Best Idea Install A Third
To stay on top of your PV system’s health and make the best use of your solar power to save money, we recommend investing a few hundred dollars in a third-party solar monitoring system.
Unlike the data that comes from your inverter, these can detect when the output is poor or nil, and alert you with an email or SMS within a couple of days.
Good quality third-party monitoring will know the correct performance to be expected from your panels and, using local weather data, will alert you if it drops below the minimum guaranteed in your 25 year warranty.
And when you call the installer to fix it, they’ll take your concerns seriously if they know you’ve got a third-party monitoring system guiding you.
Nigel Morris from Solar Analytics says, “Not having monitoring on your solar PV system is like driving a car without a dashboard.”
“It simply gives you a 0-100% figure for your system health,” adds Peacock. “A friend started getting emails from their Solar Analytics system telling them to look at their system urgently.
“She got the installer round and found a melted connector that could have been a fire risk!”
Monitoring also allows you to track your energy usage in the home and measure high-usage circuits and appliances to:
- reduce their use or upgrade them to more efficient models
- shift their use to daytime solar production periods.
ABOVE: Graph from a Solar Analytics monitoring system for a home showing daily output compared with expected daily output.
Watt Flexible Solar Panel Tests
This is a flexible solar panel bought from a non-branded source on Aliexpress. it was very cheap and advertised at 150 watts with and efficiency of 20%. I doubted this immediately due to the dimensions of 1160 mm x 540mm which brings the area in at approximately 0.63m2.
The Voc measurement is never very interesting and not much practical use IMO, but it test at 21.85 volts.
Assuming a lab level of irradiance for STC standards of 1000W/m2:
- 1000 watts x 0.623 m2 x 20% = 125 watts
So even assuming laboratory conditions this panels is never going to deliver 150 watts. Under the NOCT rating system using irradiance values of 800W/m2:
- 800 watts x 0.623 x 20% = 100 watts
This is more like it but this also assumes that the manufacturers 20 % efficiency is correct too. How do you really know what this panel can output in watts? The only way is to measure and know the actual irradiance with a meter.
This value for any location is quite difficult to find and most installers use data derived from national solar databases which give them an insolation value for the year or day, and allows them to work out their solar array yield in watts over the long term. This doesnt really help us to assess an individual panels stand-alone performance in real-time.
While its true that Isc is an indicator of the current at maximum power Im looking for a reliable direct method, so I tested the irradiance level in my location as a starting point:
- 2.87 amps x 16 volts = 34.44 watts
Building A Frankenstein System
Finally, lets talk about the phone call our system designers dread:
I have an inverter from eBay and some panels I bought a few years back, can you help me build the rest of my system?
A fair number of people hold out for great deals and acquire parts slowly over time, until theyre ready to slap all the parts together like some kind of solar-powered Frankensteins monster.
But just like with cars or computers, its not enough to have parts. You have to have the right parts that are compatible with each other.
Otherwise, you get
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Knowing The Good From The Bad In Solar Lighting
Using solar landscape lights in your outdoor design scheme is an excellent way to reduce your home’s energy consumption. Solar light-emitting diode lighting is typically made with small solar panels that power one or more 1.2-volt batteries to run the lights at night. But finding high-quality solar-powered LED lighting for outdoor applications such as your patio, yard or porch can be a challenge. Many solar LED lighting fixtures are below-par in terms of their performance and durability, but how do you know what to look for in a quality LED light fixture?
Selecting High-Quality Solar LED Lights
Whether you are looking for solar path lights, solar powered spot lights, solar lamp post lights, solar wall lighting, or solar security lighting, first you should look for high-quality construction in your solar LED light fixtures. Here are some qualities that will indicate durability in your choice for solar outdoor lighting:
- Solid assembly: Lower-priced fixtures may pop together using twist-lock or press-fit assemblies which can become brittle , loosen over time, or snap with repeated use. Choose fixtures that are put together using solid screw fittings or ones that have been riveted, soldered, or welded together.
- Connection between lights: If you want truly easy installation, look for models that come with quick-connect wiring systems so that you can connect several lighting fixtures together and then hook them up to a central solar PV panel.
Don’t Rely On Your Electricity Bill
We found 46% of solar owners use their bill to see if there’s a problem – but this is unreliable. Looking at the amount of money you received for your exported solar doesn’t give a good idea of the performance of your investment.
Your bill doesn’t show how much energy was produced by the PV system in total, or how much of that was used in the house it only shows the amount of solar energy exported to the grid, and the amount of electricity you’ve drawn from the grid.
