How Do Solar Panel Monitoring Systems Work?
When you’re the manager of a property or a homeowner looking to optimize your solar panel output, the best way to start is by gathering data. You may not have known that solar panels can be intricately monitored, but they can! This function is crucial if you want to get the most out of your panels, so read on to discover how solar panel monitoring systems work.
Why Businesses Should Consider Solar
More and more businesses are switching to solar power, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Major companies like Apple and Walmart use solar panels to great effect and save tons of money each year on their energy bills. From environmental benefits to financial considerations, there are a few reasons you should think about installing solar panels on your commercial building.
Customers like to patronize businesses that promote sustainability and eco-friendliness. Many corporations claim to be environmentally conscious, but solar panels are a way to explicitly and proudly show that your company cares about the planet’s future. The bigger your business is, the greater your positive impact will be when you switch to solar power.
Additionally, you may do more than please your current customers when you switch to solar power—sustainable choices promote goodwill and can lead to customers spreading the word about your business to friends and family. Many companies end up doing more business than ever after making the switch!
Business owners are acutely aware that energy costs can significantly affect your bottom line. In fact, small businesses in America end up spending over $60 billion in energy costs each year. On top of that, those energy bills are only expected to rise as time goes on.
Solar panels offer predictability as well as savings. After the initial investment in your solar panel system, you’ll enjoy years of sustainable energy at fixed rates, which will save you thousands of dollars. Solar panels are also typically warrantied for 25 years or more, which means you’re setting yourself up for a few decades of reasonable, reliable energy bills.
What Is a Solar Monitoring System?
At its simplest, a solar monitoring system is a way to keep track of the energy your panels produce; however, it’s worth noting that these systems also track a few other key features. A solar monitoring system usually comes in the form of software you can install on a computer, but you can also hire a third party to manage your solar monitoring.
How Do You Monitor Solar Panels?
So, how are your panels monitored? When your solar panels are installed, most installers include monitoring software with the solar inverter. While the panels are the part of your setup that collect the sun’s energy, the inverter is what converts that energy into usable power for your business. While the inverter does its job, it keeps track of several factors so you can tell how well your panels are working.
Depending on your inverter and the software that comes with it, many monitoring systems provide real-time data as well as historical information about your system. That way, you can see what your panels are currently producing in addition to what they have produced in the past. This is helpful if you notice a decline in energy production, and this comparison can provide the data you need to confirm your hypothesis.
What Can Monitoring Systems Track?
Solar power monitoring systems all offer different features, so be sure to talk with the provider who installed your commercial solar panels to understand how their software works. Regardless of which provider you choose, there are a few specific features that come with most monitoring systems.
In addition to helpful information like the temperature of your solar panels, the most common use for solar monitoring systems is to track the production of your system. How much energy is being produced by your solar panels? Simply check the output numbers.
The monitoring system will tell you the energy your system is creating in kWh, or kilowatt-hours. Before you install your solar panel system, work with the installer to determine how much energy you need your panels to produce. This information is based on your average power consumption and will assist in determining the number of solar panels you’ll need.
When your system is installed, it will have a target for the kWh it’s expected to produce. If you check your monitoring system and notice that the kWh output is significantly less than expected—especially on a sunny day—this could be an indication that something is wrong with your system.
If your system’s energy output is lower than expected, it doesn’t mean your panels have called it quits. Before you start budgeting for new solar panels, remember to check a few things:
- Are any of your panels obstructed? If debris has fallen on your solar panels, they won’t be able to produce a normal amount of energy.
- How has the weather been lately? While solar panels can still produce energy on cloudy or rainy days, they tend to produce less energy than on days when the sun is fully shining.
- When was the last time you cleaned your solar panels? Solar panels require maintenance every few months to clear off dust and debris. Even a light coating of dust can reduce the effectiveness of your solar panel system.
If you want to know how your business uses the energy your panels produce, this is the place to look. You can see energy consumption throughout the day as well as review historical data—this is useful for tracking your usage during different seasons.
Grid Import and Export
Most solar panel systems are still connected to your local power grid, and your monitoring system can tell you how much power you’re taking from and sending to the grid. This helps track any net metering benefits your business produces—net metering is when you sell back excess energy to the grid.
Now that you know how solar panel monitoring systems work, regularly gather and review your data so you can keep your solar panels in peak condition. If you notice something isn’t right during the monitoring process, contact your solar installer and they can assist you.