winter storms or summer brown-outs, the initial value of SPS can be the gateway to helping them realize the potential of battery backup all-the-while determining their load demands based on necessity. The ability for these types of homeowners to feel the relief of backup power and determine the “must haves” from the “nice to haves” in times of grid outages creates a prime opportunity to discuss adding a moderate battery bank and Sunny Island to the existing Sunny Boy system. After all, customer education is half the work for battery-based systems. Letting SPS do some of the teaching better prepares the homeowner for the benefits and limits that battery-based systems allow for.

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31 Comments

  • avatar

    AlexYackery

    09/28/2016 at 9:55 am

    When it is about the householders, it is very important to serve them with the most cost-effective security. As far as cost for installing is considered, $350 to $400 is an average cost and worth spending. Moreover, additional expenditure of only about $.05 per day, that too for the entire lifetime is not at all a bad deal.

    Reply »
  • avatar

    Gilbert

    07/25/2017 at 8:33 pm

    What is the current price of Sunny Boy TL-US’ 1,500 watt SPS?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Carlo

      08/09/2017 at 9:03 am

      Hello Gilbert, thanks for your interest in our Sunny Boy TL-US inverters. For pricing information, we recommend you contact one of our authorized distributors. You can learn more about them at http://www.sma-america.com/where-to-buy.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Steve

    08/30/2017 at 8:25 am

    If I have a SUNNY BOY 7.0-US and a 7.7-US, can I use the SPS from each of these to produce 240V or would both of these be in the same phase? If so, can the phase of one be adjusted to make the 240V?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      09/21/2017 at 8:36 am

      Hi Steve, the two SPS outputs cannot be synchronized, so they cannot be combined to produce 240 split phase. There is nothing in the inverter that can adjust the output of one SPS to 240 split phase either.

      Reply »
      • avatar

        Johan Bouwer

        01/23/2018 at 3:13 pm

        I had the same question. However, can an auto-transformer do the trick? I am installing a 30Kw system and need three or four of these Sunny Boys (I haven’t done the calculations yet), can the emergency power be paralleled to combine the amperage, say to 80 Amp?

        JB

      • avatar

        Mike

        01/24/2018 at 10:15 am

        Hello Johan! Paralleling wont work if the AC waveforms are not synchronized (like randomly paralleling a backup generator and the grid). You can get several different SPS outlets, but multiple SPS outputs cannot be synchronized. If you are looking for substantial amperage at 240 VAC, please consider our Sunny Island and a battery backup system.

  • avatar

    Carlos R

    09/04/2017 at 3:01 pm

    Can I install the SPS to a Sunny Boy SN10000TLUS-12? That’s the unit I have but it didn’t come with it installed. If so, how can I get one?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      09/21/2017 at 8:37 am

      Hello Carlos, the SPS feature is only included in the Sunny Boy TL-US-22 and US-40 lines. It cannot be retrofit into older models, unfortunately.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Les Kangas

    09/29/2017 at 5:23 pm

    Please explain that the sun must be out, meaning, if you are in Oregon and it is raining or snowing, you won’t get 2000w and those are the times the grid goes down.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Alejandro

      10/03/2017 at 9:06 am

      Les – you got it! The amount of power provided by the SPS feature depends on the amount of irradiance. In order for the system to be able to provide the maximum 16 A required for 2000 W of power there must be enough light for the PV system to provide as much current, if irradiance is low, as is the case when there is rain or snow, the amount of current available will be significantly lower.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Ron

    10/01/2017 at 10:45 am

    My system has two Sunny Boy 3.8-US inverters, each with a Secure Power duplex outlet. 2000 watts per outlet. Can these two outlets be paralleled to provide 4000 watts of power?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Alejandro

      10/03/2017 at 9:05 am

      SMA does not recommend connecting SPS in parallel, this feature is intended only for providing temporary power to small loads depending on weather conditions. Additionally, the outputs cannot be synchronized to provide 240VAC power.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Michael G.

    10/04/2017 at 9:04 am

    Hi there, I’m not a solar professional but am interested in disaster resilience — this is very exciting technology. I’d like to get a sense of how many existing residential rooftop systems are compatible with this technology. Can any system be retrofit to add this conponent? Can most added in the last 5 years? I’m in California if that’s helpful information.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Alejandro

      10/19/2017 at 4:12 pm

      The Secure Power Supply is a feature that is unique to our Sunny Boy TL-22 and our Sunny Boy US-40 inverters. If you have any of these inverter models then you can adapt a dedicated outlet to provide up to 1500 W of power; in the case of the TL-22 or 2000 W for the Sunny Boy US-40, of course the maximum power supply depends on irradiance conditions. For other models it is not possible to have this feature.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Miguel

    11/08/2017 at 7:45 pm

    Does the SMA 7.7-US come with SPS??
    I am installing an array with this SB but the Inverter hasn’t come yet.
    This SPS may help me while I may get a Sunny Island.

