Solar and energy monitoring research

yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
I am a graduate student researching the residential solar and energy monitoring space for a summer project. I have compiled a short (less than 10 question) survey to learn more about monitoring habits and hardware. I'd really appreciate if you could please take 2 minutes to fill it out. Also, if you have suggestions or recommendations for my research, please message me or reply here.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Solar-and-Electricity-Monitoring

Thanks,
Yoel

Comments

  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    For some reason, surveys always confuse things. First question:
    Are you a home owner with solar installed on your roof?

    Three questions in one:

    - Are you homeowner (vs. renter)?
    - Do you have solar (assuming panels?) installed?
    - Are they on the roof?

    It's yes to first two questions, and no for the third. How the hell should I answer?

    Different people with the same situation will respond differently. Is the information collected with the survay worth something?
  • yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    Very good point. Thanks. I will update the question verbiage. For now I don't have any funding for a survey prize raffle or what not, but I will look into it.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,518 admin
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    I think the question was--"is the survey going to give you some useful answers" or it is an academic exercise? I don't think anyone was looking for prizes.

    So, it would be interesting to find out a bit more about you and what is your connection with solar power.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research
    BB. wrote: »
    I think the question was--"is the survey going to give you some useful answers" or it is an academic exercise? I don't think anyone was looking for prizes.

    That's right. I certainly wasn't looking for prizes.

    What I meant exactly is this: "If different people see a different meaning in the same question, the statistical analisys of the answers will not really reveal anything and therefore will be worthess".

    But I didn't formulated my question correctly, so you saw a different meaning in it. That's what we're talking about.

    I would be interested to hear about connections to solar power too.
  • mtdocmtdoc Solar Expert Posts: 600 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    Your survey seems to assume only strict Grid-Tie solar systems. You might want to determine if those answering are - Strict grid tie, Grid Tie with battery back-up )(aka grid interactive or hybrid system), or fully Off Grid.
  • yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research
    NorthGuy wrote: »
    That's right. I certainly wasn't looking for prizes.

    What I meant exactly is this: "If different people see a different meaning in the same question, the statistical analisys of the answers will not really reveal anything and therefore will be worthess".

    But I didn't formulated my question correctly, so you saw a different meaning in it. That's what we're talking about.

    I would be interested to hear about connections to solar power too.


    Gotcha. Sorry i misunderstood. The survey along with my other searches are looking for clusters of homeowners who monitor their electricity consumption. While there is a lot of focus on energy efficiency appliances and retrofits, there are currently, to my knowledge, no incentives addressing the home monitoring space. I am trying to determine if this functionality is used and what features could make it more impactful. I am considering solar as a cluster because most (all?) systems allow an owner to monitor consumption as well, and I'm curious what % of solar owners use this functionality. Hope that clarifies.

    Best,
    Yoel
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,518 admin
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    With my grid tied system... I did not install any whole home monitoring other than the utility meter.

    And since I did a lot of conservation before I ever installed my GT system 8+ years ago (insulation of a 1930's uninsulated home), CFL and now LED lighting, upgraded to 98% efficient central (natural gas heating) and just being overall keeping an eye on the big picture), the modest size GT system I installed (along with Time of Use Net Metering which gives me ~$0.30 per kWH for power I generate summer afternoons and charges me ~$0.09 per kWH for off peak power), I have consistently generated more power (really positive cash flow) than I use.

    So, have not been monitoring my electrical power use much anymore other than to make sure that the solar power system is running well, and if the bill looks a little strange (using more power than I have historically), look for a bad refrigerator/somebody not properly closing a fridge, etc...

    If everything is working correctly (my on grid, or my suggestions to others off grid), you should not be in a daily war of data trying to balance supply against demand. There are other things to do in life.

    Our utility (Pacific Gas and Electric, northern California) has installed "smart meters" and setup a website where people can monitor their power usage (Google and others have done similar with remote logging, data bases)--I looked at it a bit, and while interesting, I was not interesting enough for me to bother logging in again after a few times. It does not even list my "tiered usage", so I cannot monitor my load shifting except by looking at the other all 24 hour period. And the costing does not work at all (probably because, I never owe any money and graphing software is not configured to support that information--and/or not configured for time of use billing).

