What Are Solar Monitoring Systems? (2023 Guide)
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Solar monitoring systems help to ensure your solar panels operate at their best. They track your solar system’s performance, health, and energy consumption. These systems also track individual components, such as solar batteries and electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Finally, they provide alerts when your system’s energy output drops or malfunctions.
We’ve detailed how solar monitoring systems work and highlighted top monitoring systems for homeowners in our guide.
How Do Solar Monitoring Systems Work?
Solar monitoring systems use sensors and communication devices attached to your solar arrays. The sensors track production data from each panel and transmit it to a communication device like a gateway. These devices communicate through hardwiring, an internet connection (either ethernet or wifi connections), or cellular technology. The communication device then sends the collected data to a cloud-based software application.
Once processed, homeowners can view the information through a dedicated monitoring platform on a web portal or mobile app. Most monitoring systems present the final data as bar graphs, charts, or other data visualization. Monitoring data shows the power production rates for each solar panel and daily solar energy production throughout the day. You can track your home’s power consumption, including lower or higher energy use periods. You can compare how much power you use to your system production level to ensure your energy needs are properly met. You’ll also gain insight into solar battery storage and can control charging and discharge periods accordingly.
In addition to real-time monitoring, some systems provide alerts or notifications for solar system issues or declining power production. These alerts help you identify any problems quickly, reducing potential system downtime. Some systems also provide weather alerts for low-sunlight days or incoming storms. These features allow you to plan for emergencies and ensure you have efficient stored solar power for later use.
What Are the Types of Solar Monitoring Systems?
Three main types of solar monitoring systems are available from solar equipment manufacturers, professional installers, and third-party monitoring companies. We’ll explore each monitoring type below.
Equipment-Integrated Solar Monitoring
These types of monitoring systems typically provide solar production data with module-level detection. This means each panel is tracked individually via the solar inverter. The inverter helps convert solar panels’ direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC) power in your home.
Most companies use either string or microinverters in solar installations. String inverters connect an entire solar array and handle the set’s power conversion. Microivereters install on individual panels and offer more clarity into single-panel energy production.
Many inverter manufacturers offer string or microinverters monitoring software. This free monitoring comes with your solar system and may be tied to specific introvert brands. Typical features include energy production, home energy use, and other data relevant to your system’s performance. These systems work with many solar panel brands and offer easy-to-read results on a website, mobile devices, or through a dedicated app.
Installer Solar Monitoring
Some top-rated solar installers offer their own monitoring app with their energy systems. Companies sometimes repackage the data from the inverter monitoring in their own branded form. Some solar installer monitoring systems only provide daily monitoring information and lack insights into real-time energy usage or production.
These monitoring systems offer insight into upcoming electric bills and accept online payments. Some installer-based software directly connects to customer support for troubleshooting and system service scheduling. They may also provide local weather alerts to help you prepare for low-sun days or dangerous conditions. You can access data via a dedicated website or downloadable app for your phone.
Third-Party Home Energy Monitors
Third-party (or standalone) energy monitoring systems come from companies that don’t manufacture solar equipment or offer installation services. These standalone devices measure your home’s overall electricity use. They include current transfer sensors (CTs) attached to your home’s main electrical panel. These sensors detect and track energy flowing through your home’s circuits. Some energy monitors can track individual major appliances, providing detailed views of your energy usage. They also work with smart home devices and appliances for energy detection and remote control over their use.
Typical reported data includes per-watt energy usage, electricity costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, you can access historical energy usage data, set energy goals, or receive alerts for heavy energy usage. These alerts give you a better understanding of your energy use pattern and could help improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Standalone home energy monitors work in conjunction with other installer- or equipment-based monitoring systems. Using the PV system-specific monitoring system, home energy monitors can detect your solar energy production. However, only some solar monitoring systems are compatible with standalone home energy monitors.
We recommend using a professional electrician for your installation instead of attempting a do-it-yourself (DIY) installation. You need extensive knowledge of your home electrical system to perform this installation. Improper installations could lead to expensive electrical damage or personal injuries.
What Are Some Top Solar Monitoring Systems?
Below is an overview of some top solar monitoring solutions and home energy monitors.
Enphase, a leading microinverter manufacturer, provides the Enphase Enlighten monitoring system with its products. This system provides details on real-time details on system performance and energy production. Enphase provides modular-level monitoring, providing detailed analytics for each panel in your solar project.
The system tracks energy usage patterns and offers alerts for malfunctioning panels or lower production levels. Homeowners can access system data through the Enphase MyEnlighten website or the Enlighten Mobile app for Android or iOS mobile devices.
SolarEdge offers high-quality string inverters for residential installations. The company provides individual panel performance monitoring with DC power optimizers. These optimizers improve panel performance and offer real-time power production data. Without power optimizers, you can only track total system production levels.
SolarEdge’s data tracking includes energy usage patterns, historical performance data, and remote troubleshooting options. The mySolarEdge app and dedicated web portal offer additional monitoring, including solar battery levels, smart device remote operation, and automated report scheduling. The app is available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.