    Thanks

    Miguel

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      11/21/2017 at 1:31 pm

      The SPS function requires a switch and outlet, appropriate for the install location, to be wired directly to this inverter to utilize the SPS. Please have the qualified system installer consult the installation manual (Section 6.6) for details: http://files.sma.de/dl/27676/SB30-77-1SP-US-40-IA-xx-14.pdf

      Reply »
  • avatar

    JJ Riggs

    11/29/2017 at 11:48 am

    Hello, is there a minimum wattage/voltage the inverter must see to activate SPS? Thanks!

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      12/11/2017 at 10:28 am

      With the new Sunny Boy US-40, the inverter needs only to see 125VDC from the array to begin producing power at the SPS outlet. The inverter/array does need to be able to produce as much power as the SPS-connected loads need for it to function.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Steve Conway

    05/04/2018 at 5:53 am

    Can SPS be used with Sunpower AC panels?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      05/04/2018 at 9:39 am

      Hi Steve! No, the SPS function is only available with the Sunny Boy-US line of residential string inverters. With AC modules, the microinverters are built in to the module – it is not possible to use the Sunny Boy.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Steve conway

    05/04/2018 at 5:54 am

    Follow up question
    Can Sunny Island be used with Sunpower AC panels?
    Thanks

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      05/04/2018 at 9:40 am

      Yes. If the system is to be grid-tied with backfeed to the grid allowed, be aware that each SI can only backfeed 56A at 120VAC, or 6720 W, of PV power, so the system must be sized accordingly. For off-grid systems, this limit is not applicable, but the general rule of thumb for good battery life is no more than 2kW of PV per kW of Sunny Island capacity, and at least 100Ah of battery capacity per kW of PV capacity. Also, be aware that when working off-grid, if the Sunny Island uses Frequency Shift Power Control, the AC panels will simply turn off once the microgrid frequency goes above 60.5Hz, and will come back into operation no sooner than 5 min after the frequency comes back within normal grid limits.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Steve Conway

    05/04/2018 at 11:30 am

    How does the inverter work without AC power?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      05/04/2018 at 3:53 pm

      One of the features of the Sunny Island inverter is that it can form a microgrid and become the Voltage and Frequency source for the AC coupled microinverters. This way if the grid goes down, the SI will begin generating the AC waveform on its own.

      Reply »
    • avatar

      DOYLE TOBIN

      09/09/2018 at 12:04 pm

      Question: How to we find someone to provide support when the original installation company was bought out?

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Tim O'Flaherty

    07/24/2018 at 6:48 am

    So, a storm hits, the grid goes down temporarily, I hit the switch on the dedicated outlet/switch installed and I have access to 2kw of power assuming there is enough sun on my array to generate it. If I understand correctly, as sun/available power varies my system will shut down when I exceed available power and attempt to turn back on after a pause to allow me to unplug an item or two. Two questions, does that happens without me using the switch, yes? and… When power to the grid is restored do I need to turn off the switch to the SPS before the full system powers up?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      07/24/2018 at 8:56 am

      Hi Tim! Yes, in SPS mode, the inverter will automatically try to reconnect if the load asks for more power than available. There is no need to employ the SPS switch. When in SPS mode, if the grid returns the same solar day, then the switch must be turned off for the inverter to go back into grid-tied mode. If the switch is left on, once the sun goes down, the inverter will power down. The next morning, when the inverter wakes up, it will check for the grid. If the grid is present and within spec, the inverter will go back into grid tied mode, even if the SPS switch is still on. The SPS outlet will not be powered. This is done to ensure that the owner does not “forget” they were in SPS mode and lose up to a month of utility bill offset. Furthermore, if the grid is still out the next day, the system owner must turn off and turn back on the SPS switch to use the SPS function.

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Dave Anderson

    09/21/2018 at 8:04 am

    I have a SB 6.0-1SP-US-40 and a generator connected to the main feed with a manual 125/30 amp transfer switch. It seems if a power failure occurs during the day and the weather is mild so no need for A/C or lights thus the prime need is only for the refrigerator and freezer and maybe a fan then using the SPS power would make more sense than the generator. Is there a way to wire this permanently to a single 110 side of a electrical panel or to wire another 30/30 transfer switch that would be both safe and convenient instead of using extension cords and pulling out the appliances to get to the plugs?

    If no power is being drawn from the SPS outlet is there any reason it could not be left turned on?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Mike

      09/21/2018 at 11:21 am

      Dave – lots of folks have come up with interesting ways to wire the SPS outlet. Be aware that the SPS outlet is not powered when the inverter is operating as a grid tied inverter, and the outlet must not be exposed to a voltage source (backfed by grid/generator). Furthermore, the switch is not making/breaking the line conductor to the outlet. It is relaying to the inverter that the user wants SPS mode vs grid-tied mode. If the inverter is in grid tied mode, the switch position is ignored, as grid-tied mode is the preferred/default operating mode. Only when the grid has failed and there is sufficient DC voltage to operate will the inverter pay attention to the SPS switch position. Also, each solar day that there is a continuing outage, the SPS feature must be re-enabled by turning the switch off and then on again. So leaving the switch “on” will not do what you intend.

      Reply »

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