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Solar monitoring systems: All under control

To get the most out of investing in your solar system, you need to make sure it’s running at peak performance all the time. This requires a reliable tracking device. What solar panel monitoring systems are and how they work – all in our article.

How solar monitoring systems work

Solar monitoring systems are designed to track and analyze the generation, consumption, and overall health of solar power installations. Let’s see how they work.

Step 1: Data collection

Solar monitoring systems rely on sensors and meters to collect data from various components of your PV system. These may include solar panels, inverters, and energy storage systems. The data collected encompasses parameters such as voltage, current, energy generation, and even solar irradiance and ambient temperature.

Step 2: Data transmission

Once the data is collected, it is transmitted to a central monitoring platform, whether on-site or cloud-based. It is done through wired or wireless communication protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet, cellular networks, or dedicated communication lines.

Step 3: Data analysis and visualization

What can you see there? Quite a lot:

  • Energy generated by solar panels – or even by each individual solar panel – in real-time, as well as historical data per week, month, year, and even all your system’s lifetime.

  • Energy consumed by your household, both real-time and historical. Some can even track individual appliances, providing detailed views of your energy usage.

  • Energy exported to and drawn from the grid, or your battery charge and discharge power, if you have one.

  • Weather conditions, such as sunlight and temperature. With it, you can see how they influence solar power generation.

  • Critical system issues or deviations from expected performance. 

Why solar monitoring is important

Monitoring systems can tell you a lot about your solar system’s wellbeing. Tracking and analyzing this information is critical for several reasons:

Fault detection and maintenance

Solar monitoring systems can help you early detect faults or malfunctions so you can fix them, preventing potential system failures. They can identify issues such as faulty inverters, shading problems, or damaged panels. This allows you to schedule timely maintenance, minimizing downtime and ensuring long life of your solar power system.

Need for cleaning

Dust, dirt, rain stains, dry leaves, bird droppings – there are plenty of things you can find on your solar panels. All of this gradually turns into a layer of grime, degrading power generation. Since this happens very slowly, you may not notice the difference, but compare your system’s output to what it was, say, six months ago, and you’ll see the difference. Now wash your panels and check the app again. With solar monitoring, it’s so easy to see whether your panels need a decent wash.

Energy consumption insights

Understanding how much electricity your solar panels produce is only part of the equation. Solar energy tracking systems often integrate with energy consumption monitoring tools, providing a holistic view of your overall energy usage. With this information, you can adjust consumption during peak and low production hours or identify areas for energy-saving improvements.

Financial benefits

All of these have a direct impact on the financial aspects. By maximizing performance and minimizing downtime, you can lower your electricity bills, increase return on investment, and potentially save some money if you’re tied to the grid and take advantage of net metering.

Types of solar monitoring systems

Solar monitoring systems come in three main types – from solar equipment manufacturers, from professional installers, and from third-party monitoring companies. Let’s see what’s the difference between them.

Equipment-integrated

Many manufacturers offer inverter monitoring software. Depending on the inverter type, these systems typically offer either string or module-level monitoring, meaning each panel is individually tracked. These systems may provide insights into power generation, home energy consumption, and other performance-related data. They are compatible with various PV module brands and display results on a website or mobile solar monitoring app.

Installer-provided

Some solar installers offer their own monitoring software, repackaging inverter monitoring data in their own branded apps or websites. They may offer the option of contacting tech support for troubleshooting or scheduling a technician visit for maintenance and repairs right from the app. Some may also provide local weather alerts to warn their customers about cloudy or stormy days so they can prepare for energy shortages or take extra care for panels.

Third-party

Third-party systems are provided by companies that don’t manufacture solar equipment or offer installation services. They include sensors attached to your home’s electrical panel and measuring your overall electricity use. These systems can complement installer-provided or equipment-integrated monitoring systems, although they are not always compatible with them. When paired with solar-specific monitoring, they can detect your solar energy production as well.

Top 5 solar monitoring systems

Choosing the right solar monitoring system among all the options available is not an easy task. Here are some top solar monitoring systems known for their reliability and advanced features:

SolarEdge

SolarEdge sells string inverters and DC power optimizers for residential installations. Apart from that, they offer a comprehensive monitoring platform, providing real-time data on the performance of your system as a whole and of each solar panel in particular. SolarEdge monitoring allows you to track energy production, identify potential issues, and optimize system efficiency.

In stock
5% OFF

SolarEdge SE7600H US000BNU4 7.6Kw Inverter

  • Input Voltage DC480
  • Output Voltage AC240
  • Solar panel compatibility60/72 - 120/144 cell
  • TypeGrid-Tie Inverters
  • Watts7600

Pickup on Tue, Jun 18 from Riverton, NJ

Delivery on Jun 21–26

Enphase Enlighten

Enphase, known for their microinverters, offers their Enlighten monitoring system. The platform provides real-time monitoring and detailed analytics on your system’s performance, allowing you to track each panel in your solar installation. Enphase monitoring system provides data on energy production, and system health, and gives alerts for potential issues.

In stock

Enphase Ensemble IQ8 Plus Microinverter Residential

  • Input Voltage DC60
  • Output Voltage AC300
  • Solar panel compatibility60/72 - 120/144 cell
  • TypeGrid-Tie Inverters, Hybrid Inverters, Micro inverter, Off-Grid Inverters
  • Watts235 – 440

Pickup on Tue, Jun 18 from Bordentown, NJ

Delivery on Jun 21–26

SunPower

SunPower, one of the leading solar companies, provides their mySunPower monitoring that allows you to check your bills, local weather, and real-time and historical energy generation data. But only total – module-level tracking is not available.

Fronius Solar.web

Fronius is a well-known inverter manufacturer, and their Solar.web monitoring platform is a comprehensive monitoring solution that covers a wide range of solar installations. It provides detailed information on energy production, system status, and historical data.

Sense Energy Monitor

While not exclusively focused on solar, Sense Energy Monitor offers a holistic approach to energy monitoring. It can provide insights into how much energy your solar panels are generating and how much energy your household is using, helping to understand your overall energy patterns.

What to consider besides brand

Selecting the best solar monitoring system for you is not limited to the choice of brand alone. There are some other things to pay attention to:

  • Compatibility: Ensure that the monitoring system is compatible with your existing solar energy components, including inverters, panels, and any additional technologies such as power optimizers. Some systems may be designed for specific brands or types of equipment.

  • Type of monitoring: Consider the type of monitoring that best suits your needs. Are you satisfied with knowing just the overall performance of your solar system or do you need to know the performance of each individual panel? Do you want real-time data or just day-to-day information?

  • Integration with other systems: If you have other smart home or energy management systems, consider a monitoring solution that integrates seamlessly with these technologies for a holistic approach to energy management.

With a solar power monitoring system, you will always know exactly how much your panels are giving and how much your household is taking. And to calculate this beforehand, read our article on How to size a solar system for your home.

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Years of experience in translation and a love of nature help Julia find the right words to encourage going solar. She joined the team in 2023 and is happy to make her contribution to a greener future.

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