Saturday, November 18, 2017

Microinverters -- How to Set Up the Monitoring System Envoy / EMU

EMU Envoy How to Hook Up and Bridge Also

The EMU is a confusing piece of equipment, starting with it's name, Electronic Monitoring Unit, but then to make it even harder, the manufacturer came up with the nickname Envoy.    Whatever.   Here is what you need to know.    Everyone else tries to make believe that the EMU is simple in setup and function, and it is not and pretending that it is simple, we believe is a dis-service to customers.

Before we dig into the details, LOOK at this diagram and follow it, spend 30 seconds here, OK?    I made this for you.   Read the notes too, please.

The manufacturer highly recommend that you avoid plugging into a power strip or a GFCI electrical receptacle (aka outlet or plug). This can increase the "noise" and make it so your EMU won't communicate as well or at all.

Yes this does mean you may need to plug your existing stuff in, in some other way. You can try it, just don't complain to us if it doesn't work out. You know what a GFCI is right? That is the special type of outlet that has a test and reset function on it. But you can also have a GFCI that is located somewhere else, like at another plug upstream of the plug you are using, or even at the circuit breaker panel.

One reason that the customer must be involved in some of this stuff, is because there is some trial and error involved, and every time you plug the EMU in, you may have to hit the "Menu" button which is on the back of the EMU.  

To make matter more complicated than they really need to be, they molded the button into the back plastic so that you can't even see it.    Well look close, and you will see it.  

The EMU has to "scan" to find the microinverters, and you have to tell it to scan by pressing the back button a few seconds until you see "enable device scan" and then let go.   Now it will search for all the microinverters, and we hope the communications is good.   The search might take 5 minutes or 3 hours, it just all depends.    

The EMU will show 0 to 5 bars depending on how good the communications is, 0 being none, and 5 being great. 

3 and 4 work fine, and 2 is usually satisfactory and 1 sometimes works, however, you may have times when extra noise on the line makes the communication fail.   You will lose data during that time, but you won't be losing kWH energy produced, because the EMU is only a monitor, the EMU is NOT a controller, the micro-inverters run themselves.    So just saying, don't get all bent out of shape, in all likelihood you aren't losing any actual power, just the communications.

 Now, if you have to use the bridge, DON'T OVER THINK IT, just follow the diagram.

This is the box that the bridge comes in.

This is what the stuff inside the box looks like, as you might imagine there are 2 sides to a bridge.

And here is how to hook up the bridge, don't over think it, just plug it in as shown.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Read a HECO NEM Electric Meter

How to Read a HECO NEM Electric Meter On Your Solar Electric System (PV)

Steve Here--For Those With Photovoltaic-- They sometimes wonder whether their system is working correctly, and "waiting for the bill to arrive" is NOT a good strategy.

But if you could read your meter on one day, and then read it again the next day, that would clear up whether things are working well or not.    Many PV owners have "lost" their solar contractor, as HECO bankrupted hundreds of contractors when they started their "war on solar".

If you are one of these customers and have microinverters, we would be glad to review your system online, for free.    Simply send us an email, and we will send you a link, which will allow us to review your system online.
Watch the video below on how to read your meter, and call us with any questions.    671-5566

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to Read A Hawaiian Electric Dial Type Meter

How to Read a Dial Electric Meter

How to Read Your Meter
Your electric bill contains all the information you need about your power usage. However, if you would like to read your own meter, here's how to do it.

As you can see from the arrows in the illustration below, the dials on your meter move alternately clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Always read from right to left.

When a hand points between two numbers (as in A, B, C and E) always read the lower number.

Sometimes a hand appears to be pointing directly at a number (as in D). To find out if that number has actually been reached yet, look at the dial to its immediate right (in this case, C). If the hand on dial C has passed zero, then write down the number on dial D to which the arrow is pointing (4). If C has not passed zero, as is the case in this example, write down the number that is lower than the one on dial D to which the arrow is pointing (3).

The correct reading for this meter is 13924 kilowatt-hours.

For information on how to read a net meter, see meter handout.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Solar Hot Water Tuneup -- What and Why

What is the Solar Tuneup?    Why do the Solar Tune-up?

Very Important to do the Tune-Up at least every 3 years, to protect your system and keep warranties in effect!

Resolve to take better care of your Hot Water Solar. Scroll down to see what the tuneup is and why you should do it every three years.   In the long run it gets you higher savings and saves money on more costly maintenance.

Doing the Solar Tune-Up is EASY!   It just takes an EMAIL to

or a phone call to 265-5971, and we will make it happen.

If you neglect your solar system, it will cost up to $1600 to replace your solar tank.   And a panel replacement is around $1800 depending on size.

TUNEUP Sale Price until 3-24-2017----    $295 all tax included, Normally $415 plus tax

If your pressure relief valve doesn't work when it needs to (solar=high temp=high pressure), you can rupture up your house piping and if the piping is under the concrete slab, it can cost $8000 or more to fix.