If something goes wrong with your system and the output is reduced or the inverter has an error and stops working, the grid quietly steps in to provide the power instead. Many of us only receive electricity bills every three months. That’s a long time for a system to be on the blink and losing you money.
In addition, the output of solar systems change with the seasons as the hours of available sunshine lengthen or shorten. And with a change in the seasons, our household usage patterns also change. So quarterly electricity bills aren’t easily comparable.
Shaded panels. Image courtesy of Christian Anderson.
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Everything You Need To Know About Solar Panels
When you are using solar panels, it is important that you know how to test a solar panel. Once you have installed them, you have to check the output to confirm that you are receiving the power you need. You will get the help you need and even buy your first solar panel- you might need more than one.
You need to optimize the performance and get the most out of your solar panel production. You will need to have the highest capacity factor that you could achieve. It is good to realize how effective the solar panels are performing in their installed location before you start their operation.
Electric current has two classifications, AC and DC. AC stands for alternating current while DC stands for Direct current. The direct current usually flows in one direction and is required for low voltage needs solar panels in this case. You will need to measure your power in watts since its the standard unit that is set for most electronic appliances. You will perform a specific calculation for testing the solar panels.
Volts x Amp = watts.
To determine the power that the solar panel is dissipating, you need to measure the wattage and voltage.
Do You Really Save Money With Solar Panels
Yes, you might be able to save money with solar panels. Whether or not youll see a return on your investment depends on how much power the panels generate, how much electricity costs in your area, and how much you paid for the solar panel system. Shopping around for the most affordable system and financing it through a low-interest loan option can help you save money with solar, especially if you live in a market where electricity rates are high.
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Solar Energy Requires A Lot Of Water
Water is not required for PV cells to work, but for CSP, water is needed for cooling purposes. In fact, CSP plants can use hundreds of gallons of water in the process of converting sun rays into usable energy.
The production of PV cells requires the use of water, as well. That, combined with the energy required to make solar panels themselves, makes them less environmentally friendly to make. It can also have a greater impact on the local environment where the panels are installed.
Srecs And Tax Credits Can Go Away At Any Time
For every Megawatt-hour of electricity produced by your solar panels, an SREC, or Solar Renewable Energy Credit, is earned. In states like Massachusetts, these SRECs are sold to utility companies who will pay homeowners for each SREC that they purchase. Additionally, Massachusetts homeowners are currently eligible for state and federal solar incentives that can help offset your cost.
While these programs and credits are great for homeowners, theyre susceptible to change. For example, the Federal Solar Tax Credit will end for home solar in 2021, and tax credits in four other states will expire this year. If youre thinking about solar, dont hesitate to schedule a free solar consultation. You dont want to miss out on SRECs or tax credits before its too late.
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Solar Prevents Power Outages
Youre generating your own energy, so the lights should stay on during a power outage, right?
Unfortunately, thats not the case with grid-tied solar systems. Although the power originates from your panels, it is still stored in the public utility grid.
When the grid power goes out, so does yours, because theres no infrastructure to feed that power to your property.
The remedy for this is a grid-tied system with battery backup. When the powers on, it functions like a normal grid-tied system. During an outage, a small backup battery bank kicks in to keep the lights on.
It costs a bit more, but the peace of mind is invaluable, especially if you live somewhere with extreme weather conditions or unreliable power from the grid.
S In Determining If A Solar Panel Is Bad
Usually, solar panels can work for years without issue. But most solar panel owners might not be aware if the installed solar system is working correctly or not.
So if you dont know how to tell if a solar panel is bad, follow these simple steps to find out any issue.
Heres how you can tell if a solar panel is bad:
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Read Your Solar Meter
Your solar meter monitors your systems production and shares this information with your solar company. Typically, your meter will cycle through different screens. You should pay particular attention to the one that displays the total kilowatt-hours that your solar panels are generating.4 As long as your kilowatt-hours are increasing, your solar panels should be working fine. If not, make sure to go through the previous steps before you call your solar company.
Your Electricity Costs Are Already Low
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 96% of homeowners have installed solar, or are considering doing so, to save money on utility bills.
This makes perfect sense. Many American households spend hundreds of dollars every month on their power bills and solar panels are often the most effective way to slash that amount. Financial modeling by SolarReviews shows 25-year bill savings in the amount of $62,803 for solar panels installed in San Francisco in 2021, for instance.