Exclusive to SunPower solar customers, SunPower solar monitoring provides its own monitoring through the mySunPower software. Since SunPower uses exclusive in-house components paired with Maxeon high-efficiency panels, homeowners cannot customize their system with other inverter options.
The mySunPower platform provides estimated bill details, local weather, and real-time and historical energy production data. You can also check performance details on the company’s patented SunVault energy storage system. We discovered that module-level tracking is not available with this software. All data will reflect total energy consumption and production. The mySunPower system is accessible for Android, iOS, and web-capable devices users.
Tesla provides a brand-exclusive monitoring app for its customers. The app works with Tesla solar panels, solar roofing, the Tesla Powerwall, and Tesla electric vehicles. When we downloaded the app, we could add various Tesla products for easy, all-in-one product management. The app provides data visualizations for solar power production and home energy use. You see detailed information on real-time and historical production levels, even based on the time of day.
Tesla only offers solar monitoring through the dedicated app and does not provide a web alternative. Additional uses include controlling your Tesla Powerwall during charging and discharging mode, including switching to battery-only power. Its monitor software also lacks module-level production data and weather updates.
CURB Monitoring System
The CURB monitoring system provides real-time energy usage data using CTs. Attaching CTs to every circuit allows you to receive more detailed energy use tracking. The CURB system offers individual tracking for appliances, solar energy systems, EV chargers, and smart home devices. The tracking details expand with additional CTs, but you must pay more for extra sensors.
CURB monitoring includes customizable energy usage alerts for pre-set usage thresholds, helping you converse energy usage and save money. You can sign up for email alerts for additional energy-saving tips and summaries on your energy usage. The Apple Store and Google Play carry the Energy CURB app. In 2020, CURB merged with Elevation Solar and became part of its Home Energy Solutions Division.
Sense Energy Monitor
The Sense energy monitor uses AI device profiles to track energy consumption throughout your home. The profiles offer detailed energy consumption results, including real-time data, energy usage alerts, and historical data analysis.
The Sense energy monitor also provides energy production with specialized solar inverter sensors. Sense also tracks any excess energy sent back to the grid, known as grid exports. Sense provides both app and we-based access to your monitoring data. Use your iOs or Android device for the app and any internet-accessible device for the web-based dashboard.
How Do I Choose a Solar Panel Monitoring System?
Whether considering an integrated monitoring system or a standalone option, you should decide what features, data, and controls you need for your home. To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when comparing solar panel mentoring systems.
- Accessibility: Decide whether you need web access, a dedicated app, or access to both options. You’ll also want a user-friendly dashboard or interface with simple navigation and monitoring details.
- Alerts and notifications: Pick a monitoring system with timely alerts for poor performance, local weather, or malfunctions.
- Compatibility: Check the compatibility of the monitoring system with your existing solar system. Some systems only work with specific panel and inverter brands.
- Data reporting: Invest in a monitoring system that provides real-time data on energy production, consumption, and historical analysis. Access to up-to-date details ensures your panels continue performing at peak capacity, maximizing your energy savings.
- Overall cost: Many monitoring systems include recurring monthly cloud backup or data analysis costs. If you want granular production details, you must buy additional circuit sensors. Standalone energy monitoring costs around $299 but could cost more with added sensors and equipment.
- Troubleshooting and support: Look for systems with reliable technical support for system issues and troubleshooting.
Solar monitoring systems ensure even the best solar panels continue performing at optimum levels. These systems come with your solar inverter or installation company. However, availability varies based on your system’s design and your selected installer. Stand-alone energy monitoring can provide insight into your power production, but you may need additional sensors to connect one to your system.
FAQ About Solar Monitoring Systems
Does SolarEdge charge for its monitoring?
No, SolarEdge does not charge for its monitoring services. You receive 25 years of free module-level monitoring, the same timeframe as the manufacturer’s warranty.
Can you monitor individual solar panels?
Yes, you can monitor individual solar panels, but you will need solar equipment to do so. Your system must use either microinverters or DC power optimizers for string inverters. You’ll also need a solar monitoring system or energy monitor capable of tracking individual panel production.
How do I monitor my solar panel usage?
A solar monitoring system details your typical solar panel usage and output. These systems provide detailed analysis of energy consumption, real-time monitoring, and system issue alerts. Some solar providers and inverter manufacturers include monitoring services with their products. You can also purchase standalone energy monitors to track your system’s performance.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. This means earning your trust through transparent reviews and data to back up our ratings and recommendations. Our rating system for solar providers is on a 100-point system based on five factors:
- Payment options (40 points): Options include purchase, loan, lease, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Companies receive points for each of the four options they provide.
- Solar services (30 points): Does the company provide in-house installation of solar panels and battery backups? Can the company also monitor energy production and perform energy-efficiency audits to ensure system performance? The more options available, the higher the score.
- Warranty options (10 points): The success of a residential solar system depends on the workmanship, performance guarantees, and length of product coverage. The more warranties a company offers, the higher the score it receives.
- State availability (10 points): We award the most points to companies with the broadest service area and state availability.
- Reputation (10 points): We factor in how the Business Better Bureau (BBB) scores each company. We deduct points for any alerts or pending lawsuits.
Total scores are divided by 20 for a final 5-point rating scale.
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