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3 ways smart solar inverters can save you money

Avatar for Dan Hahn
Published on 03/04/2020 in
Updated 04/24/2020
smart inverters solar

Traditionally, home solar inverters have had just one key function: They convert the direct current moving out of your solar panels to alternating current your home appliances use.

Over the past decade, inverter technology has advanced to add enhanced capabilities like data monitoring, communication, and conditional responsiveness. In these ways, inverters have absolutely become more intelligent.

These smarts don’t just help prevent blackouts, they can also save you a significant amount of cash over time. In this article, we introduce you to three ways a smart inverter can save you money: smart charging, standby mode and home energy monitoring.

Smart charging and discharging your batteries with a smart inverter

In recent years, our weather has become much more extreme, leading to an unprecedented amount of power outages. If you’re without power for a few hours or even a few days, the peace of mind that comes with the ability to power critical loads during these times can be extremely valuable.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that there are now more home solar systems installed with battery backup capabilities than ever before.

Smart solar inverters with charge controlling capabilities pair particularly well to battery backup systems. They ensure smooth power goes to batteries in your home at times that will save you the most money.

These devices can detect when your batteries are drained, what time of day you are least likely to be billed more for electricity, and then wisely charge your batteries at that time.

Time of Use Billing

On the flipside, your smart charging inverter can ensure you’re drawing power from your batteries at times where you may be billed the most for your electricity usage. Instead of drawing expensive power from the grid when you need it in the early evening, you draw cheaper power stored in your batteries from the sun or the grid.

Smart charging can save you the most money if your utility is on a time of use rate plan in the example image above or is considering instituting demand charges.

Smart inverter standby mode instead of “switching off”

Standby mode button

Smart inverters can also save you money because they are able to interact with the grid better. Instead of shutting off because of an incoming voltage or frequency disturbance, your smart inverter will enter into standby mode to wait for an ok signal from the grid and power back on again automatically.

In this example, your panels will still be generating power for the grid if your home is not using the electricity and you can still bank your net metering credits off of future usage.

Smart inverters with monitoring capabilities

solar analytics display

Smart inverters also help you keep track of the power output of your home solar system. They have communication via hardwired ethernet, bluetooth or wifi, and most models come with useful integrated smart home apps to keep you informed of unexpected performance or usage patterns.

Without monitoring, you may not be alerted to the fact that a flock of seagulls has pelted half of your array with poop, because of an electrical performance drop recorded by your smart monitoring inverter. Or, you may be unaware that you’re using way more electricity than usual because you forgot to turn off an energy sucking appliance in your basement.

solar analytics home energy monitor

The images above are examples of such a home energy monitoring setup. The simple interface is designed by a company called Solar Analytics. Check out our recent article featuring the competing Sense product.

Setups like these will send you an email if it thinks you’re generating less electricity than you should be based on weather, or consuming more than usual for key appliances like hot water heaters.

If your installer doesn’t carry smart inverters that feature solar power plus home consumption monitoring, ask your installer to put in a home energy monitor alongside the inverter they do use. It may add about $500 to your installation but it can be very rewarding to have insight into how much power you’re generating and using. Having this data at your fingertips allows you to make better choices about how you spend your money powering your home.

Last modified: April 24, 2020

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