Sunday, 19 June 2011

SMA Sunny Beam Monitor

 I really, really wanted one of these and was desperate to include this item in my solar power package. I was delighted when it finally arrived, but feel slightly disappointed by the monitoring device.

It is hugely sophisticated, allowing me to view the data displayed on the inverter (mounted outside) in my hall. I had none of the much discussed Bluetooth connection problems and the information available on the various screens is comprehensive. However, all of this data is merely fluff and powder unless you can download it all. No false modesty here, I’m an expert Microsoft Excel user. I can manipulate data and display it in lots of ways to ensure the information is understood. The problem is there is very little data to manipulate….

 I may be wrong….But, there appears to be only two file options to download.

1.      Details the hourly output of the system for a specific day. You also get the total output for the day. Click to view daily data.

2.      Details the daily output of the system for a specific month. You also get the total of output for the system. Click to view monthly data.

SMA seems to have been very uninspired in the scope and ambition for this device. Surely it would not have been impossible to allow users to download ALL of the data concerned and manipulate it to generate huge amounts of useful information.

9/10 for the hardware.

3/10 for the software.

If you’ve got one and are doing better than me, tell me your thoughts.



  1. Well... I also got one of these gizmos and whilst it looks cool and tells you the current power being generated quickly and easily it's really more eye candy than a useful data resource:
    1. I get only the daily files for the last 3 days - 16, 17 & 18 Oct. It left out the previous two since the system was commissioned. I can only get those data files via Sunny Explorer and the laptop bluetooth connection.
    2. It gives just one more file type - daily totals. That's it!

    The daily files supply data at 10 minute intervals. However, when the same files are accessed via Sunny Explorer on laptop, the data entries are five minutes apart. Odd.

    It's also strange that the Sunny Beam displays data that it does not send via the usb ... So it feels like an unfinished piece of work, however pretty it might be.

  2. @Chrisso
    Hi Chrisso. You seem to have reached the same conclusions as me regarding this piece of kit. As you will see from my spreadsheets, I'm getting two sets of data off the system. Not very impressive based on the price of the item and the huge amount of information it obviously compiles.
    If you want to email me the excel data you're currently accessing I'll happily check if it's the same information as I'm accessing.
    Best regards

  3. Fully agree with the comments so far - my system uses SMA's 'Bluetooth Piggy-Back' with dongle purchased from Maplin for £15 plugged in to my laptop. The panel installers inserted the SMA 'Piggy-Back' hardware in to the inverter. SMA technical support here in the UK were extremely helpful (by e-m) in getting me over the set-up routine for my laptop: full marks to them.

    My system is 12 of Sunpower 333w 'e20' series on SW aspect.

    The inverter was located as close as possible to the panels and on a north facing side of the house inside the loft - all at the installer's insistance, who happened to quote the views expressed elsewhere in your site's 'posts' that the inverter is best in a cool stable environment and as near as possible to the panels.

    Consequently this SMA gizzmo is vital in monitoring the inverter's readings, because otherwise there would be the fiasco of going up and down to the loft day in day out.

    I find the facility very useful and within 4 weeks of installation and use, I have now become fairly expert at guessing (correctly) the kW being generated by the panels and therefore which electricity gadgets to use(or not). My wife now consults it before putting on the washing machine.

    Sunpower (SMA) could easily have knocked up a bit of software that does what I do on my own spreadsheet and that is, record daily weather beside daily panel output.

    The other item I record on spreadsheet is weekly mains meter reading. This is to try and formulate a relationship between solar generated kW and mains electricity units used. It is also a safeguard should my electricity company (SSE) ever query readings. As an aside, the installer urged me to write to SSE and inform them that my (old style) mains meter runs backwards when exporting to the grid.

    For the first few weeks I also recorded 3 times daily light meter readings using a photographer's 'Weston' light meter. This allowed me to understand quite quickly the relationship between light, weather and kW generation by the panels. It is particulary instructive here (north of Inverness on east coast)where cloud patterns are constantly on the move.

    SUMMARY - on SMA's monitoring device - very useful.


    1. Hi.Iain. You know the old saying about the "Grass always being greener"? I envy your installation, 12 Sumpower panels rated at 333W and a 20% efficiency rating is awesome. Technology is moving so fast, my decision in June 2011 to put 14 Schuco 190W panels onto my roof would be very different today.
      Good luck with the system and keep in touch.

    2. Thanks for your very speedy response.

      Yes,the speed of the changing technology is staggering. Little wonder the Government wishes to alter the rulebook! We originally were quoted in August last year to have Sanyo panels, being amongst the most efficient at that time. By the time that we could have the job done - we were out of the country for a number of months - the installer insisted on quoting the currently most efficient panels and what he considered to be 'the best' on the market Sunpower e20 series.

      I have also discovered the bit in your www site with the template for submitting annual readings. This is most impressive - you've done a mountain of work! - and in due course I will send all this info to you.

      Incidentally, I'm the chap that is interested in knowing if anyone has first hand experience of the Window Cleaning Warehouse solar panel cleaning kit at £300 + VAT. I asked the company if they had a demo video, but alas they said it was something they were thinking about doing.

      All the very best from The Highlands