parallax background

Time Running Out on Solar – Are Smart Meters the Answer?

The Rapid Rise of the Home Energy Management System
October 24, 2017

Many see solar power at a critical point in it’s lifespan, with home and commercial installations at an all time high. However, there is still a substantial length of time to see any real return on investment.

The end of financial carrot subsidies and reduced buy back to the grid, as well as other surcharges from major power companies for those with grid-tied solar panels, may even cause the uptake of solar energy to decline.

Research is showing that around 52% of solar pv installations are underperforming due to a lack of knowledge or monitoring of the solar supply from grid-tied systems. This is leading to a purchase of excess grid power than what should really be required.

Metering and monitoring are two different things. Smart meters are not necessarily all that they are made out to be. At best the data from a smart meter is delayed by 30 mins and can take longer than that. Monitoring software can give you a live view of what is happening and how your power is being generated and consumed.

This is where solar analytics and monitoring comes in. Although solar power monitoring is not new, a lack of understanding or visibility can prevent action from being taken when it is necessary. This makes it very important to have the correct systems in place.

So what should you look for in a good solar monitoring system?

  • Total electricity consumed
    • This is a measure of just how much electricity your whole household or business consumes in a day
  • Solar power generated
    • How much output are your solar panels actually creating each day (This will of course vary based on the number of hours of sunshine and the weather on any given day)
  • Power exported to the grid
    • How much excess solar pv power you are generating that is going back into the grid
  • Live data
    • Each measurement needs to be available as it happens so any potential problems that arise can be remedied immediately to maximise the energy being created
  • Accessible data
    • You need to be able to see the data coming from your solar monitoring setup from anywhere you are, not just when you are at home or at work.

How does solar analytics data help you save money?

Simply hooking up a solar PV array on your rooftop that can utilise the free energy from the sun is only part of the equation. The other requires a change in the way you use that power.

The bulk of most household energy use occurs early in the morning and after 6pm at night, which are either side of the peak amount of sunlight on any given day. This means that the best time to make use of your free solar electricity is actually during the day when you are less likely to be there to use it.

Most recent model washing machines and clothes dryers can be set on a timer to run when you are not around, thus using electricity when it is at its peak from your panels. The same for pool pumps and heaters. If you can set these on a timer to run throughout the day, they can maximise the use of solar energy, rather than paying for it from the grid.

Given the difference in what it costs to purchase electricity from the grid and what you are paid for feeding back into that grid, the savings can can a huge difference to your monthly power bill. This difference can enable you to effectively pay off your solar PV system much quicker than you normally would.