Congratulations! You’ve recently joined the clean energy revolution of more than 11,000 homeowners in Oregon with solar energy.
But how can you make sure your panels are generating the energy they should be?
Apart from purchasing your home, solar is often the biggest investment you’ll make. It’s only normal that you want to make sure you’re getting the benefits from that investment. Both from clean, solar energy on your roof, and the savings that come with owning your power rather than renting dirty energy from a utility company!
One of the perks of working with a professional solar installer like Purelight Power is that your solar energy system will be connected to a monitoring system. That system allows you to see what’s going on with your solar panels at any time.
Unlike wind or hydro, solar is fairly low maintenance, and has no moving parts so there’s less that can break. But like any technology, you might run into a problem or two. Your monitoring app allows you to troubleshoot any issues to keep your system working well.
Monitoring Your Solar Energy in Oregon Easily
Even if, like many of us, you’re not super inclined to go through the “how to” before diving into using a fun new app on your phone, in this case it’s worth it.
Understanding how to read and find information within the app will help you in the future when you want to use it to see the power your panels are generating, and troubleshoot any issues that might pop up.
At Purelight, we install one of two monitoring apps with every solar energy system: AP Systems or Hoymiles.
Both connect to your phone or tablet, and give you a simple to understand view of the energy your system is producing. The app can also alert our Customer Support team if any issues arise that need our attention.
Here’s how to find the view that will show you a layout of your panels as they appear on your roof:
In AP Systems go to the tab labeled “capacity.” If you want to see this information as a graph, click on the tab labeled “total energy.”
The tabs aren’t labeled for Hoymiles, unfortunately. Instead, look for the tab with two rows of three squares–that’s the view of your panels as they are on your roof, and shows you the energy each panel is producing. We’ll call this the capacity tab as well.
If you want to see that information as a graph to see the amount of energy your system has produced over a period of time, you can click on the tab that has three rectangles in varying heights.
Whichever monitoring app you have for your system installation, these two views can help you understand how your panels and microinverters are producing. It’s a good idea to become familiar with this part of your monitoring app so that you can troubleshoot any issues you suspect.
Let’s take a look at specifically how you can use your monitoring app to check the health of your system and panels.
How to Troubleshoot Your Solar Monitoring
Our Customer Support team regularly has customers reach out for issues that we can check with a production audit, or an energy use audit.
The production audit is most often requested when a customer is concerned they’re system isn’t producing the power it should be. But if you want to take a look before reaching out, you can easily check to see the current and past production levels on your monitoring app.
Just head to the capacity view as noted above. It’s best to check production levels in the capacity view during the sunniest time of day for your roofs–generally that’s midday when the sun is high in the sky. If you’re looking over time, you can check the graph view pretty much whenever you’d like.
But how do you know if there is an issue with a panel that’s affecting your energy production?
Simply look for any panels that are all black, rather than partially colored. Panels that show partial or full coloring are producing power.
If a panel is black, and surrounded by other panels that are actively producing, this might indicate an issue with that panel’s connection. We sometimes see that happen if the microinverter that helps direct the electricity the panels generate to your home’s electrical system is experiencing an issue as well.
You can always reach out to our team for support. However, there are two more things you can check that might fix the issue quickly without needing to call or email:
- Head to where the production meter was installed on your home. Usually that’s installed near your regular electric meter from the utility company. Your breaker box for your system should be next to the production meter.
- 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).
- Breakers look good? Make sure to also check your AC disconnect. The AC disconnect is the box with a big lever on the side. Make sure the lever is in the on position. To tell, look for the on and off labels, and make sure the lever is set to the on position.
If both your breakers and AC disconnect are both working as they should be, go ahead and reach out. One of our technicians will need to check your system to make sure everything is connected and working.
As mentioned earlier, your monitoring app sends our Customer Support team alerts when a system is experiencing an issue. But we welcome emails from customers who spot an issue on their monitoring app.
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. Please also include your home address, so we can make sure we’re looking at the right account. It’s rare, but sometimes we have customers who share a first and last name.
My Panels are Producing, So Why Am I Still Getting a Bill?
After looking at your monitoring app, you know that your system is on and working well. But you’re still getting a bill from the power company. Why?
If your monitoring app looks good, and if a production audit shows that your system is producing the power it was designed to, there’s one way we can help customers figure out why they’re continuing to receive a bill. Our Customer Support team will run an energy use audit.
This audit allows us to see if the amount of energy being used at your house has increased above what your solar energy system was designed to generate.
With the switch to solar comes the freedom of generating clean energy right on your roof. But that can sometimes have unexpected consequences. 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.
Unlike before, you’re not worried about how heating your home might be negatively impacting the climate or your wallet.
The excitement of having solar energy at home might lead you to forget that your system 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 at the time of installation.
A change in energy usage at home, for instance a new electric vehicle that you charge at home, or building that home theatre in the basement, can cause your energy bill to rise beyond what your system can cover.
When that happens there are two good options:
- Do your own version of an energy audit to see if you can figure out if and how your usage of electricity at home has increased. If you think that’s likely the issue, but aren’t sure precisely what’s increased, consider trying out a few options for cutting down on the amount of power your home uses.
- For instances where the change is permanent, like adding a new extension onto your home, we suggest contacting Purelight Power to see about scheduling a consultation for expanding your system’s capacity to meet your updated power needs.
There is one other instance where a homeowner might still see a small power bill: during the first year.
Whether or not you’ll see a bill your first year with solar depends on when your system was installed. Some homeowners may not have built up enough credits with your power company using net metering to cover extra energy use during the winter. Normally, this happens for customers installed after April or May.
But this is a short term issue, and will be resolved after having a full summer of Oregon sun (yes it exists) to build up your credits with your utility company.
Most homeowners will never have to worry about needing either a production or usage audit, especially with a power system designed specifically for your home. Still, it’s always a good idea to understand how to check and monitor your system.
Clean Solar Energy in Oregon With Purelight Power
Sick of confusing and misleading power bills from the utility company? Want to switch to clean, renewable energy that you can see the results of?
Purelight Power can design a solar energy system made for your home. Take our 30 second survey, and find out if your roof qualifies today!