Getting The Most Out Of Your Investment In Solar Generation

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By Josh Ferguson, solar advocate with an interest in energy management

With so many families becoming all too aware of rising energy costs, many are turning to alternative sources to meet their electrical needs. Solar, in particular, has become the #1 alternative home energy source for several reasons: a) the technology has become much more affordable, b) there are tax incentives that help defray the cost, and c) the technology has improved a great deal in recent years.

While solar power may seem like the miracle everyone is looking for, there are some things to watch out for. For instance, once panels become dirty from dust or pollen, the output is affected, since they can’t catch the sun’s rays as well as a sparkling clean panel. Often, a house with solar will have less-than-stellar savings on the energy bill simply because the owner is unaware of just how much power production is affected by a dirty panel. (Note, however, the this issue ranges by region.) Another costly peril to watch out for is wildlife intrusion. Critters, particularly in wooded areas, sometimes find it convenient to build a nest underneath solar panels. Squirrels, especially, are reported to be the culprit of solar panel wire destruction – seems that they enjoy chewing on the wires (see the image below).

There are all types of monitoring options for PV installations. Most inverters will show production in real-time from a screen located on the inverter; others will have the inverter connect to the Internet and send the information to a server that can be accessed by logging onto their website. Some microinverters have the ability to monitor at individual panel level, which can be invaluable when it comes to maintenance. However, none of these show you how much energy you are actively producing compared to what you are consuming. This can lead to dramatically underestimating how much power is being consumed compared to the production, which can end up being a huge surprise when the electric bill arrives and expected savings are not there.

There are several options for 3rd-party energy monitors, but only the TED Pro Home* can monitor solar/wind generation and accurately compare it to consumption in real-time – and provide real-time net usage. This eliminates the surprise mentioned above. The TED Pro Home is easily set up to be accessed from any mobile device, making it easier than ever to view production and consumption locally and remotely.

The TED Pro Home stores detailed data internally for up to 10 years. However, if you have an Internet connection, you can have TED Pro Home automatically post the data to a very attractive interface which they call “TED Commander.” You also have the option to have the data post to any other 3rd-party site, such as All of this provides a quick and easy way to stay on top of your energy consumption and PV production. Combine this with a little routine maintenance on your PV array, and just sit in the sun and soak up the savings.

*Full Disclosure: This article was kindly sponsored by TED.

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20 thoughts on “Getting The Most Out Of Your Investment In Solar Generation

  • nice sales pitch. No matter where you look no one make it as great as a TED. 😉

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    • FWIW, I’m about to ditch mine for a Rainforest Eagle.

      The powerline communication between TED’s measuring units and the gateway is just too unreliable. And that’s after having switched outlets, reshuffled breakers, installed filters, all that cr@p.
      In the end I managed to make it “mostly” work… but that thing still sees me using like 70 kW or some other nonsensical number every once in a while, making totals wrong.
      I installed this meter to check on the utility’s. It’s completely useless for that.

  • OK i’ll bite. Who else makes or is designing similar products? This is a nice product spiel, but nothing more that I can see.

  • Love it, I work with and we use Enphase monitoring plus Locus celluar dashboard plus zigbee. This will be fun to help customers integrate.

  • Wait for Apple or Google/Nest to come up with a truly integrated home management system covering everything: a/c, pv, car charger, dishwasher, washing machine, freezer, pool pump, home cinema, burglar alarm and antisquirrel machine gun.

    • I think your neighbors might object to the last item. 🙂

      • Not if they have squirrels too.

        • You think it could work with Rabbits also? Or maybe Deer? That would be helpful…

    • How about a simple “Fry the Squirrel” electrocution device? Use Solar Power instead of bullets

    • Where do I put in my request for an anti-bear rocket launcher?

      Summabitch tore the hell out of my orchard.

      Here’s my plum tree that had its first good crop this year. We harvested about 5 gallons. The bear harvested about 5 gallons and wrecked the tree.

