How can we know if the solar panels are working and how much they contribute to saving electricity?

Sholto
Switched-on
3 Replies 12980 Views

We moved into our current house at the end of June. This is the first time we've rented a house with solar so we don't know anything about them, we don't even know if they're working properly or not.
When we look at something like the switchboard in our house, it looks like the solar panels are working.
But we don't know if it's true.

1. How can we know if the solar panels are working?
2. And can you see how much the solar panels contribute to the reduction of electricity costs?

I logged into the AGL website and checked it thoroughly, but I couldn't find it.
I downloaded the AGL mobile app and checked it thoroughly, but I couldn't find it.

9 REPLIES 9
AngieB
Switched-on
0 Replies 12950 Views

Ive had a similar question. Ive spoken to many AGL personal and still i dont have any solar activity on my account. AGL are still charging me for electricity even though i have solar. Its an AGL issue. 
ive also paid my Last account and they say I haven’t. AGL app doesn’t  show up to date payments. 
ive asked questions via the help link and they say they will respond in 30 minutes. 
no im not happy with AGL. I haven’t been for some time. A change is inevitable.

NeilC
Powerhouse
1 Reply 12941 Views

I suggest you contact your rental agency.

On your switchboard it will tell you the location of your inverter.

If you cannot see any activity on the inverter then it may be switched off or isolated at your switchboard (meter box).

Again you should contact the rental agency, if you do not understand how it works you may cause damage to the inverter will will be chargeable against you.

Cheers Neil


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Joe252l
Switched-on
1 Reply 12891 Views

Thanks for addressing this topic. I was looking for the information regarding the same Keep sharing the info, kudos.

NeilC
Powerhouse
1 Reply 12875 Views

@Joe252l,

New inverters seem to run seamlessly and will auto restart once power is replied.

Older inverters often have to be manually restarted.

 

INTRODUCTION

Lets see what we can do about explaining how your solar system works.

 

When the sun illuminates the solar panels they start converting solar into Direct Current.

The panels are generally connected in SERIES which mean that the voltage output is multiplied by the number of panels but the current is limited to the maximum output of one panel.

(For instance I have two sets of 12 panels rated at 31.8 volts and 8.74 amps per panel)

Therefore each set of panels can develop (12*31.8 volts at 8.74 amps)  382 volts (DC) at 8.74 amps.

This equates to 3335 watts *2  or a 6.6Kw system.

You must be aware that this can only occur under PERFECT CONDITIONS.

 

YOUR HOME USAGE

You must understand that your residence will use your solar power rather than take power from the grid.

If your usage exceeds the amount of power you are generating then you will have no output to the grid and still consume power.

Say for instance it is a hot day and you have your RC air-conditioner on and it consumes 3000 watts (3kW) or more and your solar system is producing 2kw then you will pay for 1kW of usage.

The smaller systems installed in many houses only produce 1 to 3kw on a good day.

 

You also must remember that usage is instantaneous, so an AC unit when the compressor is running consumes 3kw (or more), but when the compressor is not running you still consume power with the fans etc which may be a high at 0.5kW.

 

So on  a day when you are running your stove, washing machine and AC all at the same time you will not produce any power but will have reduced your electricity usage from the grid.

 

TIP

When using your AC (Heating or Cooling) run it at a temperature that is comfortable.

For instance in spring if its 26 outside would you come inside and cool the house down to 20.

 

THE INVERTER

So now this is where the inverter comes in.

 

The purpose of the inverter is to convert the supplied Direct Current from the Solar Array(s) into approximately 240 volts Alternating Current (the Australian standard).

Now the inverter serves four purposes.

 

  • Act as a switch to stop the AC from the mains going to the solar panels
  • Sense the availability of the AC mains (from the street)
  • Convert the supplied DC into AC and feed this into your residential meter box.
  • Limit the amount of current that you supply back to the residence

The inverter can also have other options such as wireless and the ability to update a web site.

Inverters normally have a minimum of an indicator light and a small display.

 

Of course the above is for a basic system as you may have an attached battery system which is also supplied by the inverter.

 

The reason that the inverter limits the amount of current to the grid is so that you meet the requirement of your installation to output the maximum allowed under your Generation Licence.

 

The reason you can have panels that can generate more than your allowance is because when you have overcast days you can still generate up to your Licence limit and maximize your income

 

READING YOUR METER

The easiest way to check if you are generating power is to find out how to read your power meter. (Information to do this is freely available on the web).

 

The second method is to look at your AGL Web Page or App and see if you are producing Solar every Day.

