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An energy consumption monitor is essential with solar, here’s why

Purchasing solar is already confusing enough, deciding which brands of solar panels and inverters to select. Throw the inclusion of an energy consumption monitor into the mix, and the question of “do I need one?” arises. Most companies won’t tell you that 80% of consumers need more than solar panels and an inverter to reduce power bills, and the answer isn’t a battery. Consider an energy consumption monitor connected to your solar the missing link.

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By understanding/visualising energy consumption in line with solar energy production, end-users have a greater chance of achieving bill reduction success than viewing solar production alone. Most of us previously understood energy consumption as a bi-monthly bill cycle. With such a large gap between bill cycles, energy-saving opportunities can easily get lost between bills.

An energy consumption monitor connected to your solar system delivers energy import and export data in real-time for end-users to make more informed decisions, managing a power supply toward bill reduction success daily.

What is a consumption monitor?

Firstly, the energy consumption monitor is not related to the electricity supply meter. A consumption monitor, in this instance, is an additional device that connects in sync with your solar monitoring portal. Much like the electricity supply meter, it monitors the energy flowing in and out of the property. The difference with a solar-connected consumption monitor is you gain access to real-time energy consumption information through the convenience of your solar monitoring app. The combination assists in better alignment of energy use with solar production.

Fronius Solar Smart Meter and Inverter

Fronius solar inverter, home electrical appliance load and Fronius Smart Meter (energy consumption monitor).

With or without, side by side

Once a solar energy system is installed, end-users receive vastly different information when comparing a monitoring platform with a consumption monitor as opposed to a monitoring platform without solar-connected consumption monitoring.

Jinko-Huawei-with-Smart-Meter

With

Consumption monitor
  • Real-time solar energy production
  • Historical production data
  • Service messages
  • System fault alerts
  • Real-time grid energy consumption
  • Historical consumption data
  • Excess solar export data
  • Beneficial financial analysis
  • Battery charge & discharge control ¹
Jinko-Huawei-without-Smart-Meter

Without

Consumption monitor
  • Real-time solar energy production
  • Historical production data
  • Service messages
  • System fault alerts
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

¹ Hybrid inverters only. 

Imagine purchasing a new solar PV system that you’ve invested time in to ensure the best supplier and products, only to find that only half the information exists after installation. Your experience with the “WiFi” monitoring portal is quite underwhelming. A solar-connected consumption monitor is the device that generates the missing and often most valuable data.

8 good reasons

Still not convinced by the above side-by-side comparison of how powerful such a small device can be? Below are eight good reasons why an energy consumption monitor is essential for bill reduction success.

1. Live energy use information

A solar-connected energy consumption monitor produces the data required to provide graphical energy use information in line with solar production. With such visualisation, it’s possible to understand precisely how much energy is consumed within premises beyond a solar energy system’s capacity during the day.

With a better understanding of how much energy appliances draw singularly and combine with other devices, it’s easier to schedule selected operating times to ensure the sun’s energy gets maximised.

After the sun has set, the energy consumption monitor continues to provide information on how you use your energy—advising of any energy-wasting appliances that may be operating needlessly in the background. Turn off. Money saved.

2. Discover your energy profile

Your energy profile has a pattern, a very characteristic pattern. Over time, users with a solar-connected energy consumption monitor begin understanding their particular energy profile. Not just how solar works on sunny and overcast days but also how appliances operate and consume power over time in different seasons.

With an in-depth knowledge of appliance operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making more intuitive decisions surrounding a property’s power supply and use patterns becomes easier.

3. Historical energy analysis

Understanding past energy consumption habits facilitates the opportunity to ensure informed changes in the future. Such as alterations to operational practices or which appliances are to operate within the premises.

Reviewing the historical consumption data generated by a solar-connected energy consumption monitor of a winter period, users can make educated decisions on how their airconditioner may operate in winter temperature extremes combined with minimal sunlight hours. Through such visualisation and understanding, winter operating times of the air conditioning system can better align with the sun. With the bulk of the heating occurring during the day, the air conditioner’s operation in less valuable times is minimised to simply maintaining temperature.

Physical change requirements are often trickier to spot without a detailed historical analysis facilitated by the solar-connected energy consumption monitor. An example is the use of a fridge. Fridges operate 24/7. An energy consumption monitor measures this consumption as a constant load with characteristic peaks and troughs. Once the refrigerator’s efficiency is compromised, the data distorts uncharacteristically. By analysing such, it’s possible to understand the appliance requires attention before wasting money on lost energy.

Solar Analytics Smart Meter

Image: Solar Analytics 3rd party energy consumption monitoring portal.

4. Reduced future battery cost

Batteries are costly. Today’s average cost of most solar batteries is approximately $1000 per/kWh installed. For example, precise consumption habits detected by a solar-connected energy consumption monitor could identify the requirement of only a 10 kWh battery instead of an assumed 15 kWh battery (to be safe) for general load-shaving purposes.

Based on these values, a 10kWh battery costs approximately $10,000. Alternatively, a 15kWh battery would cost $15,000. Opting for a reduced-capacity solar battery ensures an upfront cost saving required to purchase a battery.

5. Appliance control

Welcome to the future of solar. Battery integration is only half the picture. Intelligent appliance control will transform everyone’s home, and there is only one way it will occur—a solar-connected energy consumption monitor.

Selected solar inverter manufacturers are working with appliance manufacturers to ensure a standard communications protocol for the intelligent operation of direct-connected appliances such as air conditioners.

Why? Because appliances such as air conditioners can be considered a form of energy storage. Here’s how it works;

Beyond storage capacity or in the absence of a feed-in tariff, excess solar energy can power the desired thermostat setting of an air conditioner. Operating an energy-intensive appliance such as an air conditioning system when the sun’s energy is available reduces the demand for grid consumption on-demand as the excess energy from the solar becomes stored in temperature conversion.

SMA ennexOS Solar Monitoring Portal

Image: SMA’s InterSolar Award winning ennexOS energy control platform.

6. Future proof design

Without a solar-connected energy consumption monitor, solar system owners should consider this device the next logical step towards implementing an energy-efficient home or business before any other alternative.

Appliance alterations such as solar batteries, LED lights, and energy-efficient appliances do little if the energy use pattern of the premises needs to be understood. Knowledge is power, and a solar-connected energy monitor ensures actionable insights within the palm of your hand to make well-informed decisions.

7. Comprehensive monitoring portal

Once obtaining access to the solar monitoring portal after installation, all fields and beneficial data will be accurate and complete with a solar-connected energy consumption monitor.

Many users with a basic solar system (without a consumption monitor) are often left underwhelmed when logging into their monitoring portal to find the true power of the portal isn’t complete until the integration of a solar-connected energy consumption monitor.

8. Greater Energy Saving Potential

After all, that’s why you are investing in solar energy. Expedite energy-saving potential in any scenario with knowledge. Understanding an energy profile in detail surpasses any appliance to ensure the best return on investment while maximising one’s energy-saving potential.

Solar power and home battery technology are only ever part of a self-sufficient power supply solution as such devices possess limitations. Knowledge is the best way to manage a successful, self-sufficient power supply. An energy consumption monitor working alongside a solar photovoltaic system delivers knowledge-enriching data to harvest energy and consume it wisely.

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