(Nectr formally known as InstyleSolar)

What Is Solar Monitoring and How Does It Work?

Solar monitoring will give you information on how much energy you have, if you have it and how long you have it for! As the expression goes, knowledge is power. Installing solar is a great method to cut energy bills and emissions, but with the additional knowledge acquired from monitoring, the savings can be significantly boosted.

Despite the fact that solar panels have no moving components and require no physical maintenance, many individuals contemplating solar wonder, “How can I know whether my panels are operating correctly once installed?” The answer is simply, solar analytics.

In this article, we will examine the importance of monitoring both electricity usage solar generation. Solar Analytics is a well-known solar monitoring instrument. We look at the unique information that solar analytics provides, as well as how you can use it to spot problems early.

What Is Solar Monitoring?

Most solar providers include some sort of monitoring system with the systems they install, whether it’s a physical monitor on your property or an app you can access via the internet. If your supplier does not provide monitoring, you can monitor solar energy generation using the solar inverter. If you have micro-inverters, your supplier must provide an app or website that allows you to view the inverter data.

Monitoring software communicates with the inverters on your solar panels. Your solar inverter converts solar energy captured by your panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). As it collects this energy, it captures data to a computer or mobile device, that allows a panel owner to monitor each panel’s:

  • Production of energy
  • Power output
  • Energy performance 

This data makes it simpler to identify whether or not the equipment is operating properly, allowing solar experts to spot and solve problems. Aside from reporting your solar energy output, some solar monitoring systems allow you to view your house or business’s energy usage and compare it to your production levels.

If you’ve had your solar panels for a while, you may monitor production by comparing your output to past weeks or months. If your panels are brand new, you should compare them to the monthly kWh estimate provided by your solar panel provider.

Solar monitoring systems come in a number of forms, the majority of which are linked to solar inverters.

Man sits on chair looking at his solar analytics app on a tablet

Monitoring Through Your Inverter

There’s no reason why a high-quality system shouldn’t work efficiently and reliably for many years. However, converting to solar is not an install and ignore the process.

It is still critical to maintain your system annually and to monitor your solar inverter on a regular basis. This maintenance ensures it’s performing as it should. You can use your inverter to monitor how much free, clean electricity your panels are producing.

Here are some ways to understand how to check your solar inverter.

Look For Any Warning Lights

If there is a problem with your system, various warning lights will appear depending on the model of your inverter. Most solar power inverters can now handle faults by restarting themselves. However, in some circumstances, you may need to physically shut it down.

Take Notice

You may spot a flashing light and notice a clicking noise in the morning or evening as certain inverters turn on or off. There is no need to be concerned because these are regular inverter functions. Only if your inverter continues to show an error light throughout the day should you reset it.

Track Performance

The most essential technique to ensuring your inverter is running properly is to consistently monitor its performance. Almost all inverter models available now have the ability to monitor ‘output,’ which is the quantity of solar energy your system creates.

Higher-end inverters, have extra monitoring features, to maximise self-consumption of the solar electricity you create. It can automatically coordinate energy flows and improve your energy management.

Peaks and troughs in system output can occur for a variety of causes. These include changing seasons and shading over panels, as well as simple inverter faults and more severe technical issues you may be experiencing. Regular monitoring allows you to spot problems at an early stage.

Inverters will typically offer daily output statistics, with some additionally providing monthly averages. If yours does not, simply record your daily output at the beginning and end of each month. Then to get the average just divide the discrepancy by the number of days between those two output records.

Compare Your Data

Following installation, your solar power supplier should have given you documents outlining your system’s expected production. On the day of installation  To ensure that your system is functioning properly compare each month’s recorded data with the statistics given by your supplier.

If your system performance falls short of the expected output, and there is no clear reason for this, you should request help from a licenced solar power service technician.

Monitoring Using a Solar Analytics System

Solar analytics gives you additional information about when and how you use solar energy. You can maximise your savings by timing your appliances and lowering your consumption at night by assessing your energy use. Solar Analytics improves your solar system’s input to present you with additional information.

Solar Analytics is a small additional gadget with monitoring software that allows you to monitor solar output as well as power use in real-time. The device employs a tiny electronic component implanted within the board that uses very precise sensors to detect solar power production and energy usage. 

Every few seconds, the gathered data is transferred to a mobile App through the onboard transmitter. The computers then analyse it to deliver a wealth of relevant information such as:

  • Overall performance of the solar unit
  • Power consumption and usage habits
  • Net power purchased and sold
  • How much power your device should be producing vs. how much it really produces
  • Estimated savings and credits
  • Monitoring of grid frequency and voltage
  • Diagnostics, alerts and failures

With this gathered data, the solar monitoring software can reliably diagnose issues and identify any performance issues. 

Monitoring Performance of Your Solar Unit

Installation of a solar setup on your home or company is a major investment.  So, it goes without saying that you want to make sure it works properly and generates enough electricity throughout the year.

