If you only see a small credit or income from the PV solar on your electricity bill when you expect a large credit, maybe your solar system has not been working correctly during the last billing cycle. Whether it is working properly depends on many factors.
It's essential to regularly check if your solar system is working correctly to ensure maximum efficiency and avoid losing money. However, relying solely on electricity bills to see if your solar is working is not recommended, as energy retailers' bills don't show how much energy your PV system produces.
An excellent way to check performance is to view the data through the inverter's digital screen, online software or a third-party monitoring platform such as Solar Analytics. Also, check the inverter itself. If there are red or orange lights or an error showing on the screen, there may be an issue that a solar expert can help identify.
How do I know if my solar system is working properly?
The good sign is that if you see a small income on your bill, the solar system has been working for at least some part of the last billing cycle.
The solar income or credits on your bill should only be a small portion of the benefit of your solar system. Looking at the money you have received for your exported solar does not give you an accurate idea about your solar system’s performance.
Your bill doesn’t display the total energy your solar system produced or how much was used in your home. Instead, it identifies the amount of energy imported from the grid and the quantity of solar PV electricity exported to the grid.
Solar power’s primary benefit lies in utilising renewable electricity when it’s generated, which the electricity meter doesn’t record visibly. Your bill only displays the exported electricity, a mere fraction of your total generation; it won’t show the total solar generation number.
There could be an issue if there is no solar income
Should your solar income be less than you think it should be based on what you would usually see, or if there is no income over a period, there could also be an issue that needs exploring. But you should also consider seasonal and weather differences as you will see lower income in winter than during summer, along with more insufficient income/credits if there is an extended period of bad weather.
Most modern solar inverters or microinverter/optimiser solutions should have mobile monitoring (wifi) technology. If you have this setup, you could check the app or online to see whether the system works.
If there wasn’t a solar export, there is something wrong with your system, and you would need to organise an inspection.
Please set up your PV monitoring and use it
If you haven’t got monitoring set up, it would be worth checking online or contacting the inverter manufacturer or your installer to get monitoring set up for you. Not having monitoring on a solar system is like driving a car without a dashboard. You do not know what is going on.
Seeing what your solar system is making at any time is invaluable to ensure it is working. But also, for your usage benefit, you can see the best time to use appliances and when the most power is generated.
The issue that many homeowners face is that they need help with knowing whether their solar system is working properly. While solar systems will work in the background for many years without ever having an issue, it’s not uncommon for an unknown subject to be unidentified, and the system is still limping along. In the meantime, you are losing valuable electricity generation, and you are not aware of it. Over time, this can cost you a lot of money.
If you are a homeowner wondering if their solar system is working properly, please read the information below to know what steps to take for a quick system health check.
What simple checks can I make to ensure my solar system is working properly?
Check the inverter
A simple step is to take a look at your solar inverter. To work out if there is an issue with your system. Check the screen on the inverter and the colour of the lights shining or flashing on the inverter will help you identify if there is an issue.
Typically, if the light is green, all is ok. However, if the light is either red or orange during the day, then most likely, there is something wrong. You can also check if your inverter has a digital display and see if the inverter display shows any error code.
If there is an error code, you should be able to look at the manual provided by your solar installer or check the internet to find out what that means and what to do.
Actions to undertake may involve a system reset by following the instructions in the manual or at the inverter and switchboard to turn the system off and on again. If you can’t fix the problem, with some simple steps, you should contact your installer and tell them the error code, which will likely allow the installer to help you identify the problem.
Analyse the data
To see if your solar system is working properly, you should review your system’s data. You can access the information in two ways: through the digital inverter screen (if there is one) or through the inverter company’s website via a monitor login.
Most inverters can provide online data and graphs, available on the web or a downloadable mobile app so that you can view and analyse your system’s historical generation. So you can check a particular month or period, the previous year and the same period this year and see if the output and generation result differs to a great extent.
From this data, you can see how much you should be generating now and compare it to years of historical data to assess whether it is working fine or not.
For example, solar inverters usually have 2-panel strings entering the unit. Unfortunately, one string could have an issue, so while your system is still generating, it only runs “on half the cylinders”, meaning you miss out on as much as 50% of your potential generation.
Check out Solar Analytics
The best way to get accurate measurements and identify whether your system is working is to buy a third-party monitoring platform such as Solar Analytics which gives advanced monitoring, analytics and notifications of problems and guides on increasing your savings. It compares what your PV system should have generated with your output and lets you know if something needs checking. The monitor platform also sends you alert emails when something unusual has occurred.
Cleaning the panel
Another way to identify whether your solar system works properly is to see if dirt or shading covers your panels. If you stand back and look at your solar panels from a distance, especially in the morning or afternoon, you may see dirt, bird droppings or unexpected shading from a tree branch that has recently grown.
If you notice any of these issues and you have a string inverter system, a single affected solar panel can decrease the output of the entire string. Although we don’t anticipate you inspecting them yourself by climbing up a ladder, consider hiring experts for maintenance checks or cleaning if it’s been a while since they were last done.