However, some homeowners dont spend very much on electricity. This could be because of one or more of the following factors:
- You have a small home
- You have a small household size
- Your home and appliances are energy efficient
- You enjoy low electric rates from your local utility
If thats you, and you pay $50 or less a month for electricity, then installing solar probably isnt worth the time and effort.
Find out how much a solar system would cost for your specific home
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When To Consider Replacing Your Solar Panels
If after the 25-year period you notice that your energy bill is creeping back up, it might be because your solar energy system is not functioning efficiently. In the event this happens, you might need to invest in new solar panels.
Many solar companies offer apps or physical trackers that monitor your solar electricity generation monthly or even daily. Having a grasp of the typical amount of the energy output of your panels will help you notice if something is off.
For example, if your solar panels generate 35 kWh of clean electricity per week and you notice that over the years this reduces to 32 kWh, then 30 kWh – and there is no visible debris or increase of shade cover over your roof – this can indicate that your panels are beginning to degrade.
When your panels are no longer producing the amount of electricity your home needs, it becomes time to replace them.
Find out how much solar panels cost in your area
A Certified Pv Installer Can Help Troubleshoot A Solar System
After performing these basic troubleshooting steps, if you are not able to locate the source of problem, it is better to call a certified or licensed electrician. Keep in mind that while doing any troubleshooting, there is always a potential of getting shock. Make sure that you wear insulating shoes and gloves when performing any such work.
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Myth #: Solar Panels Are Not That Green
This myth gets stirred up every now and then, but is notbacked up by any tangible data. What thedata does show is that the emissions of solarpanels are far less than the emissions relating to coal or naturalgas energy.
The overall emissions seem greater than they are since solarpanels require all of their energy up-front. But when dispersed over 30 years of emission-free generation, they proveto be much cleaner than the common alternatives.
Even when the energy to mine, clean, process, andmanufacture the solar panels is taken into account, the overall emissionintensity is 3x to 10x less than traditional fossil fuels.
Besides the emissions benefits, solar panels have an energypayback period of about 2 to 3 years according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This is about 40%faster than a standard coal-fired power plant will pay back its energy.
No energy generation method is without its faults, there are many positiveand negative environmental impacts of solar power.
Key Takeaway: Solar panels produce far less emissions perkWh of energy than coal or natural gas and payback their energy faster thancoal or natural gas.
How To Diagnose Different Potential Inverter Issues
Anecdotally, the majority of issues with solar equipment are discovered soon after the solar energy system is installed. Theres a slight possibility that a piece of solar equipment is defective out of the box, and that type of malfunction can be caught very quickly. In this event, you likely still have the contact information for your solar installation company on hand, and theyll be willing to promptly schedule a time to come out and replace any equipment thats not functioning correctly.
Beyond these quickly-discovered, out-of-the-box malfunctions, there are a couple of steps you can take to help your solar company diagnose what the problem may be. The first thing to look at is the production estimate for your solar energy system. Has the overall system output dropped from what you expected or are you not seeing any production at all from your solar energy system? If the answer is no production recorded at all, the issue may be as simple as your inverter losing connectivity with the internet. This is perhaps the most common way that an inverter fails, and is a very simple fix that your solar company may be able to walk you through over the phone.
Finally, if neither of these quick diagnostics uncovers the issue, the failure could be at a central location, such as at the large central inverter included in with string inverter or string plus power optimizer set up, or at the junction box included in a microinverter system.
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How Do You Know If A Solar Panel Is Bad
Using electrical safety techniques to keep you and your solar panels safe, you would turn your attention to each solar panel. If they have inline fuses, you will check them to ensure that the fuse is not the problem.
You know when a solar panel is bad because the power output from the solar panel is beneath its efficiency rating. So the first thing to know is this:
- Throughout the day, solar panels produce a range of electricity In the early morning and late afternoon, the panel will produce the least amount of power. The solar panel will produce the most energy at noon and through the hotter part of the day. So, the reading will be relatively consistent and low when we say the power output is beneath the panels efficiency rating.
That information also means that you must know the range of energy production to expect from the panel.
What Is Solar Module Pid Effect
Potential Induced Degradation is the meaning of the abbreviation PID. Whenever a power loss occurs between both the panel and the earthing, it can cause this issue. A dangerous potential difference between earthing and the panels voltage could result when the solar panel is safe.
The PV panels performance will continue to decline, and it will accelerate its lifespan due to this effect. Throughout solar plants, weve seen a 10% drop in performance due to PID. Were currently experimenting with a variety of methods to reduce or even reverse the effects of PID.
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