    Plus, showing how our power usage went down dramatically after my significant other was traveling for a few weeks was not a big hit. :roll:

    In the end, the information can be helpful to the person who "owns" or takes care of the system... And there will probably be one of those in a solar powered home--Because that person cared in the first place to install.

    And the data always has missing components. For me, my solar GT output is not logged (except "today's solar output" on the inverter). So I look at my graph and it jumps all over the place because of cloudy vs clear weather--But available sunlight is not a data set for my utility's data.

    Another is I have no one big appliance (such as air conditioning), so between refrigerator/freezer and the other misc. electrical equipment around the home (all pretty much picked to be relatively energy efficient), people use what they want because they want to. Because we have time of use power, our "optional loads" like washing clothes and cooking with electricity (toaster oven, vent hood, etc.)--It makes sense for use to shift our power usage some--But for now, because we have excess GT solar power available, we don't really make a big deal out of it.

    Using a washer @ 0.25 kWH per load on a summer afternoon with ~3x the $/kWH price vs a ~10 kWH per day average total home load (guessing) running 24x7 (appliances, folks on computers doing home work, etc.)... Just not worth making a big deal out of it.

    I used a Kill-a-Watt type meter to measure the loads of various appliances (fridge, freezer, washer/drier, laptop computers mainly) to get an idea of the daily power usage--But after that, not paying attention to the details anymore. Just once a month looking at the bill and seeing that all is working as expected.

    And, that is how it should be (I believe). If I am fussing over my daily/hourly power usage--That is not where I want to spend my time.

    There are people that do enjoy that. And there are people that have to do that (particularly off grid folks with a a close balance between solar power and loads--and who may have manual backup gensets, etc.). But even then, solar power should be a tool, not something that controls your life.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,925 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research
    yoel.k wrote: »
    Gotcha. Sorry i misunderstood. The survey along with my other searches are looking for clusters of homeowners who monitor their electricity consumption. While there is a lot of focus on energy efficiency appliances and retrofits, there are currently, to my knowledge, no incentives addressing the home monitoring space. I am trying to determine if this functionality is used and what features could make it more impactful. I am considering solar as a cluster because most (all?) systems allow an owner to monitor consumption as well, and I'm curious what % of solar owners use this functionality. Hope that clarifies.

    Most people here use Kill-A-Watt meters to figure out consumption of individual appliences. This lets you know where you can save energy. Whole house monitoring systems are not so useful. Let's say I see 2 kW consumption on my screen. Sometimes I cannot tell where it comes from, even though I know my loads well.
  • yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research
    BB. wrote: »
    With my grid tied system... I did not install any whole home monitoring other than the utility meter.

    And since I did a lot of conservation before I ever installed my GT system 8+ years ago (insulation of a 1930's uninsulated home), CFL and now LED lighting, upgraded to 98% efficient central (natural gas heating) and just being overall keeping an eye on the big picture), the modest size GT system I installed (along with Time of Use Net Metering which gives me ~$0.30 per kWH for power I generate summer afternoons and charges me ~$0.09 per kWH for off peak power), I have consistently generated more power (really positive cash flow) than I use.

    So, have not been monitoring my electrical power use much anymore other than to make sure that the solar power system is running well, and if the bill looks a little strange (using more power than I have historically), look for a bad refrigerator/somebody not properly closing a fridge, etc...

    If everything is working correctly (my on grid, or my suggestions to others off grid), you should not be in a daily war of data trying to balance supply against demand. There are other things to do in life.

    Our utility (Pacific Gas and Electric, northern California) has installed "smart meters" and setup a website where people can monitor their power usage (Google and others have done similar with remote logging, data bases)--I looked at it a bit, and while interesting, I was not interesting enough for me to bother logging in again after a few times. It does not even list my "tiered usage", so I cannot monitor my load shifting except by looking at the other all 24 hour period. And the costing does not work at all (probably because, I never owe any money and graphing software is not configured to support that information--and/or not configured for time of use billing).

    Plus, showing how our power usage went down dramatically after my significant other was traveling for a few weeks was not a big hit. :roll:

    In the end, the information can be helpful to the person who "owns" or takes care of the system... And there will probably be one of those in a solar powered home--Because that person cared in the first place to install.

    And the data always has missing components. For me, my solar GT output is not logged (except "today's solar output" on the inverter). So I look at my graph and it jumps all over the place because of cloudy vs clear weather--But available sunlight is not a data set for my utility's data.

