By Scott Laskey
After investing in a home solar panel installation, it’s helpful to know what kind of return it’s generating. Fortunately, you don’t have to be content with relying on someone else’s word when it comes to your system’s performance. Modern solar panel monitoring methods give you plenty of convenient options for tracking everything from efficiency to long-term usage and hardware settings.
Are you the type of person who prefers taking a hands-on approach to your favorite gadgets? PV system monitoring is a good way to get more involved. Here’s why you should be excited about the benefits of proactive solar panel ownership.
What does a solar system monitoring unit do? Think about it like a vehicle dashboard. Instead of only telling you about a few choice particulars, however, PV system monitoring tools reveal in-depth parameters concerning energy generation, battery storage and relevant environmental characteristics. A typical oversight tool might let you see the
Such feedback does far more than just keep you informed about current power output and remaining battery life. California initiatives like the Self-Generation Incentive Program require your solar system to include compliant monitoring equipment to qualify for a rebate. Your choice of technology could very well make your solar installation even more affordable.
In the early days of home solar panel installations, the only way to obtain all of this data was to read it from a display panel attached to your system. Fortunately, things have progressed by leaps and bounds since then.
Enjoy doing everything from one convenient place? Many inverters incorporate Bluetooth integration, so you can keep up with your solar system’s performance using your smartphone.
Such functionality goes both ways. In addition to enabling remote PV system monitoring, your installation may let you control key settings and create custom usage profiles. Depending on how you set up your inverter and tracking system, you can also oversee details remotely via Ethernet connections or receive SMS texts.
Want more control over how your solar monitoring system works? Start hacking.
Implementations similar to OpenEnergyMonitor are based on the popular, open-source Raspberry Pi and Arduino computing platforms. Some renewable power enthusiasts have even published free code for linking commercially available solar hardware with your social media accounts.
True, these solar panel monitoring methods present non-technical users with higher entry barriers. For hackers and hobbyists, however, they’re just logical outcroppings of the sense of self-sufficiency that already underlies many home solar panel installation projects.
Modern solar panel monitoring units also integrate with data storage systems. Unlike conventional utility meters that only display instantaneous consumption, these devices let you observe performance over time and learn better usage habits.
Since each home solar panel installation is unique, it pays to understand the nuances of your setup. Being able to chart your generation and usage on a straightforward visual graph might also make you a greener energy consumer.
Consumers once had to settle for system-wide performance monitoring. Today, however, they can enjoy more fine-grained perspectives by using hardware that reveals critical details on smaller scales.
For instance, microinverters by Enphase and other providers let you monitor particulars on the per-module level. Another less expensive, yet equally reliable way to implement panel-by-panel monitoring is to install DC/DC power optimizers, such as those made by SolarEdge.
Many inverters work with an array of solar panel monitoring methods, hardware and software. It’s simply a matter of picking a compatible setup that lets you see the performance factors that you’re interested in tracking. Talking to a PV system monitoring expert is a good start.
As the biggest name in solar installation for Monterey and the Central Coast as well as San Jose, CA, Sandbar Solar takes pride in helping consumers make smarter decisions about how they use renewable energy. With 13 years of successful design, installation and troubleshooting experience, the Sandbar team looks forward to solving the solar power challenges of the future. Be a part of progress by talking to one of our experts today.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar & Electric. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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