So you’ve finally harnessed the power of the sun and wiped out your bill, but the question remains – how do you know if your panels are generating the energy they’re supposed to?
Investing in solar is a big step for any homeowner, and you want to make sure you’re going to get the benefits from making that switch. Both in having clean, renewable energy generated right on your roof, and the savings that come with owning your power rather than renting dirty energy from a utility company!
When you work with a professional solar installer like Purelight Power, your solar energy system will be connected to a monitoring system, so that you can see exactly how your solar array works. You’ll be able to check your phone or tablet at any time, and see how solar is powering your home.
But like any technology, a solar energy system may encounter some problems that you can troubleshoot from your monitoring app to ensure that your system is working at peak performance.
How to Read Your Panel Monitoring App
Before getting into how you can use your monitoring app to manage and troubleshoot your panels, it’s important to understand how to read and find information within the app.
For Purelight, the systems we install will have one of two monitoring apps connected: AP Systems or Hoymiles. Both apps connect to your phone or table, and work to not only give you a view of the energy your system is producing, but to alert our Customer Support team if any issues arise.
To find the view that will show you a layout of your panels as they appear on your roof in AP Systems click on the tab labeled “capacity.” To see a graph of the amount of energy produced over a period of time, click on the tab labeled “total energy.”
For Hoymiles, the tabs aren’t labeled, so you’ll need to look for the tab with two rows of three squares. That’s the view of your panels as they are on your roof, showing you how they’re working. We’ll call this the capacity tab as well. If you want to see a graph report of the amount of energy your system has produced, click on the tab that has three rectangles in varying heights.
Regardless of which monitoring app you use, it’s good to know that the capacity view helps you understand how your panels and micro inverters are producing. Familiarizing yourself with this part of the monitoring app is key to being able to see if there are any issues happening you need to be aware of.
Now let’s look at some ways that you can use your monitoring app to check your system and panels.
How to Troubleshoot Your Solar Monitoring
The two most common reasons a customer contacts our Customer Support team are for a production audit, or for an energy use audit.
If you’re concerned that your system isn’t producing the power it should be, you can check to see the current and past production levels on your monitoring app in the capacity view discussed above. It’s best to check for production levels during the sunniest time of day for your roofs–generally that’s midday when the sun is high in the sky.
To check and see if there is a problem with your panels that might be causing less energy to be produced, keep an eye out for any panels that are all black, rather than partially colored and indicating current production.
If a panel is black and surrounded by other panels that are actively producing, this may mean that there is an issue with that panel’s connection, or the microinverter that helps direct the electricity the panels generate to your home’s electrical system.
Before reaching out to our team for support there are two things you can check that might fix the issue quickly:
- Go to where the production meter was installed on your home, usually near your regular electric meter from the power company. This is also where your breaker box is. Open the breaker box to make sure none of the breakers have been tripped (automatically turned to an off position). If one or more has, turn them back to the on position (usually up).
- If the breakers look fine, you should also check your AC disconnect. That is the box with the big lever on the side. Make sure that lever is in the on position – it should be labeled with an on and off sign at the top and bottom of the lever.
If both of those are fine, then it may be an issue one of our technicians will need to check into. While your monitoring app sends our Customer Support team alerts when a system is experiencing an issue, you can always email us if you’re feeling concerned and want to give a heads up.
To contact our Support team about an issue, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you put “monitoring issue” and your first and last name in the subject line, it will help us respond to your support request more quickly. When emailing, please also include your home address. This helps us to make sure we’re looking at the right account since we sometimes have customers who share a first and last name.
Production Looks Fine, So Why Am I Still Getting a Bill?
You’ve checked your panels on the app, and they’re all on and active. So why are you still getting a bill from your utility company?
If a production audit shows that your system is producing the power it was designed to, the next thing our Customer Support team does is run what’s known as an energy use audit. This audit helps us determine if the amount of energy being used at a given house has increased above what the solar system was designed to generate.
When homeowners make the switch to solar, the freedom of generating clean energy right on your roof can sometimes have unexpected consequences. It’s not unusual that after solar is installed, homeowners and their families might find themselves being less stressed about turning the heat up a little, or forgetting to turn off every light not in use.
Which makes sense – your energy is now clean and you own it.
But it’s important to remember that the solar energy system that powers your home was designed based on your past electricity usage. That means your system was designed to produce a certain amount of energy to meet your home’s energy needs when it was installed.
So if you’ve changed your behaviors, for instance buying an electric vehicle you charge at home, or building that woodshop you’ve always wanted in the garage, your system can’t instantly expand to cover that increased energy use.
When that happens there are generally two options:
- Consider how and where your energy usage has increased, and try out a few options for cutting down on the amount of power your home uses.
- Contact Purelight Power and see about having a consultation for expanding your system’s capacity to meet the additional power needs. We suggest this option for instances where the change is permanent, like adding a new extension onto your home.
The one other instance where a homeowner is likely to still see a small power bill is during the first year. Depending on when your system was installed during your first year, you may not have built up enough credits with your power company using net metering to cover any extra energy you’ll use during that winter. We normally see this for customers installed after April or May, depending of course on the weather that year.
Many homeowners will never have to worry about needing either a production or usage audit, especially with a power system designed specifically for your home. But it’s always good to know how to get the most out of your system, which includes knowing what to check if you do have a concern.
Own Your Energy With Purelight Power
Ready to make the switch to clean, renewable energy? Let Purelight Power design a solar energy system specifically for your home to wipe out your power bill.
With just a 30 second survey, you can find out if your roof qualifies today!