Passive solar monitoring versus active solar monitoring: a vast difference

Solar monitoring has moved into a new era. Gone are the days when the solar power system monitoring consisted of only a simple hourly graph showing how much energy your solar system is generating.

With the surge in solar system installations over the past five years, many new monitoring systems have entered the market. But just like the quality of solar panels varies, monitoring systems range from cheap gimmicks to highly advanced product offerings.

Choosing an advanced monitoring system, and not a cheap toy, gives home owners peace of mind and will save them money year after year. Below is a table summarising the key monitoring features of available solar monitoring packages.

Five things active monitoring will tell you that passive monitoring cannot

1. What is happening right now

Cheap monitoring systems keep track of a solar energy system’s performance in 15-minute intervals or longer. Live active monitoring systems deliver energy updates to a real-time dashboard every few seconds.

This means you can see how much energy your solar system is generating right now. It also allows you to see how your energy use changes as you turn on and off your home appliances, detect faulty appliances and determine exactly when you are using more energy than you are generating.

2. How much energy your solar system should produce

This is the core of active monitoring services.

Passive monitoring systems allow you to set a default alert level of say 50% of your systems rated power x the typical number of sun hours in a day. They will then send you an alert if your system produces less than half of this average output on a given day.

This means you will be falsely alerted of system faults on cloudy days, and will never detect faults that cause smaller amount of degradation. This is a major drawback since studies show that the typical Australian solar system is performing at only 81% of expected output.

Active monitoring, like the Solar Analytics Smart Monitor, do not need you to set any arbitrary alert level. Instead they do the thinking for you by using local weather data to know exactly when you system is actually underperforming. Even if only by a small amount. This attention to detail saves you money.

3. Detailed fault diagnosis – useful information

Active monitoring does not simply send alerts saying a solar energy system is not working or produced only 3 kWh today. Instead active monitoring provides a precise comparison of a system’s expected versus actual energy generated on a particular day, and details the reason for any underperformance.

The best active monitoring goes a step further by analysing the fingerprint of the underperformance and providing step by step instructions to help the householder get the issue fixed as quickly and painlessly as possible.

This can help reduce the downtime of your system from months to days, making a significant difference quarterly power bills.

So whether your DC isolator has tripped, an earth fault has occurred or voltage overloading is bringing down your solar system’s energy output, active monitoring takes the guesswork out of fault diagnostics and ensures your solar system is operating at peak efficiency.

4. Energy usage and savings

With active monitoring, users can log in to their monitoring dashboard and see exactly how much energy they are consuming compared to how much they are generating.

The best designed monitors display easy-to-read live graphs that provide a full understanding of how and when you are using your electricity.

Where possible, homeowners can then operate high-consumption appliances, such as pool pumps or hot water services, inside the solar access window instead of exporting back to the grid for a pittance.

A good active monitoring service will tell the homeowner how much money their solar system is saving them each week, and ideally provide recommendations on how they personally can save even more money on their electricity bill.

5. Support

Finally, an active monitoring service will be backed up by real people who care about helping you to maximise the value of your solar system. No matter how smart the monitoring is, there are always times when you have a question or need further support.

An active monitoring service provides this additional support to ensure that your solar system is working at optimal efficiency.

For more information on Active Solar Monitoring, contact us.

Published: 17th September 2018

Solar Analytics
We are Australian Photovoltaic Engineers, Software Developers, Scientists, Solar Technicians and Designers, all passionate about sustainable energy and the power of solar.
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