Identifying if a solar setup is performing as planned is difficult for most persons who are unfamiliar with solar system monitoring. For example, there are several elements that can affect a system’s performance, such as:

  • Local weather
  • De-rating of power temperature
  • Shading, either partial or complete on your solar unit
  • Cabling and inverter failures
  • Panel inclination and orientation
  • Seasonal changes throughout the year

Taking all these factors into account this is why solar monitoring is so important as the general man on the street lacks technical expertise and specialist equipment. 

Why Is It So Important to Have Solar Monitoring?

Electricity usage trends might vary greatly amongst families. Most owners have no idea how much electricity is being used at any one moment, or which devices or appliances are using the most power.

Most people are unaware that heating can contribute up to 80% of total energy usage during the winter months. Furthermore, electric hot water geysers can account for up to 40% of overall power use. When it comes to power circuit management, solar monitoring system helps to provide precise consumption statistics. It also gives you the option to monitor particular power circuits such as heating systems.

The more your understanding of your usage habits, the greater the amount of power you can save. When multiple appliances are separately turned on and off, the consumption meter or energy monitor allows the owner to see exactly how much energy is being consumed by each device.

Fault Detection in Your Solar Setup

It is always best to detect a fault early on. This way it reduces the risk of complete failure or expensive potential equipment failure and repair. However, that said, solar systems are generally very reliable.

However, there are some unavoidable factors, such as exposure to harsh weather conditions. These might result in problems such as water infiltration and panel deterioration that increase over time.

All these factors that result in deterioration can cause a catastrophic failure. However, this sort of significant malfunction may frequently be avoided early on. How? By detecting and notifying the owner of a decrease in system performance caused by suspected faulty wiring or overheating inside the isolator.

Here are some of the problems you can detect early to avoid further damage:

  • PID or potential induced degradation
  • Panel earth leaking
  • Faulty rooftop isolators – Water infiltration
  • Micro-cracking and cell hotspots
  • Overheating inverter
  • Inverter shut down due to high grid voltage

Earth leakage is a common issue with older solar panels. A variety of issues can cause this earth leakage. The most common of which is PID.

The vast majority of grid-connected solar panels connect together in strings that work at high voltages ranging from 300V to 600V.  In certain situations, solar panels working at these high voltages for a long period of time might produce a current leak or an earth leak. This leak then travels through the cells and into the anchored metal frame of the solar panels through an earth wire for safety reasons.

Man stands at solar inverter pointing to button on the system

Maintaining Your Solar Panel Setup

Most solar panel systems’ lifespan exceed thirty years. Nevertheless, you need some maintenance to ensure the durability and effectiveness of your system. It is also a good idea to know what to do if any of your panels happen to fail.

The performance of solar panels will suffer as a result of dirt particles collecting on the panels, which is obvious, it obstructs the sunlight. You should dust the panels on a regular basis. Examples of dirt in the air are:

  • Air pollution
  • Collected dust
  • Bird droppings
  • Oily particles

A dirty panel can cause hotspots.

Due to insufficient maintenance, the performance of the system will not run as intended. And, this non-maintenance can eventually lead to a negative influence on your energy savings. Proper maintenance services must be done on a regular basis.

Have a professional installer evaluate your system on a regular basis to identify and resolve any difficulties that may have occurred, such as:

  • Any roof openings that have had water damage
  • Roof drainage problems
  • Roof vegetation growth or loose leaves
  • Long conduit lengths require proper joints, supports, and seals
  • Corrosion of electrical enclosures or rack systems
  • Wirse that are loose or visible, or wiring that makes contact with the roof surface
  • Indications of animal intrusion
  • Excessive inverter cracking or wear
  • Solar panels with burn marks, discolouration, or shattered glass
  • Bolts that are missing
  • System supports corroded or eroded

Depending on what setup you have installed, your solar installer may also opt to do isolation tests. These tests are to see whether the wire insulation has been damaged or if there is interference from broken connections. If you detect a decline in production or a dead panel as a result of system monitoring, these tests can be used to pinpoint the cause for maintenance.

You should have a generally trouble-free overall experience for several decades if you:

  • Schedule frequent maintenance for your solar setup
  • Many visual inspections
  • Regular cleaning of your panels

Ensure that your solar installation team has a proven track record.  Installations and maintenance should be carried out by well-established solar firms with years of expertise, certificates, and understanding of the local market.

Monitoring the Energy In Your Life

It is critical to understand how your solar panels work, their yield, and how you use the energy they generate. Solar monitoring enables you to determine whether the investment is worthwhile and whether there are any areas where you are wasting energy.

Solar monitoring systems were created with the goal of assisting households and companies in optimising the performance of their systems and, eventually, saving money.

Next Steps…

Interested in solar? By clicking below you can use our smart solar calculator to find out just how much you could save with solar, what rebate you are eligible for, and the impact you will have on the environment.

Don’t wait until next quarter’s bloated bill, and get started today!

Click here to calculate your solar savings!

Join over 20,000 homeowners who have made the switch with Nectr, or the 1000+ positive reviewers who have been more than happy with their solar install.

Otherwise, you can always contact us on 1300 133 556, or email if you prefer at sales@instylesolar.com.au.

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