By Jennifer Lubell

You’ve made the big purchase – the next task is to get the most from your investment. Herve Billiet, CEO of Ipsun Power, a developer of residential and commercial solar systems in Washington D.C.’s metropolitan area offers some valuable tips on tracking the efficiency of your solar panels to ensure they’re producing as much energy as possible.

A solar panel installation is a high-tech construction job. First, it’s important to make sure that all system parts are working. “I’ve seen some instances in which the system had never been connected and never produced any power,” Billiet said. This is why it’s imperative that consumers use a monitoring system to ensure optimal use of their panels.

Monitor your system with an app

Most, if not all solar systems come with their own app monitor. Consumers can download the app to their cell phones to track the efficiency of their panels, Billiet said. Some apps will allow you to monitor each individual panel.

One thing consumers observe right away is that some panels produce more power than others. “They might call us and say, one of my panels is performing differently than another one.” In most cases, this is normal. A system of 20 panels is not going to produce the exact same power from panel to panel. Fluctuations arise from different factors: the panel itself, the optimizer, discrepancies and inefficiencies in the panel, and the degrees of light and shade on the house throughout the day.

However, if it’s clear that one panel is under-performing, or your system shows that you’re at zero power, that’s the time to contact the installer and fix it, Billiet said.

An electricity bill with a pair of glasses, a pen and a calculator
Your energy bill will give you an idea of how much of the solar energy you produce is going back into the grid (Credit: tommaso79/Shutterstock)

Look at your electrical bill

Some utilities companies offer specifics on which power sources gave you a bang for your buck in a particular month. Consumers should educate themselves on reading these bills, to determine how much solar energy their home produces versus how much energy they actually used.

“Let’s say that your home produced 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) but consumed only 600 kWh of that. Your utility bill won’t show that you produced 1,000 kWh, just that you put 400 kWh back on the grid,” Billiet explained.

Bottom line: Instead of having to pay the utility company for 1,000 kWh, you’ll get a bill charging you for 400 kWh. “So the customer’s bill will be 60 percent lower than before,” he added.

Work with an experienced installer

Choose your installer wisely. This doesn’t just apply to monitoring of the panels, but for the entire solar system. You wouldn’t choose a physician just because they offer the cheapest rates. It’s the same for choosing a solar system.

You want a licensed installer that offers quality materials, Billiet said. “If you want everything done right, you pay the right price for it. If you have a cheap system, you’ll have problems and complications you don’t want.”