Arguably, your inverter is the most important piece equipment you’ll own if you are considering going solar. If you already own a solar system, you will understand this already. We have written a lot about what an inverter’s main function is, and we have even discussed their limitations and how to get around them.
For those of you who don’t know an inverter ‘inverts’ your electricity, as the name suggests, from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). But, that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Given that the inverter directs electricity from your panels to your home, energy storage and the grid itself, it is able to monitor exactly how much energy you are using, how much you are producing and how much you are exporting.
Because of this, many companies have gone on to develop web apps, iPhone apps and even in-home touchscreen monitoring devices to keep track of your systems performance, using the data collected by your inverter.
In 2016, it’s not surprising that even electricity usage has been 'appified', but within any new industry, there is a definite range of quality. Some inverters still want you to go outside and check the inverter itself, some provide a basic web app, and some provide a comprehensive analysis of your system’s performance and energy production.
The list below will try to give you an idea of what you are getting into, and what you can look forward to in regards to keeping up to date with your system.
The ‘grandfather’ of the industry, SMA has a reputation for reliability, quality, and experience. However, their greatest strength is in some ways their greatest weakness . This is because many large, entrenched organisations can often find it more difficult to adapt to new technologies than smaller more nimble companies.
WEBCONNECT is the most commonly used web app by SMA owners, providing insight to peak production times and other useful data. In many ways, it can be considered a comprehensive snapshot of your solar production, however, there is something lacking.
It doesn’t feel modern or user-friendly and in a lot of ways looks like it was developed a decade ago. It may seem pedantic to be so caught up on an apps design, but it’s often a sign of things to come in regards to functionality and support.
Not to mention that it will cost you thousands in additional costs to install a system capable of monitoring your home.
If SMA is the grandfather, Fronius is the hotshot star child of the bunch. While a much younger inverter manufacturer, in recent years Fronius has made leaps and bounds in regards to industry reputation, ahead of the game technology and great quality.
Forced to find a way to compete, Fronius has become known for getting it right in regards to innovative tech. More importantly, monitoring comes standard with Fronius systems, with a more advanced home consumption app (able to monitor where exactly the power is being used within your home, through a Fronius Smart meter) available for around $300.
We suggest Fronius for anyone who wants to get the most out of their monitoring service and is keen to get the facts and figures in an easy to digest user-friendly way.
Fronius provides their service through Solar.web, which is available on both your phone and desktop. You’ll be able to see where your electricity is going, how much you are generating and how much is being sent to the grid, live.
Growatt is for those looking for a budget inverter, you will have to pay more to get wifi capability. We do acknowledge that Growatt does provide a fun and friendly plug and play system, in which additional components can be added when needed. However, expect a black-on-grey remote which is eerily similar to an AC remote.
Delta is also considered to be a cheaper option for most. While Delta has developed more than a remote control (at extra cost), the web app that customers are given has the same design issues as the SMA monitoring software. Outdated user interfaces are a bummer, especially when the population is becoming increasingly tech savvy.
All in all, it’s obvious not all monitoring systems are equal. We’d like to say, we don’t like to speak poorly of any company, especially our fellow renewable sector compatriots, however, the facts are the facts. A simple monitoring app is perfect for many people who just want to quickly check in with their system’s health and energy production.
Increasingly, we have found that our customer base and the industry as a whole is becoming more and more focussed on providing a modern and seamless monitoring experience. We believe that Fronius, second to that SMA, have so far provided the best monitoring applications so far. For anyone interested in modern monitoring systems, we implore you to ask our team about the options we provide.