 

Be aware though that AGL does not show you your current activity and may be showing current data as for THREE days ago.

 

If you have two meters and an older solar system you may have had a second meter installed to read your solar output.

 

If you have a single meter you may be able to work out your meters by simply reading them by pressing through the button and ignoring any obvious readings (ie dates and times).

 

When reading your meters you will normally have up to three readings.

  • Your Peak Meter
  • Off Peak or Controlled Load
  • Solar to Grid

Peak meter is your main usage and this will be changing constantly.

Off peak or controlled load only normally operates after 11:00pm (23:00) and before 6:00am (06:00)

Solar only operates when there is sufficient sunlight.

 

Write down your readings after sunset (ie in the dark and before 23:00) ignoring obvious dates / times.

Note the reading and the meter number for each reading.

You might end up with:

  • 04      3083.2
  • 05    11692.3
  • 06      0000.0

Where 0X is the meter number and xxxx.x is the current meter reading

This is from my meter and we do not have any Off Peak connected.

 

So if I go back one hour later and read I might get.

  • 04      3084.4
  • 05    11692.3
  • 06      0000.0

Only 04 has changed which is what I expect as I am only using peak at this time.

If you have off peak connected then you will have to work out what of the two meters is Off Peak and what is Solar.

 

This is simple before the Sun rises you need to re-read your meters.

You know what is your Peak (04 in my case), so besides that only one meter must have changed, this must be your Off Peak, note that and the remaining meter is your Solar.

 

So after the sun has risen read your meter to confirm that your are generating solar. If you are not home during the daylight hours you can simply read the Solar meter that night and you will see how much you have generated.

 

 

SEEING IF ITS WORKING

Now to check if your inverter is working.

 

Depending on the location of the inverter you may have one or more AC isolating switches.

Isolation switches can also be a physical switch or a circuit breaker in your meter box.

 

Then next to the inverter there may be one or more DC Isolator switches.

 

You can only do this when the sun is out and the panels are generating power.

  1.  Go to your Power Box (switchboard) and locate the Inverter Main Isolator. (This is normally a Circuit Breaker)
  2.  If the switch/breaker is off, turn the switch/breaker on, if the switch drops out, cease all activity and contact an electrician and cease all activities.
  3. Locate your inverter and see if looks like its working (light(s) or display operating), if your isolating switch was off it may take up to two minutes before you inverter becomes active.
  4. On or near the inverter should be instructions on shutting down the system (sometimes they may be in the Meter Box if nearby).
  5.  If it does not look like it is working following the instructions, shut down the system
  6.  Wait a few minutes and the follow the start up instructions.
  7.  Do a visual check of the inverter to see if activity has commenced.
  8.  Wait a while and re-read your meter

If you have any issues contact an Electrician or if in a rental, the Agent or Owner.

 

All of the above is just a guide to assist users.

If you are unsure contact a professional to resolve any issues.

 

If you like this post, please click the Thumbs Up button to show your appreciation.

 

Neil

 

 

 

Cheers Neil


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Joe252l
Switched-on
0 Replies 12870 Views

That's a great guide for new solar users, Many thanks Neil!

GregAGL
Conductor
1 Reply 4441 Views

Neil

Any suggestions as to why I am being charged for 1kW of usage and at the same time, being credited with 3kW of solar production? Surely this should cancel out and my.account just be credited with 2kW of solar production. Happens at various times some days but not all days, even though my.usage is constant from one day to the next. I have an Enphase system with individual inverters under each panel. I produce upto 7kW during the middle.of a sunny day. My maximum usage is 5.2kW, yet I still get these plus and minus situations in the AGL app. Enphase reports every 15 min, whereas AGL only report every 30 minutes. My Enphase reporting show me producing excess all of a sunny day.

I am in dispute with AGL at the moment.and looking for someone to make sense of this. Any suggestions

NeilC
Powerhouse
1 Reply 4426 Views

@GregAGL 

Greg,

You should be able to see your usage by downloading your MyUsageData from the App or your Account web page.

 

I quickly had a look at mine and found the first instance of Generating Power and Using Power

Solar10/02/2021 07:3010/02/2021 07:590.0460A
Generalusage10/02/2021 07:3010/02/2021 07:590.0080A

on the 10th Feb 2021 in the morning from 07:00 till 07:59 (and 59 seconds) I generated .046kW but used .008kW.

 

Looking at my inverter right now (07:50 11/02/2023) I am outputting 193 watts.

 

NeilC_1-1676064144047.png

My Usage file for the 9th Feb 2023 (last data from AGL) shows me.

