inverter monitoring and smart energy monitoring

 

Internet-based inverter monitoring is not a substitute for smart energy monitoring. Likewise, today’s smart home energy monitoring systems like Smappee Plus may measure solar PV consumption, but they are also not a substitute for the manufacturer’s inverter monitoring systems. Rather, the two products should be seen as complimentary. Here’s why.

The trend toward Web-based inverter monitoring.

Not long ago, it was common for solar installers to offer homeowners the option to either pay extra for Internet-based monitoring or to simply trust the small LCD screen on their inverter as the solitary indication of a healthy inverter and good solar production. But with the rise of third-party financing, which included 20 years of free maintenance and production guarantees, accurate inverter and solar production monitoring was baked into the sale to protect the revenue stream of the finance company as well as provide the maintenance-free operations promised to the homeowner. In order to accurately monitor fleets of homeowners with solar leases and solar power purchase agreements, remote Internet monitoring and control systems became a more common offering from inverter manufacturers.

The main purpose of inverter monitoring systems.

Internet-based solar inverter monitoring by itself provides solar homeowners and installers with basic but important data. First and foremost, inverter monitoring alerts homeowners and maintenance services when the solar PV system is offline for any reason. The monitors also measure and report solar production by the hour, day, month and year, revealing both positive and negative trends over time. In addition to kilowatt-hour production, voltage, amperage and other power system metrics, some inverter monitors can track the performance of individual solar panels, with all of this information made available on laptop or mobile phone apps.

In short, solar inverter monitoring systems provide a great deal of information about solar production, maintenance and functionality. However, except for rare outages, homeowners may not use or care about their monitoring system until they get a higher than normal electric bill. That’s one of the occasions when a smart energy monitor can be the perfect complement to the inverter monitoring, but it’s far from the only occasion.

Using inverter monitoring with smart home energy monitoring.

Smart home energy monitoring is relatively new, but it was never meant to replace a manufacturer’s inverter monitor. A smart home energy monitor like Smappee Plus was designed to provide more useful information for the consumer, not add more data for installers and maintenance workers.

While Smappee Plus does monitor a home’s total solar production, it’s not designed to mirror the inverter monitor’s maintenance and performance functionality. Instead, it uses the solar production data and the home’s consumption data to enable greater energy savings for the customer as well as add modern home lifestyle and safety benefits.

Smappee recognizes the energy signatures of common home appliances, showing the real-time energy usage of the homeowner’s fridges, freezers, dishwashers etc. For appliances that aren’t recognized automatically, Smappee’s app will alert the homeowner that something has turned on, allowing the homeowner to identify and name the device in the app.

Once home appliances are identified, the homeowner can actively use Smappee’s information to further reduce their utility bill. For instance, this could be done by turning off unnecessary lights, identifying and eliminating vampire loads that are always on in the background, and replacing costly old refrigerators that are wasting more electricity than a modern fridge.

Unlike inverter monitoring, Smappee’s smart energy monitoring can also make the most of solar production by either steering excess energy to an installed lithium-ion battery system or towards the homeowner’s electric car charger. If no energy storage or EV exists, Smappee can turn on the electric water heater before exporting excess solar generation to the grid. All of this can be programmed and is then done automatically, without input from the homeowner or the solar installer and without affecting the inverter’s monitoring system.

When combined with Smappee’s smart plugs, homeowners can monitor lights and small devices, and control them remotely. For example, users can turn on the lights before arriving home or remotely turn off the iron mistakenly left on.

Finally, unlike an inverter monitor, Smappee can also be used for security, alerting the homeowner when a light goes on or a garage door opens when the owner is at work or on vacation or when the fridge’s door is left open. The app can also interconnect with other smart home devices, becoming a hub for the home’s entire energy usage and control.

To sum up, both an inverter monitoring system and smart energy monitoring can measure solar production. However, inverter monitoring is primarily used by solar installers for maintenance and improving solar system performance. A smart energy monitoring system is designed to be used by the homeowner, empowering them to further reduce their utility bill, add smart home control and functionality, and to provide increased home security and  remote monitoring.

 

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