How Software has Changed Solar Installs

Aug 29, 2017

How Software has Changed Solar Installs

At auto repair shops, the mechanic can tell you why your car is making that funny chirping noise without getting a drop of grease on her fingers. Using modern marketing software, she can then document repairs and email or text you a report of her work.

Solar installers who haven’t used mobile apps to streamline system configuration, commissioning, and performance monitoring may be surprised by the times savings and workflow improvements that software has brought to the residential solar installation process. The technology that transformed the auto repair business is revolutionizing the day-to-day experience and effectiveness of solar installers.

Over the past 5+ years, user feedback has improved the functionality and user experience of the Enphase Installer Toolkit mobile app, adding value for early adopters who have already put the software to work. Additional features will make Installer Toolkit more powerful than ever.

Software may never replace all the traditional gear that you bring to the job site, like the ladder needed to climb onto the roof. But it can dramatically reduce the number of times you’ll need to climb up and down that ladder to complete an installation and monitor performance as the grid gets smarter and customers ask to retrofit systems over time.

Save time, improve quality

One of the principal advantages of the Enphase system is design flexibility. Installers encounter complex roof conditions all the time. Enphase makes it easy to optimize performance using any available roof space. Our software then simplifies the process of configuring arrays so Envoy, the device that monitors and controls Enphase Systems, knows where each Enphase Microinverter is located and what it’s doing.

Complex roofs aren’t the only variables that can slow down an installation crew. Customers have a variety of networking options for reporting performance data, including cellular, ethernet, and Wi-Fi. Many systems require production metering or consumption metering. In Hawaii and other locations where rooftop solar systems must conform to parameters set by the local electric utility, installers also have to set grid profiles. And there’s a good chance they will have to update them over time. All these system commissioning tasks can be completed quickly and easily with Installer Toolkit. Just like auto mechanics, residential installers can also create summary reports once they’ve finished their work, providing evidence that their systems are performing correctly from the start.

You might be wondering if it really makes sense to compare technology’s impact on auto repairs and solar installs. A mechanic who runs into trouble on the shop floor can usually turn to a more experienced mechanic for support. Two- and three-member solar install crews may not have that luxury. That’s why Enphase provides support features within Installer Toolkit. The app gives your crew troubleshooting insights, including help videos, at the push of a button. In this way, technology is providing even more value in rooftop solar than in other industries.

Software also makes it possible to remotely monitor and maintain rooftop solar systems. Solar customers can’t bring underperforming solar arrays to the repair shop the way that car owners can. Installers would have to spend a lot of money visiting their customers any time they need to diagnose performance issues or make minor system modifications. Software eliminates the need to make site visits for many operations and maintenance (O&M) tasks, saving time for the installer and increasing customer satisfaction.

Maximizing value of software

Once you’ve incorporated all the Installer Toolkit features into your installation workflow—including system configuration, commissioning, and O&M—there are several more software benefits to take advantage of, now and in the years to come.

Using Enlighten Manager, an app for solar professionals connected to our Enlighten monitoring system, you can segment your fleet of customer systems by geographic areas. If you’ve got a designated crew for the northwest part of town, set up a dashboard so this crew can monitor its territory. The ability to provide notifications of performance issues is huge from a customer service standpoint. It positions you to win referrals and upsell to energy storage.

In the future, we’ll see further innovation coming from smarter networking via the Internet of Things. Google Home users can already control kitchen appliances and lighting and security systems without needing a technician for device configuration. Comcast has released a new Wi-Fi gateway, called xFi, to also control smart devices in the home. Keep an eye out for Enphase system integration with Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa, so you can use voice commands to get real-time details about things like energy production, consumption, and battery state of charge.

New standards from outside the energy industry may accelerate automation of solar and energy storage system setup. Enphase software engineers and our technology partners can foresee a time when home energy systems are practically plug and play, with seamless communications to prevent service disruptions and maximize the value of energy. This vision is getting closer to reality faster than many people expect.

Additional resources

To learn more about how to use Installer Toolkit for installation efficiency, watch a recorded webinar produced by the Enphase support team and find additional resources by searching ‘Installer Toolkit’ on the Support page of the Enphase website.

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