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Solar Performance Monitoring Systems: Understanding the Basics

When getting a solar system, you don’t want to overlook solar monitoring appliances. This technology can help figure out solutions when your solar energy output isn’t what it should be, as well as many other benefits.

There are usually mobile and online applications for support, with all the features of a solar system so that you can get the most money out of your system.

Let’s take a look at some of the monitoring solutions out there, including the hardware and how they can help homeowners with things like monitoring use, self-consumption, and all of the devices in your PV system

The Importance of Solar Monitoring

Solar monitoring is important because it allows you to keep track of your solar system. These monitoring systems can tell you if something is going wrong with your battery, panels, or more.

sunpower solar panel

Sometimes, there will be issues where you are still getting solar power, but it isn’t as efficient as it should be, even in full sun. By having a monitoring system, you can quickly realize that something isn’t working as it should based on the production and consumption of power.

You may even be able to narrow down what the problem is so you can fix it quickly. Some very advanced systems can even take an analysis of the weather, weather forecasting, and have tools to measure wind speed, direction, and temperature. 

The Working of Solar Monitoring

Solar monitoring systems can track how much power you are getting from your solar system, and whether it is over or underproducing for the amount of power you are drawing. 

Some of the smarter systems can even narrow down a problem for you and suggest repairs. For example, if your batteries get warm, they can tell you that the batteries overheated and that something isn’t working as they should. 

Solar panels don’t face a lot of problems, but things can still go wrong. For example, sometimes fuses or parts can be faulty, and break easier than others. Sometimes, the wiring might not be in as securely as it should be, and the wiring needs to be tightened to avoid a fire and increase efficiency. 

Solar panels on the roof of houses.

All you often have to do is provide them with an internet connection so they can upload data to the web, then you will have a power optimizer with full functionality. 

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Types of Solar Panel Monitoring Systems

Installer Monitoring

Sometimes, installers allow options for monitoring. Usually, these installer monitoring options are just adaptations of equipment monitoring options. Sometimes, the data is delayed, only showing you previous daily data, but no real-time monitoring. 

Equipment Manufacturer Monitoring

Out of all the solar companies out there, three main manufacturers install monitoring into their systems automatically. These are Enphase, SolarEdge, and SMA.

These companies come with data and apps that automatically allow you to keep track of your data. All you generally have to do is make an account, get the app, and you are good to go. 

These are usually solar inverters, like microinverters, but some companies include other modules or a different feature that has the same software. 

Standalone Monitors for the Home

These are companies that don’t usually make solar systems or solar system parts. Their products are separate from your array and are just made to provide a way to monitor systems for people who want to monitor later after installation or didn’t get systems that offer to monitor already. 

Sense, Curb, and Emporia are common companies that allow you to monitor your energy usage. Some of them even allow you to track energy usage whether you have solar panels or not, which is beneficial for those that are trying to figure out what size solar system they might need. 

Best Practices in Performance Monitoring

The best practices for performance monitoring so that you can get the most out of your system are:

  • Make sure you have the right monitoring system for what you need
  • Perform regular maintenance such as updates
  • Set up alerts so you can be warned as soon as something goes wrong
  • Connect your system to the internet so you can track data
  • Test your system to make sure everything is working properly
  • Keep track of data so you can know exactly when and where things went wrong, especially when asking someone to come and fix the problem


What are the key components of solar performance monitoring systems?

The key components for any solar performance monitoring system are the monitoring device itself such as the inverter, an app or website, cloud-based monitoring, and Wi-Fi. All of these components allow the monitoring system to work correctly and deliver real-time and accurate information. 

How accurate are solar performance monitoring systems?

Most solar performance monitoring systems are very accurate, but they aren’t all perfect. Finding a system that is accurate and provides real-time data is very important when you are beginning your search. 

If the data isn’t accurate, it can be hard to determine when something is wrong, and it can also delay when you find out something is wrong if you don’t get data right away. 

How often do solar performance monitoring systems need to be calibrated?

Each system and company requires a different calibration. For the most part, you want to look with the manufacturer to determine how often you need to calibrate the system.

A good rule of thumb is that the more accurate and detailed the system, the more calibration is required. A year is a good average. 

What are the maintenance requirements for solar performance monitoring systems?

Most of these systems have a lot of parts that can easily become damaged or blocked. Hiring a professional about once a year is very important to get these parts that need special care.

For the most part, you want to make sure the system stays cool and free of dust. You can usually wipe down the system every few days if it is easy to access. Additionally, make sure part of your management is tracking the upgrades and updates to the programs. 

What are the costs associated with solar performance monitoring systems?

Inverters and other monitoring systems generally cost upwards of $1000 and need to be replaced more frequently than solar systems.

However, with the amount it can save you by allowing you to fix parts before they become damaged beyond repair, and the ability to monitor your power usage, the cost is often better for financial reasons, and you can get an incentive or two from the government to help with your project. They are definitely a smart advantage and investment for anyone getting solar or looking to get solar.