Does my solar system come with monitoring?

GNR8 Monitoring

How can you know whether the solar system that delivers power to your home is functioning properly? A solar system is a significant investment and it’s in your best interest to be aware of how well it is doing its job. The more efficient your solar system works, the lower the total cost of ownership.

These days most solar systems come with some form of cloud based online monitoring accessible from a web browser or smart device app.

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Homeowners can use the data collected to compare to the yield estimate your installer is required to provide you with your system. This is the best way for a homeowner to know if their system is performing as designed or if there is an issue.

All of Generate Energy’s systems come with customer monitoring as well as being monitored via our various fleet accounts. In the event of a fault being detected Generate Energy is automatically notified via email which allows us to be proactive about addressing the issue and getting your system back up and running as fast as possible!

Homeowners in Australia who have a solar power system already may also not realize that in years gone past a typical solar system did not usually come with online monitoring. At Generate Energy we highly encourage home owners without system monitoring to retrofit it to their system. If the inverter does not come with any form of monitoring Generate Energy can install a third party product called Solar Analytics onto your existing system.

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Read on for details about solar system monitoring and how this can help your own solar setup.

What is Monitoring?

Basic solar monitoring will display your live solar output, log your daily, monthly, yearly and total generation figures as well as notifying you and/or your installer in the event of a fault being detected. In most cases this amount of information is all a home owner needs to keep an eye on their investment.

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In general the more common string inverter systems only provide a homeowner with the total system output. More advanced systems that contain module level monitoring like Enphase and SolarEdge allow a homeowner to monitor each panel (see example below)

 GNR8 SolarEdge

Panel level monitoring allows a small problem with a single panel to be observed. In the image below the middle panel is a darker colour and has produced far less than the other panels adjacent. This is actually an Enphase test system from one of Generate Energy’s directors and that particular panel has a blown by-passs diode and 1/3 of the panel is no longer working. This kind of failure would be impossible to pick-up if it was a string inverter system without module level monitoring.

 GNR8 Monitoring array

Homeowners also have the choice to enhance their monitoring with some more advanced optional accessories that enable consumption monitoring. Consumption monitoring allows you to monitor the electricity you and your family are using, how much solar is being self-consumed and also being exported to the grid.

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It should be noted that when you add a battery to a system the battery monitoring will always include consumption monitoring as the battery needs to know the live house loads. 

GNR8 Powerwall monitoring image

Benefits of Solar Monitoring

There are a number of benefits of solar monitoring:

  • Data Collection: A monitor provides you with all the data you need to track the efficiency and output of your system. 
  • Get Information at a Glance: real-time feedback about your system is easy to check whenever you are curious about solar system performance.
  • Failure Warning: monitoring will allow you to get alerts in faults or shut downs in your system. You’ll be notified if the performance of the panels, battery or inverter fails. Staying on top of problems when they first arise instead of after they have grown more pronounced can save you in maintenance and repair bills. 
  • Optional Consumption Monitoring: understand and observe your consumption patterns. Make changes to your daily habits to move loads to times of the day when you have plenty of excess solar available. Tip – set delay starts on your washing machine and dishwasher so they run during your peak generating times!
  • Fleet Monitoring: Your installer can be notified by email of an issue and can also remotely diagnose issues without having to attend site.

 

Record Your Energy Consumption for Billing

When you sit down to go over your budget and bills, wouldn’t it be nice to have some precise statistics on how much energy your family is actually using each month? A monitoring system for your solar power system which includes consumption monitoring will help you see where and why your bill has gone up or down. 

Perhaps you have been leaving lights on when leaving rooms or are running appliances more often than needed or at night instead of during the day (such as turning on the dishwasher when it’s only partially full of soiled dishes).

By staying on top of your energy consumption patterns, you can easily identify trends (discovering overconsumption that is unintentional, for example, or to see if you are meeting goals to reduce usage). What’s more, if there should be an issue with your utility about how much power you took from the grid, your monitor will help you record potential billing errors. 

Record Energy Consumption for Optimisation

If you do not examine your energy usage, it will be difficult to optimise your solar power system. This is why so many homeowners opt to install consumption monitoring with their solar right from the start. The equipment will show you at what times you consume the most electricity. You’ll also learn when your system tends to draw energy from the solar panels versus from your battery. Sometimes a home’s solar power panels are not matched very well with the battery storage system. A monitor can definitely help you identify trends to see if you need to update the system in any way.

Since the system is constantly keeping track of usage, it’s simple to set it up to give you warnings whenever battery use is high. The more data you collect and crunch, the more efficiently you can use power going forward.

Keeping an Eye on Solar

If you have any questions about solar system monitoring or would like to consult with an expert on monitoring for your setup, please get in touch with Generate Energy today.

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