Solar Monitoring Systems: Everything You Need to Know

Solar monitors can help you get the most out of your solar panels.

Low Section Of Worker Using Mobile Phone While Installing Solar Panel
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A solar monitoring system allows you to keep track of the output of your solar panels. A solar monitor is usually installed at the same time your solar panels are installed. There are also aftermarket solar monitors, some of which also function as home energy monitors.

Solar panels are a big investment, and a solar monitor allows you to maximize the return on your investment. Knowing how efficient your panels are at producing energy means you can keep your panels at their highest efficiency and detect any potential damage to your panels.

How Do Solar Monitoring Systems Work?

A solar monitor includes hardware attached to a solar array, an Internet connection, and software (such as a phone app or web portal). A solar monitor reads the data flowing through a solar array's inverters.

Inverters

An inverter is a small but vital EV component that converts the DC electricity stored in the battery to the AC that runs the motor. It is located between the battery and the motor in an electric vehicle.

Solar Edge and Enphase are two leading manufacturers whose solar monitors are built into their inverters. Solar installers can also install aftermarket solar monitors during the installation process.

A solar monitor will help you pinpoint the time of day when your panels are at peak performance. Knowing when your panels are at their peak performance can also help you maximize your use of that energy. This ultimately can help you save money and know you are using the cleanest energy possible.

The hardware on solar monitors might also measure solar radiation and other weather data. Hardware connecting the onsite monitor to the internet (or to a cellular network) allows homeowners as well as solar installers to access the data remotely.

Why Solar Monitoring Is Important

The key to solar monitors is in the software, which can be used to detect errors or hardware defects, as well as monitor current system output and aggregate historical data to compare panel output over time. The data can be exported to financial software to calculate your solar system's financial performance. Integrated with other home energy use software, users can match their solar output with their energy use to see where they can increase their energy efficiency.

SolarEdge's app, for example, can connect a solar array to the company's internet-connected electric vehicle charger in order to charge an EV at the most efficient or cost-effective time.

Other Benefits of Solar Monitoring

The information gleaned from solar monitoring allows you to better use other solar resources at your disposal.

For example, if your solar system is tied to the electricity grid, you may benefit from a net metering program that gives you credit for some or all of the energy you send into the grid. If you don't get 100% credit for that energy, however, it makes more sense to use that energy yourself rather than send it into the grid and use it later. This way, you'll save money by shifting your energy use to hours when your panels are at their peak performance.

This is also the case if your utility company uses Time-of-Use (TOU) billing, where they charge customers more for electricity at certain peak hours of the day. This includes the late afternoon and early evening, when people return home from work and switch on their appliances. These hours are also when your solar panels at not at their peak. For example, rather than charging your electric vehicle or running your clothes dryer during the evening, do so during the middle of the day.

Google's Nest Renew takes advantage of solar monitoring. This service allows you to set your thermostat to cool or heat your house when your A/C or heating system is most likely relying on clean energy. But Google's Nest Renew relies on general data from your area, not on the information from your own solar panels. A solar monitor lets you do it yourself more precisely.