Placeholder image

Fronius Primo inverter with display screen.

Automated solar inverters without screens override manual overrides

Manual override provides an individual the ability to move past the boundaries of an automated system. In the solar industry, this ability is usually handled by equipment technicians. But for today’s solar professionals, the old system of manual overrides has been overridden. 

The more recent lines of SolarEdge inverters have joined the automated lineup of solar products and now serve as the managers and directors of solar technicians in the field. These inverters not only manage a technician’s tasks, but also dictate the terms and conditions of the speed and efficiency in which they operate. With their new, sleek exterior designs, they are now manufactured without a display screen, which used to provide technicians with basic system information. Instead, they now require a mobile device interface that must be downloaded through an app store. Although this seems easy enough, let’s take a closer look at what this means for technicians in the solar workforce. 

For a solar electrician, the key component of a solar electric system is the inverter. The inverter is the device that takes DC (direct current) electricity generated by solar panels and turns it into AC (alternating current) electricity that can be used by the appliances and other electrical loads inside a home or business. For many years, it has been customary for these inverters to be designed with an onboard screen that displays basic information, such as current wattage, daily kWh (kilowatt-hour) production, and even a summary of total overall production for the life of the system. Having the ability to see this data immediately, onsite, and at the equipment level has been an integral part of evaluating how the factors associated with a solar electric system are functioning. Removal of the display screen from the inverter has created a significant obstacle for field technicians as they are now unable to quickly gather information on the equipment they are servicing. 

Having to rely completely and solely on the functionality of internet-connected apps for all system details is problematic for a number of reasons. For example, the job description of a solar electrician now has to expand to include at least some computer savvy skills to sign in and navigate an equipment’s often complex mobile app. Secondly, places where internet connections are slow or unavailable, monitoring and system analysis will be impeded or even altogether stopped. Finally, these inverters are now much “smarter” than they used to be and they often refuse to give you any system information without first checking online for a firmware update. If that process is not time consuming enough, the time it takes to actually receive a system update can be incredibly slow. Furthermore, if you encounter the unfortunate circumstance of losing connection or some tiny portion of data during the firmware downloading process, you may not even be able to make any progress at all. In addition, because the quantity of technical difficulties is increased for these inverters, wait times for getting technical support are also increased and can take hours to days before assistance is received. These situations are leading to unprecedented levels of down time for solar technicians and causing complications in the overall industry. After all, when it comes to a company’s labor costs associated with these issues, time is money and wasted time is wasted money. 

The ability to view solar system statistics remotely and in much finer detail from the mobile apps connected to modern solar equipment has its benefits. But when these abilities are impacted by slow internet, program updates, low phone battery warnings, tiny font sizes, a locked screen orientation, and an unfamiliarity with the operational procedures of a constantly changing app user interface, it starts to detract from the many benefits these apps may offer. So, what is the solution? Bring back the onboard screen and give solar technicians back the ability to diagnose a problem without having to rely entirely on an often glitchy, stubborn, and sometimes dysfunctional app.