  • This is interesting branding. Process analytical, instrumentation and control, and data storage is a pretty old business. Like the first time someone figured out that say temperature could be measured, read remotely and recorded for future review. TED has now branded itself to sell stuff? With Google and the internet one can get a lot of information from many sources for free, with keywords.

    PV magazine discusses solar motoring and data logging here:

    “In the U.S. market alone, the number of companies has risen from a few dozen to several hundred, begging the question of what standard services are, and at what price.”

    Read more:

    The figure below shows the types of I&C and the companies representing those categories. Shout out to LaPlace. Little does one know how important the French mathematician is to the process instrumentation and controls industry. This includes all solar and wind systems, refineries and on and on. LaPlace should have a Tesla model named after him for its self driving car. LaPlace transforms is how cars won’t be crashing into one another and correcting upon say something like a pothole. Go LaPlace.

    About Pierre-Simon Laplace and the importance in circuitry and other things:

  • *Full Disclosure: This article was kindly sponsored by TED.

    This needs to go at the top of this article infomercial. Please!

    I have both a PV system and a TED5000, basically the previous version of the device advertised here. Such whole-house energy meters are completely inadequate to monitor a PV system.
    Soiling is subtle: on my system it caused an average of 0.25% loss per month. A whole-house meter certainly won’t give you any clue that this is happening, very much unlike what’s suggested above.

    Most PV inverters do give out production numbers; those are already much more adequate to check if everything works fine.
    Even with that, it’ll remain difficult to assess whether all PV modules are operating at their full potential; for this, I find per-module monitoring, like micro-inverters or optimizers-based systems offer, very valuable.

  • I’ve yet to see any company, product or algorithm making desaggregation actually work, ie, properly identifying appliances, and doing so reliably enough to give usable results.
    I’m using both Bidgely and Plotwatt, which claim to do just that, and they can’t even get large loads right.
    Any indication that Smappee or Neurio would do better, apart from their own marketing videos?

    But yes, I trust that the products you point to will get the aggregate energy usage right, so be just as good for that as the one advertised above… and just as utterly inapt at determining whether a PV system would benefit from cleaning.

  • Thanks for the pointer to the review. Btw, both Plotwatt and Bidgely only analyze the data; the sensor I use is a TED5000, ie also with clamps and power factor measurement.

    I know my Smappee doesn’t detect all my individual appliance’s activities all the time – particularly when I’m running three or four together – so I’m skeptical of how accurate the consumption & cost figures are.

    Unfortunately that’s exactly my beef with what I tried so far: it more or less work as a toy, but it’s not reliable enough for anything serious.

    On the reviewer’s screenshot, the coffee grinder is seen as having used “1093” (no unit, kW⋅h I guess), as much as the guy’s microwave and toaster, and 10× less as his fridge… which itself uses as much energy as his bathroom lights.
    None of this seems anywhere near plausible.

    • I’ve had a Smappee for some time so can confirm that the 1093 seen in that review is the average Watts that that appliance uses when it comes on, and not the kWh. I’ve used an Owl (similar to Efergy) and tried Bidgely. My experience was that the Owl monitor worked fine but didn’t tell me where the energy was being used in my home, it was also about 10% inaccurate as it didn’t measure the volts and phase angle. Which is why I then tried Bidgley, working off data from my utility meter. My experience with Bidgley was very inaccurate as confirmed by GCO, even to the extent where it said I had a pool pump – I don’t even have a pool. Which isn’t surprising as it was trying to detect appliance energy consumption profiles in my home from very coarse data (5minute data I think). The Smappee was much better, probably because it was detecting the appliances by sampling 1000’s of times a second so I would naturally expect it to be able to detect things much better.
      The TED does not detect appliances, from what I remember when I considered it. It was simply monitoring the loads in the fusebox and looked very complex to install + expensive.
      I monitor the consumption of the home, and the solar generation with Smappee. It works great and I’ve recommended it to many friends and family without a problem.
      Smappee is also controlling a few appliances when I have excess export energy from my solar – a nice feature that is definitely making more financially efficient use of the energy that they are producing.

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