Email (best) or call to be assured of a slot in the sale price.    We try to do 3 Tune ups a day, in the same neighborhood, so after you Email (or call) we will contact you with a proposed  date for the neighborhood.

What is the Solar Tuneup?

The tuneup takes 3 hours, it is a serious service: We replace 3 important parts, not JUST an anode change which some people pretend is a "tune up".

Tune-up prevents rust out, extends system life and prevents over pressure pipe leaks.

Hawaii’s water can be hard on hot water systems. A small investment now can prevent huge repair bills later.

Email to
(or call 265-5971)

There are THREE important parts that require periodic replacement, and we do a complete check on the system, controller, pump, valves, temperature sensors.

1)      Sacrificial Anode Rod (keeps the whole system from rusting, just like a Zinc on a boat)
2)      Pressure and Temperature Relief Valve (P&T) – Keeps pipes from bursting in the house or under the slab
3)      Pressure Relief Valve – Same, keeps pipes and the solar panels from bursting, except up at the roof level.

4) We will replace up to 6 Linear Feet of pipe insulation on the roof, included in our price.
5) Coat all rooftop insulation with a special UV coating, that insulation takes a beating on the hot roof.
6) Re-seal the pipe penetrations through the roof.    This is your number one change for a leak, so getting it re-sealed is a strong protection.
7) And we will do a thorough flush of the whole system, including the tank, solar pipes, and panels.
Do you know that the customer is supposed to be doing an annual flush of the tank and panels?    It only takes ten minutes?    Do you know how?    If not this is the perfect time for the technician to give you the training or retraining, on what you should be doing.

See picture at the right...a clogged up P&T relief valve.    This may not open, causing a house pipe to over pressure and rupture.

Recently, we have heard about companies offering a “Tune Up” service, and rather than replace the Pressure and Temperature Relief Valve (PTR), that state that they will “inspect” the parts and replace if necessary.   We find this to be misleading, since you cannot inspect a P&T Relief Valve in the field.    It would have to be done in a lab/shop.    It's really just a way for them to get out of there more quickly, while leaving you at risk.

We always replace the PTR. If the PTR fails to operate when your tank gets hot and the pressure builds, that pressure might blow a hole in any of your pipes.Those pipes may be on your roof, or underground... Or under your house. If something were to happen, and Murphy got in the act, where would it happen?   Of course it would be in the most expensive place to fix, under the house slab

We always replace the Pressure Relief valve at the panel which protects your panels and piping.

We always replace the Anode which keeps your system from rusting.

All taxes included, does not include any other system problems that we may troubleshoot for you if you are indicating that the system is not performing properly.

See Standard Pricing Sheet the technician will have----for replacement of other components like pumps, controllers, temp sensors, etc.    Email us if you want a copy via email.

If you don’t already have a Solar Attic Fan or would like an Additional Solar Attic Fan let us know ahead of time, we do a $150 discount on the Solar Attic Fan, which comes with a 25 year warranty and is the best on the market.  

In asphalt shingle, the NET cost after tax credits is around $380!   Do this before you suffer through another summer or have to pay high air-conditioning bills.

Email to today to schedule your 3-Year Preventive Maintenance Service at this low price!

Friday, September 30, 2016

How To Tell If You Have a Failed Microinverter On Your PV System

So you suspect that you might have a microinverter or 2 that is not reporting?

This is a simple way to "fact check" it.

Select the screen as shown below "Energy: Past 7 days" That is the key!

And speaking of "Pteradactyl Poo" what should you do if your panels are dirty?    First off DO NOT pressure wash them.   We recommend a thorough cleaning and inspection every 2 or 3 years, there is no need to get carried away with too much cleaning.    But if you live in an area where construction is going on, or people are spray painting their houses...dirt or overspray is going to build up.

We offer a "Solar PV Tuneup" the cost is based mainly on how many panels you have.   A description of the service is HERE

So you suspect that you might have a microinverter or 2 that is not reporting?

This is a simple way to "fact check" it.

Select the screen as shown above

"Energy: Past 7 days"

If all of the inverters report about the same energy, then you are good to go.   Keep in mind that for a different angle of roof, they will have different energy production, but all on the same slope of roof should be about the same.   

If one is completely black (no energy production), then it is quite likely that the inverter is dead.    But they also get partial failures as they are in the process of failing, those show some energy being produced, just not as much.

Also, if you have one of two showing less energy, take a step back and look at the roof.   Do you have a tree that grew up and is blocking?    Maybe a leaf or debris blocking a panel, maybe a Pteradactyl poo?   

A small blockage on a panel can result in not just a large loss of energy production, but instead of energy out, you get heat into the panel and that can cause a quick death of the panel itself.------------------------------------------------
What causes inverters to not report data consistently?    Simple answer but not always a simple solution.

The answer is that noise and distance on the power line (the 120 Volt AC and 240 Volt AC circuits) can prevent the microinverter from talking to the EMU/Envoy.     They communicate over the power line.   

