KNOW YOUR SOLAR POWER PRODUCTION
There’s a misconception about solar power. Many people think that once you install a solar energy system you have unlimited power available. Of course, that’s definitely not the case. The point of getting solar is to replace the source of your electricity transitioning from your local utility company, like Southern California Edison, to your own clean power-producing solar panel system that’s installed usually on the top of your roof. However, there is a limit on how much energy the system will produce for you which is dictated by three factors: 1) the size of the solar power system, 2) performance aspects of the solar panels, and 3) exposure to the sun (includes weather and duration).
When you get a quote for solar energy, you’ll normally be given a recommended size shown in kilowatts and number of panels based on your overall goal of:
- Reducing your bill (at a defined percentage),
- Zeroing out your bill (matched to your one-year averaged consumption),
- Zeroing out with excess (for expected and unexpected fluctuations).
Reduce Your Bill – This goal of reducing your bill is to lessen your monthly electric bill with the solar power system to produce a portion of the energy that you use. You’ll still get an electricity bill from your utility provider for the amount of energy you consume beyond the system’s power generation. For example, if you want to offset your utility bill by 60%, you’ll see a utility bill for approximately 40% of what you normally pay.
Zero Out – This goal of zeroing out (100% offset) your bill is what most people strive for. When speaking with a solar company, it’s extremely important to provide a history of your electricity consumption. A year’s worth of your energy bills is necessary to get an accurate quote which defines the size of the system and how many solar panels are needed to completely offset your bill. An appropriately sized system should closely produce the amount of energy you use in a 12-month period as long as your consumption and the seasons of sun exposure stays relatively the same.
Zero Out with Excess – A quote above 100% is generally the way Solar Power Supply quotes its customers recommending an offset of 15%-30% percent more energy production. Of course, you can install a much bigger system as long as the utility company allows for it. A larger system absorbs both expected and unexpected fluctuations in electricity usage. Lets’ face it, there will be periods when you will use more power. For example, needing to keep the AC on longer due to a party or accidentally leaving something on for an extended time. Or perhaps you need a much larger system for future plans to purchase an added appliance (like a second fridge), installing a new swimming pool that requires a pump to circulate water, or buying an electric vehicle so you can charge it at home.
Monitoring is an essential part of owning a solar power system. With monitoring, you’ll know how your solar power system is performing relative to the size of the system you installed.
Conveniently, this can be done through a personal computer or on a mobile device. There are two main reasons why monitoring is so important: 1) to see the solar system’s performance level, and 2) to get an indication of how much power you’re consuming relative to the system’s production level. As long as a consumption meter is installed, you’ll be able to analyze usage data.
When sunlight is turned into DC (direct current) by the solar panels it’s the job of the inverter to convert it to AC (alternating current), the form of power that we use in our homes and businesses. When a system is installed, customers can download the associated inverter app to see the system’s overall production level and, in many cases, the amount of power the customer is using.
Solar Power Supply uses the two most popular inverters in the market today, SolarEdge and Enphase.
SolarEdge, a company that’s been around since 2006, offers multiple inverter models that do an excellent job in converting solar energy into standard AC electricity. Their free mysolaredge app, available on Apple iOS or Android, provides users a complete performance analysis of their solar system. Once downloaded and launched the app, the user is treated to a variety of information about their system.
Whether it’s on a computer or their mobile app, the home page dashboard provides a complete system overview that includes the day’s production level, the current system’s performance level, how much power is being consumed, as well as power that’s charging the backup battery (if there is an existing battery). The SolarEdge app even features the ability to turn appliances on and off directly on the home page if they’re connected to their “smart energy devices”.
SolarEdge monitoring also provides power and energy charts showing daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Bar charts show production levels and consumption giving you a quick visual understanding of solar performance. It gives real-time data of how much power is being used and what’s being exported to the grid. And because different data points are available, users are able to compare production levels at any period of time (month by month, year by year, etc.).
The SolarEdge monitoring platform is a powerful tool and easy to navigate through. Users also have the ability to see real-time performance data for each solar panel in the system to see if there are any production issues. If you’re trying to decide if SolarEdge inverter is the right choice, be confident that they have a great monitoring system platform.
Enphase uses microinverters to convert DC energy into AC, and they utilize their mobile app to perform home energy monitoring. The Enlighten Mobile App, also available on both Apple and Android, is an effective and easy-to-use system that shows users exactly how their solar energy system is performing. As soon as the app is opened, the main status screen provides real-time analytics that include power production level, imported and exported power, and the user’s independence level. Displayed information on this screen varies depending on the existing system configuration which can include additional information such as backup battery power and usage (if a consumption meter was installed). There’s also an independence level which shows energy self-sufficiency indicating whether the system is supplying 100% of the user’s consumption or if electricity is still pulling a percentage of energy from the grid.
Like SolarEdge, the Enphase app displays energy production by day, week, month, year, and even lifetime. By clicking on the energy icon, a bar graph compares production to consumption. It also has the ability to compare a bar graph of imported/exported power which can easily be turned on and off with a touch of the slider switch.
The array tab on the app shows your solar panels in their exact configuration. The app displays power production by each solar panel which is quite essential because you’ll be able to see if they’re at optimal performance or if there’s an issue.
The Enlighten app includes very attractive graphics and the information within each menu is self-explanatory. A quick glance tells the user exactly how their system is working and if there are issues that need to be addressed.
With solar monitoring you can easily track performance of your system and know if you need to make adjustments to your usage behavior. Solar is an excellent solution in providing clean energy for your home, but it’s important that you still stick to your consumption routine since your system is planned and designed to your pre-installation specifications. If you’re starting to use more than what the system is capable of generating, it may be necessary to add more panels or make small adjustments to your routine. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room, unplug unnecessary appliances that sit idle without use, and adjust that thermostat a degree or two higher. Conserving power is always a great habit with or without solar, and it only involves minor changes to your daily routine. And, at the end of the yearly billing cycle, you may even have excess credits that give you money back.
If you want more information on SolarEdge or Enphase monitoring as well as solar energy altogether, contact Solar Power Supply at (951)338-8060 and one of our consultants will be happy to assist you.