 

Solar9/02/2023 07:009/02/2023 07:290.0140A
SeasonTimeofUse9/02/2023 07:009/02/2023 07:290.1570A
ControlledLoadToU9/02/2023 07:009/02/2023 07:2900A
Solar9/02/2023 07:309/02/2023 07:590.0280A
SeasonTimeofUse9/02/2023 07:309/02/2023 07:590.0060A
ControlledLoadToU9/02/2023 07:309/02/2023 07:5900A
Solar9/02/2023 08:009/02/2023 08:290.3010A
SeasonTimeofUse9/02/2023 08:009/02/2023 08:2900A
ControlledLoadToU9/02/2023 08:009/02/2023 08:2900A

 

You can see here that I used power and generated power from 07:00 to 08:00 but from 08:00 to 08:30 I did not use any power (well not charged for any) and exported .301kW.

 

For the 9th though I generated 37.8kWh and I can see from the graph that it was not a clear sky all day.

NeilC_2-1676064596338.png

 

Now for that day

NeilC_4-1676065146038.png

 

I used 3.152kWH and Exported 33.063kWh.  Generated 37.8 kWh that day so must have self consumed 4.737kWh.

 

Now I have all the data for usage and solar generation since I had the solar installed and can produce reports on all this data (For the last two years from MyUsage File from AGL).

 

As to why you are charged 1kW and paid for 3kW

 

NeilC_0-1676067228542.png

 

I presume you are getting this from your usage page on the app or web page.

 

Above is from the 17th Jan and you can see that I  generated and consumed power most of that day.

 

Here is the generation chart for the day

NeilC_1-1676067600305.png

You can see it was a day where heavy clouds were passing through with Output going from 5kW down to less than 1kW. From 2 till 4 output was way down and this is shown on the AGL usage graph.

 

On the 17th I used 12.064kWh and Exported 13.004kWh but I generated 24.8kWH for the day.

So I consumed 11.8kWh of my generation, thus saving myself around 12*.40cents or $4.80 worth of Electricity.

 

Hope you can understand this, but I have all the data and can demonstrate what has occurred on that day.

 

My supplier, SA Power Networks supplies my data in 5 minute intervals now, so if I used their data, this is the same that AGL gets for me, but they choose to only give the 30min data, I can get even more precise information.

 

If you want I can convert your usage data file into a more usable format, but you will need to have a spreadsheet program and a reasonable understanding of its use.  Just Private message me if you want to discuss this more.

 

Cheers Neil


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Jaymi01
Switched-on
1 Reply 3052 Views

Hi Neil, 

 

I know this was posted some time ago but hopefully you’re still around! 

I haven’t had my first bill yet. All of my usage in the app is “estimated”. As an example though, on Sunday my Solax app states 8.30kwh self use plus 28.40kwh feed-in. The AGL app has only applied 7.5kwh of feed-in credits and 3.44kwh of grid use (not complaining about use). 

is that normal to not have credits applied for the full feed-in? Or when they come do a read it will be balance out? Trying to get in contact with AGL at the moment is tiresome and just don’t understand at all 😊

NeilC
Powerhouse
0 Replies 3045 Views

@Jaymi01 

 

Your meter only does a few things.

If it is a smart meter, it reads the amount of power in kilowatt Hours than you are consuming and in your case any power that you export.

 

If a smart meter it then transmits your data (input/output) back to a central location in 30, 15 or 5min intervals.

 

This data (if you have a smart meter) is supplied to AGL and AGL also makes the same data available to you as a down load.

 

Now your App tells you generated 36.7 kWh of which your inverter used 8.3kWh  (maybe charging your car or house battery),  the remaining 28.4kWh it put into your house wiring.

 

Your house then consumed 19.9 kWh (fridge, AC, televisions, etc)  that left 7.5kWh that was exported back to the grid.

 

If you did not have solar / battery you would have consumed 23.34 kWh rather than the 3.44 kWh.......

 

On the 4th Sept (the last data available to me) we generated 22.5 kWh, exported 17.838 kWh and consumed 3.623 kWh from the grid. Of the used portion of our generation we also heated our Hot Water (approximately 3 kWh).

 

Our consumption consisted of 2.122 kWh as Peak and 1.501 kWh as Off Peak.  We used no power in shoulder time.

 

In our export we supplied 6.119 kWh during peak hours, 11.719 kWh during Shoulder hours and of course 0 kWh during Off Peak.

 

Based on your above data, I would think that you should be on a Time Of Use Tariff rather than a Single Rate Tariff and would not recommend any one going on a Demand Tariff

Hope this helps

Neil

 

Cheers Neil


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