You can check the quality of the communication by first going to devices, above.   And then clicking into the "Envoy"

It's hard to see here [see images above], but there are 5 bars available.    This system only has one bar, so the microinverters can't "talk" that well.   

The noise varies throughout the day, as appliances, motors, battery chargers, laptops are turned on and off.    So sometimes the communication is good enough, and the microinverters "dump" all their saved up information to the EMU/Envoy.

If you have any less than 3 bars of communication, Enphase (the manufacturer of the microinverter) will not entertain issuing an RMA and thus a warranty claim.     They used to be more flexible, but they are getting tougher.    

How does one improve the communications?   As one of my college professors loved to say....."That is beyond the scope of this course".    But see link in the text below.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Test Survey from Survey Monkey

Create your own user feedback survey

Friday, March 4, 2016

How to Tell If My Solar Hot Water System Is Working Correctly

This is some simple troubleshooting that the system owner can do.

Of course, things can become more complex and that is when you call in the experts, but don't be intimidated by your system.

There is a very simple way to see if things are working properly:

Observe the system pump, on a sunny day, when you know you have water in the tank that is not fully up to 120F.

The system should “cycle” on and off, maybe 2 to 10 minutes per cycle.   If it is cycling then the sensor, controller, pump, panels, valves are all working correctly.

You can hear the pump slightly when its running, or you can put your hand on it and feel the vibration, but watch out, it can be extremely hot.   If you have the STECA controller, with the digital display you can also see the pump movement indicated, however, this does not prove that the pump itself is working.

If the pump is "cycling" then all is good.

If the pump  is not cycling or cycling on really long intervals, or really short intervals, then there is something wrong.

A common problem can be what we call a “vapor lock” in which an air bubble that was stuck in the tank or delivered via city water goes up to panels and blocks the movement of water, the pump cannot overcome the stuck bubble.   

This would pretty much make your solar work not at all.    And there is a simple fix for this….it is exactly what every owner should be doing at least once a year, and some recommend twice a year….the fix is called "the annual tank and panel flush"  

This not only is a required maintenance that is easy enough to do, it will also remove the air from the panels.    You will likely hear air spurting out of the hose when you  do this (I mean if there was air in the panels).     If you hear that air spurting out, then you can feel pretty good, that you have really solved the problem.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Understanding Your Timer on Solar Hot Water

Quick notes on Water Heater Timers:

1)      The number one problem with the Timers called the Little Gray Box or LGB, is that after a power outage, the time will be wrong.   So reset the time to correct time, and then review it later that day to make sure it is spinning
2)      After a HECO power outage, sometimes the Timers just get jolted by the power spike on power return, and are fried.
3)      They are electro-mechanical devices which work 24/7 and control a lot of amperage to heat your water.  They will occasionally just fail and replacement is the answer, repair is too risky on this high power device.
4)      If the timer tabs are put on too loosely, i.e. just by using hands, they can slide and jam, and this will occasionally cause the death of an LGB.   Always use a tool to tighten down the on/off timer tabs.    
5)      In general timer tabs are set at 5AM on, 9AM off and 5PM on 9PM off.    However, you can adjust these as you see fit.   Those will smaller family sizes may choose to completely remove the “on” pins, thus preventing the heater from ever coming on by itself ---maximize savings, then you can still flip the switch to on when you know there is not going to be enough hot water.   But keep the off pins in place, otherwise, if you forget to manually turn it off, you could get a high electric bill
6)      When setting timer pins, it is safest to turn off the power at the breaker box, as there is live 240V inside the timer box.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Some Tips On Troubleshooting Tank or Pipe Noises

A customer emailed in for some free tech support and I wrote up helpful how to that could save her a $105 service call. 

I thought it good to replicate it here on the blog. 


Usually any knocking sound from a heater system is going to be caused by air somewhere in the system.   The noise can sometimes be heard very far away from the actual source, and not heard at the source.

Air is sometimes delivered in city water and builds up over time.

1) Sometimes you can convince the air to move out by a fast flow all the hot water faucets and tubs in the house at once, and listen for and gurgling/popping to confirm air removal.   Running for 2 minutes should be more than enough.

2) Air can be trapped in the tank, at the pressure relief valve or up in the panels.    The pressure relief valve is the valve with a small level, almost always in the dead center top of the tank.    These should be replaced every 3 years in the required "solar tuneup".  You can simply "pop" the lever and if there is air it will burp out.

For air in the tank or panels, simply do the exact same process as the important "annual flush".    You are doing the customer annual flush right?   Sheesh even I forget to do that on my system.    But it's pretty easy to do, you don't even have to go on the roof.   The description of how to do it is here:
Second link down in the article

3) If there has been new construction or plumbing work, suspect those for entrapped air or  for pipes that are not properly supported or cushioned.

4) Finally there are plumbing water hammer arrestors (WHA) in most residences.   These sometimes fail or depending on the design, just fill up with water as the air is dissolved into the water.    It’s the air that creates the cushion that prevents knocking.    This is probably a call to a plumber, or a really good handy man friend.  Typical WHA below

Hope this helps, advise on results.