Solar panel monitoring systems are a great way to measure the solar panel efficiency and energy production of your solar array. They can even help you pinpoint particular problem areas in your system should they arise.
Solar monitoring systems measure information about your system’s energy production, usually from solar inverters or a charge controller. The DC current is converted from the solar array into AC energy for use in your home.
There are numerous ways by which this data can be accessed and stored; some systems offer internet connectivity through Wi-Fi and/or ethernet, and some include cellular functionality so that you can access system monitoring during internet outages.
Methods and systems for solar panel monitoring vary between manufacturers and can be included with your equipment or sold as an add-on. We’ve listed some of our recommendations for monitoring solutions by system type and brand in the following sections.
Grid-Tie Solar Panel Monitoring Systems
The purpose of a grid-tied solar system is to generate energy from the sun for storage in a utility grid. This allows you to access energy whenever it’s needed.
Grid-tie solar offers a number of benefits if you already have access to a utility grid. It has a lower upfront cost since there’s no need to purchase batteries to store generated power. The utility grid is your storage unit.
Grid-tie monitoring helps support your entire solar system to operate efficiently, transmitting data to monitor and regulate solar panel output. The following products offer superior grid-tie support.
Best Grid-Tie Solar Panel Monitoring Systems
Enphase’s IQ Envoy seamlessly integrates with their IQ microinverter systems. The IQ Envoy communicates with IQ microinverters, transmitting performance and production data which can be viewed either directly from the IQ Envoy or online from any internet-connected device.
The IQ Envoy has consumption-metering capability, offers flexible networking with integrated Wi-Fi, and even offers 3G and 4G cellular connection options.
The Sunny Boy 5.0-US-41 Inverter is the first grid-tie inverter made by SMA that features direct, out-of-the-box access to monitoring via smartphone. With no additional add-ons, you can monitor real-time system performance using the SMA Sunny Portal on any web-enabled device.
SolarEdge integrates solar panel monitoring within their inverters, via ethernet connection. Some of their solar inverters, like the SolarEdge SE9K SetApp Enabled Inverter, are compatible with optional add-ons that let you monitor your system’s performance wirelessly or cellularly.
Off-Grid Solar Monitoring Systems
In an off-grid system, it’s important to optimize the battery life so that your system can run smoothly and efficiently. An off-grid solar monitoring system measures the battery’s state of charge, so you know when it’s time to charge, or when they are finished charging.
The following off-grid systems not only offer superior monitoring, but wireless and/or ethernet capabilities that make real-time monitoring simple and accurate.
The Best Off-Grid Solar Monitoring Systems
For off-grid system monitoring, Magnum offers both wireless and ethernet enabled monitoring add-ons through their line of MagWeb products.
Devices like the Magnum Energy ME-MW-E MagWeb allow for real-time monitoring of your Magnum inverter, as well as any devices connected to it, such as the ME-BMK Battery Monitor. One limitation of the MagWeb system, however, is that you’ll be unable to modify system settings remotely.
The free MyMidnite application allows you to monitor any of Midnite’s Classic line of products, such as the Midnite Solar Classic 250 MPPT Charge Controller, through an ethernet connection. Unfortunately, as is the case with MagWeb, you won’t be able to change system settings remotely in MyMidnite.
The Morningstar UMC-1 accessory enables communication between a PC and an applicable Morningstar charge controller or inverter. This means that you can remotely monitor Morningstar controllers that only have meterbus connections, like the SunSaver MPPT.
Alternatively, Morningstar offers controllers with out-of-the-box ethernet capabilities, such as the Morningstar TriStar TS-MPPT-60 Charge Controller. With either of these options, you’ll be able to monitor system performance, albeit without the ability to change system settings remotely.
If you have an OutBack Power system for your off-grid solar array, the OutBack Power MATE3s includes Optics RE monitoring through ethernet connection. The MATE3s allows you to remotely change system settings, and through the Optics RE platform you can quickly access system performance data from any web-enabled device.
The Schneider Conext Gateway provides live monitoring as well as local system configuration and management for their line of solar products. Offering both wireless and ethernet connectivity, the Conext Gateway can take advantage of cloud-based data storage through the Conext Insight 2 platform.
Overall, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to solar monitoring; the best monitoring technology depends on what features matter most to you, and what system type and manufacturer you choose.
If you have any questions about choosing the right solar panel monitoring system for your needs, feel free to get in touch with us. We’ve been helping people custom-build their solar systems for nearly 30 years, and would be happy to help find the best possible solution for you.