    Another is I have no one big appliance (such as air conditioning), so between refrigerator/freezer and the other misc. electrical equipment around the home (all pretty much picked to be relatively energy efficient), people use what they want because they want to. Because we have time of use power, our "optional loads" like washing clothes and cooking with electricity (toaster oven, vent hood, etc.)--It makes sense for use to shift our power usage some--But for now, because we have excess GT solar power available, we don't really make a big deal out of it.

    Using a washer @ 0.25 kWH per load on a summer afternoon with ~3x the $/kWH price vs a ~10 kWH per day average total home load (guessing) running 24x7 (appliances, folks on computers doing home work, etc.)... Just not worth making a big deal out of it.

    I used a Kill-a-Watt type meter to measure the loads of various appliances (fridge, freezer, washer/drier, laptop computers mainly) to get an idea of the daily power usage--But after that, not paying attention to the details anymore. Just once a month looking at the bill and seeing that all is working as expected.

    And, that is how it should be (I believe). If I am fussing over my daily/hourly power usage--That is not where I want to spend my time.

    There are people that do enjoy that. And there are people that have to do that (particularly off grid folks with a a close balance between solar power and loads--and who may have manual backup gensets, etc.). But even then, solar power should be a tool, not something that controls your life.

    -Bill

    Thanks Bill; very helpful and insightful comments.
  • yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    Thanks NorthGuy. I think you hit on the big problem with whole house monitoring. There are a few companies working on/offering products that can split out the consumption by source, but current solutions are expensive and hard to install. I'm wondering if people see the value.
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    I use a Web Energy Logger to verify the performance of my 8.1 KW (DC) batteryless grid-tied Solar PV system. My implementation is here: http://www.welserver.com/WEL0043 .

    http://www.welserver.com/perl/plot/WEL0043/InstantaneousSolarPower.png illustrates how a solar PV system works ('spin' the meter backwards) over a rolling 36 hours.

    http://www.welserver.com/perl/plot/WEL0043/DailySolarEnergyProduction2.png illustrates how the product of length of day and average daily temperature influence solar PV output, and how design affects actual output versus what PV Watts predicts, both over a rolling 13 months.

    http://www.welserver.com/perl/plot/WEL0043/SolarPVefficiency.png illustrates overall performance efficiency, again over a rolling 13 months.

    Best regards,

    Bill
  • yoel.kyoel.k Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    Thanks Bill.

    The Web Energy Server looks like a pretty impressive system. Was it complicated to get up and running? Do you have an engineering background?
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    The WEL is the lowest cost, highest performing monitoring and logging DIY product on the market today, that I'm aware of, particularly noting that the web site set up for each WEL purchase is included in the one time purchase cost ($400 for a unit, no monthly recurring costs, even for the web site that you get). Over 700 are running in the field today (see map).

    For someone of reasonable technical capability, it's a solid DIY product.

    Yes, I have an engineering background.

    I install WEL units into both residential and commercial settings. Here's an advanced implementation of a single WEL unit for a very large commercial building I just did (no solar for this account, though): http://www.welserver.com/WEL0640 .

    Hope this helps.

    Best regards,

    Bill
  • Coach DadCoach Dad Solar Expert Posts: 150 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research
    BB. wrote: »
    If I am fussing over my daily/hourly power usage--That is not where I want to spend my time.

    There are people that do enjoy that. And there are people that have to do that (particularly off grid folks with a a close balance between solar power and loads--and who may have manual backup gensets, etc.). But even then, solar power should be a tool, not something that controls your life.

    -Bill

    Bill- You are a WISE man. I fully agree with you... Life is too short.

    I was trying to use this logic when I decided to oversize my off-grid system.
    and
    When I decided to use AGM batteries so I wouldn't have to worry about watering and maintaining them. I'm happy with those choices.
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    There's also this open source energy monitor project for the DIY route: http://openenergymonitor.org/emon/

    And the online monitoring application: http://emoncms.org/
  • NeedMoreSolarNeedMoreSolar Registered Users Posts: 23
    Re: Solar and energy monitoring research

    I added a TED 50003 energy monitor and send data to http://www.bidgely.com/ this makes it very to see solar production and what I owe the power company at a glance.
    I wish the power company would just let me read my meter across the network. Until that happens I really like TED.
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