Q&A: How Can I Monitor My Solar Power System?

In the early days of solar-powered electricity, solar system owners installed panels but received little information on how the system was performing. The system’s solar inverter might have a read-out of real-time system production, but it was hard to get any details. If you were away from the system during the day, it was tough to know how it performed.

It is helpful to have answers to some basic questions about the performance of your solar power system. Are all of the solar panels producing the same amount of power? How much energy is the system producing over a month or year? Are any issues hindering power production? It used to be very difficult to know, and lack of information also made the warranties less valuable.

If your panels weren’t producing as much power as expected, how would you know?

Welcome to Solar System Monitoring

Now, many solar systems come with monitoring capabilities. This allows home and business owners to analyze solar panel output, with both real-time and historical data.

In many cases, information on each solar panel’s output is available, making it easy to pinpoint and troubleshoot problems. Monitoring helps determine if the equipment is running properly, allowing solar technicians to identify and troubleshoot issues.

There are a variety of solar monitoring systems, and most are associated with solar inverters. Common brands of solar inverters include Fronius, SolarEdge, SMA America, Enphase Energy, and Tigo Energy. Each of these companies typically offers proprietary monitoring software that integrates with their inverters.

Another option is a plug-in that adds monitoring capabilities to your existing solar system. Sense, for example, makes a solar monitoring tool that plugs into a Wi-Fi network to track solar power production and your energy use.

Doesn’t my power bill show how my solar system performed?

No, utility bills are not an accurate way to calculate total solar energy production.

Most electric utilities do compensate their customers for surplus solar energy. This means that there will be a credit line on your bill for solar energy that is fed to the power grid. This number quantifies surplus power from your solar system, not total energy production.

For example, if your refrigerator and air conditioner are running in your home, the solar electricity will power these devices first. Then, the surplus electricity goes to the grid. The utility bill only shows the surplus and won’t reveal how much electricity the appliances were using. This is why monitoring your solar system is crucial. It calculates total solar system production and not merely what is fed to the power grid.

How can I access solar monitoring data?

Data access varies a bit by the platform, but most have apps and online portals to access the data. This means that you can view real-time and historical data with just a few clicks.

Most solar systems that are installed today have monitoring capabilities. Some portals also allow you to sign up to receive alerts if the solar system isn’t performing correctly.

Solar monitoring is a great way to identify production issues early on, such as faulty wires or solar panel issues. Real-time data makes it easier to identify problems quickly before they cause a significant decrease in solar energy production.

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