By Josh Ferguson, solar advocate with an interest in energy management
With so many families becoming all too aware of rising energy costs, many are turning to alternative sources to meet their electrical needs. Solar, in particular, has become the #1 alternative home energy source for several reasons: a) the technology has become much more affordable, b) there are tax incentives that help defray the cost, and c) the technology has improved a great deal in recent years.
While solar power may seem like the miracle everyone is looking for, there are some things to watch out for. For instance, once panels become dirty from dust or pollen, the output is affected, since they can’t catch the sun’s rays as well as a sparkling clean panel. Often, a house with solar will have less-than-stellar savings on the energy bill simply because the owner is unaware of just how much power production is affected by a dirty panel. (Note, however, the this issue ranges by region.) Another costly peril to watch out for is wildlife intrusion. Critters, particularly in wooded areas, sometimes find it convenient to build a nest underneath solar panels. Squirrels, especially, are reported to be the culprit of solar panel wire destruction – seems that they enjoy chewing on the wires (see the image below).
There are all types of monitoring options for PV installations. Most inverters will show production in real-time from a screen located on the inverter; others will have the inverter connect to the Internet and send the information to a server that can be accessed by logging onto their website. Some microinverters have the ability to monitor at individual panel level, which can be invaluable when it comes to maintenance. However, none of these show you how much energy you are actively producing compared to what you are consuming. This can lead to dramatically underestimating how much power is being consumed compared to the production, which can end up being a huge surprise when the electric bill arrives and expected savings are not there.
There are several options for 3rd-party energy monitors, but only the TED Pro Home* can monitor solar/wind generation and accurately compare it to consumption in real-time – and provide real-time net usage. This eliminates the surprise mentioned above. The TED Pro Home is easily set up to be accessed from any mobile device, making it easier than ever to view production and consumption locally and remotely.
The TED Pro Home stores detailed data internally for up to 10 years. However, if you have an Internet connection, you can have TED Pro Home automatically post the data to a very attractive interface which they call “TED Commander.” You also have the option to have the data post to any other 3rd-party site, such as pvoutput.org. All of this provides a quick and easy way to stay on top of your energy consumption and PV production. Combine this with a little routine maintenance on your PV array, and just sit in the sun and soak up the savings.
*Full Disclosure: This article was kindly sponsored by TED.