How to explain Secure Power Supply to homeowners

This post was originally published in 2016. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

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).

What can Secure Power Supply do for you?

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.

73 Comments
  1. Avatar
    AlexYackery says:

    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
  2. Avatar
    Steve says:

    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
  3. Avatar
    Carlos R says:

    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
  4. Avatar
    Les Kangas says:

    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
  5. Avatar
    Ron says:

    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
  6. Avatar
    Michael G. says:

    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
  7. Avatar
    Miguel says:

    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
  8. Avatar
    Tim O'Flaherty says:

    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
  9. Avatar
    Dave Anderson says:

    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
  10. Avatar
    Phillip Glau says:

    My main refrigerator is 13 LRA @ 120VAC (~1560 W) but operates at 6.5 A (under full load) = ~780 W.

    Given the above, it it reasonable to assume the the 2000W version would be able to start the compressor on my fridge?

    Would the 1500 watt version be able to handle the instantaneous draw to break rotor lock?

    Also there a separate peak/instantaneous rating for the SPS as different from continuous rating?

    Are there guidelines/specifications regarding load that have LRA specifications?

    Reply
  11. Avatar
    Josh says:

    Is there an electrical code requirement in California that adds to the cost of upgrading to an SPS system. A local solar contractor is telling by that it will cost $1,500 due to special California electrical code requirements. He mentioned something about needing individual disconnects at the solar panels if the SPS upgrade is provided. Is this correct?

    Reply
  12. Avatar
    william says:

    SMA sunnny boy inverters deliver on value and quality for grid-tied residential systems. I find that customers who aren’t interested in a hybrid with battery back-up array, or who aren’t budgeting for one, will find the SPS mode as a major secondary benefit in essentially allowing the homeowner to have the benefit of back up power when the grid does happen to be down.

    Reply
  13. Avatar
    Roland says:

    Hi, we live in New Zealand and I’ve got a Sunny Boy as well. Is it possible to get the Secure Power Supply here as well? Or is it only available in the US?

    I want power during an outage and without SPS I would have to buy a battery solution which is quite expensive.

    Reply
  14. Avatar
    Wynnn says:

    Hi, I have 8 panels with micro inverters – the array is physically up for 4 years but never connected. Not sure what happened from previous owner (job never completed?)

    There’s a line to the main panel, but switched to off.

    I was going to ask if I can just connect that line to a Sunny boy and get power from the outlet when the sun is shining, but then I saw that it may not be compatible with Enphase micro inverters?

    What should I do to make this grid-tied off grid even with limited day time only use from a single power outlet?

    8 panels is what <2kWatt? Just want to be able to use it cheaply, safely (not connected to the grid), as opposed to a roof decoration.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  15. Avatar
    Rick Anciado says:

    Can I use the SMA Sunny Boy with SPS feature in the Philippines ? The residential voltage here is 220V and 60HZ.

    Reply
  16. Avatar
    Ehren says:

    Can the sps be wire directly to a panel with an interlock? If so can two sps feed into the same panel on each leg or will this create a neutral issue? 120v breakers only

    Reply
  17. Avatar
    Adner says:

    In a power outage, is there a way to enable the SPS outlet once the TS4-R-F do the rapid disconnect (per latest 2017 NEC stipulations)?

    Reply
  18. Avatar
    Allan says:

    I believe I read that the SPS functionality will not work with DC optimizers. Can you say if that is correct and why it can’t work? Also is this something that could be “fixed” in the future.

    Reply
  19. Avatar
    mcsherman chidukwana says:

    hello
    i have a sunny boy 3000tl-20 it does not have the SPS connections is it possible to purchase the module and install it
    or it does not support totally

    Reply
  20. Avatar
    Brian Brown says:

    So looking to hook up 2 sma 7.7 and use the SPS in a sub panel box to make 220 to run my well punp it needs 180 volts plus 5 amps to run. looking to fill up a 500 gallen tank that sits near the house and use gravaty to feed from a 3 inch to 1 inch line. Question when its running will i only have 15 amps and 1820 volts left for house ?

    Reply
  21. Avatar
    J. Thomson says:

    Most of my customers want a secure power supply. A true sense of security means you can depend on it when you need it and it will start the loads you need most. Back-up up power is most valuable during a storm, at night when you need need lights, or when you need to start a well pump. Once I explain to customers SMA’s SPS doesn’t work at night and may not start a pump, the value of this feature is diminished significantly. I prefer to simply avoid the SPS topic all together as it brings up too many negatives and just sell them a battery and keep the customer experience positive.

    Reply
  22. Avatar
    SCOTT NELMS says:

    I have installed a 19.2kw system with 60 Jinko 320 Eagle panels and 3 Sunny Boy model 40 inverters with the 3 2000w plugs inside of the hose. How can I test in advance to see if I can run my large but new LG energy star fridge. My idea was to set the fridge part for max cold even if it freezes in the day so it does not cycle on and off.

    There is a master safety disconnect lever between my meter and my inverters. Can I just turn that off to get some idea in advance what can be run? Also, one of my inverters is a 7.0, should I try and identify that for the fridge vs the 6.0s? Or does that make a difference? Thanks

    Reply
  23. Avatar
    CLARK says:

    HELLO, I have an SMA 3.8 and 3.0 US 40 installed recently with Tigo optimizers Ts4 A 0 mission solar panels 7.4kw. Are there other options [hardware/firmware] in order to use my SPS feature so that I can plug in my fridge during grid outage/off grid during hurricanes?

    Reply
  24. Avatar
    Tom O'Connor says:

    I’ve enjoyed explaining the Secure Power Supply to homeowners for years, but now I find myself having to explain why their SPS on their Sunny Boy US-41 won’t work because we put TS4-R-Fs on all their panels.

    Might there be a forthcoming workaround for this situation? Might there be a workaround if I’m willing to forego the rapid shutdown functionality?

    Might a future software update be able to address this issue? Thanks.

    Reply
  25. Avatar
    Dhanraj says:

    Hi Team SMA
    India looks to be a developing market for Solar Microinverters, We are a Solar Company in India & have developed a good market here, we have few projects where we want to use Microinverters and also want to sell the same product in India, please let us know whom to contact & how to reach you.

    Reply

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