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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.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

PV Solar Electric Tuneup

We having been doing PV "Tuneups" on a request basis for years.    But with hundreds of systems out there now, it seems like a good time to offer a formalized tune-up for Solar Electric.

Please review the following, and consider doing the PV tuneup at the same time as the Solar Hot Water Tuneup, you will get significant savings since a big portion of our costs of doing a service is setting up the file, scheduling, and tech time loading for the job and getting to and from the site.

In case you have been living under a rock, LOL, and you didn't hear about the Big Solar Tuneup HE Buydown Sale, Which reduces the cost almost 40%, here are the details.    Instead of $405 its just $255 using limited HE buydown funds.    And we do the BEST TUNEUP in Oahu.     We even just signed up a licensed plumber to do the tuneup on his personal system, because he is familiar with our quality and the price is so great!

Doing the PV tuneup will increase your system electricity production, and get a couple of expert set of eyes looking at your system.

The Islands BEST PV TUNEUP is being rolled out and here is what you get.
  1. Pacific Energy will preview your system online and look for signs of anything wrong so we can be ready to fix them during the tuneup.
  2. We will wash down all the PV panels, dust dirt and bird droppings do build up overtime, especially if there is construction in the area
  3. We will operate the system disconnect switch and verify proper operation
  4. We will open the rooftop "Combiner Box" aka junction box and inspect for loose wires or corrosion
  5. We will inspect under the panels for any dangling wire and ziptie up where accessible
  6. Report any other deficiencies that you should be aware of.

If you have "security" bolts on your system, please be ready to provide the special bit to the technician.   You can leave it on top of the system disconnect if you are not there.

The PV Tuneup Cost will be dependent upon the number of panels you have, and if you do at same time as Hot Water Tuneup we will provide a significant discount.   

Contact us, we will review your system and get you a LOW COST QUOTE

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 Tune-up Super Sale, Bought Down to $255 Flat Rate

2015 Solar Tune UP, Limited Time Sale

2015 Solar Tune-Up Sale, Jan 17 until 80 slots have been filled

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

Please Respond by Jan 31, 2015 if you want to Get This Done

How is your New Years Resolution Going?    Either way, Resolve to take better care of your Solar Hot Water Solar. Scroll down to see what the tuneup is and why you should do it.   The tune Up gets you more energy savings and avoid huge surprise costs for component failure.

Doing the Solar Tune-Up is EASY!   It just takes an EMAIL or a phone call, and we will make it happen.

If you neglect your solar system, it will cost up to $1600 to replace your solar tank.    If your pressure relief valve doesn't work when it needs to (solar=high temp, 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.

We like to get as much Tune Up done as we can in Feb and March.   

Email (best) or call to be assured of a slot in the sale price.

The tuneup takes 3 hours, it is a serious service, It is 3 important parts, not JUST an anode change which some people pretend is a "tune up".
Example of what can go wrong and how to fix it.

Tune-up Extends System Life:Prevents Rust Out and Prevents over Pressure Pipe Blowouts

If you haven't done the solar hot water tuneup in the last 3 years......It is time for a Solar Tune-up.
You wouldn’t drive a brand new car for three years without performing the suggested maintenance, right? The same is true for your solar hot water system.
Hawaii’s water can be hard on hot water systems. A small investment now can prevent huge repair bills later.

Email to "" to get a sale price slot for your 3-Year Tune-Up at this low price!
(or call 265-5971)

We Highly Recommend The “3 Year Tune-Up”

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

Also--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 training or retraining, you just have to be there.

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

Tune Up example

Recently, we have heard about companies offering a “Tune Up” service, and offer to “inspect” the parts and replace if necessary.   We find this to be misleading, since you cannot inspect a P&T Relief Valve unless you shut down the tank, remove the valve, put it on a test bench, and test it. If it passes, they reinstall the old part back into the tank.
Does this make sense to you? Will they really do the test?   It is not possible for a service technician.

We always replace the P&T. If the P&T 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, where would it happen?


Protect your solar investment and protect your home..

Our service includes 25 other service checks, check the temperature sensors, controller, pump, wiring, timeclock, valves insulation cleanups, and inspections to make sure everything is working the right way. 

And if you add Solar Electric (PV) through our companies within the next 12 months, we will refund the whole cost of the Tune-Up.


3 Year TUNE-UP Preventative Maintenance— 28 Point  Solar Service including:
Replacement of (3) Three very important safety and Corrosion protection items:
1. Sacrificial Corrosion Preventing Anode (to reduce corrosion on tank and whole system)
2. Pressure/Temperature Relief Valve (to relieve pressure from within tank and panels, prevents your plumbing systems from getting over pressurized and possible rupture)
3. Pressure Relief Valve on the Panels for safety and equipment protection.
 Replacement of up to 8 feet of insulation at rooftop, if needed. Coat all insulation on rooftop with protective UV coating.
 25 additional little tune-ups, set point verifications, and system checks.
 Pricing based on good access to the tank. If the tank is in a tight closet or under-house, we may need additional time to complete the task, we may need to even drain and move the tank to allow the replacement of the anode, in these cases we charge $55 /hour for the extra work.
*This price is based upon an easily accessible water heater, if the heater is in a tight closet, or tight area, there will be extra costs.


$255 Flat Rate, will apply to everyone unless your heater is in a tight spot.

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 for replacement of other components like pumps, controllers, temp sensors, etc.

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 Maintenance at this low price!

And a referral program to knock an extra $50 off your already low tuneup cost.

If you have neighbors, friend, family that should be doing this tuneup but just don't know, or keep putting it off because of finances, refer them to us and when they pay for their job, we will give you a $50 discount or a $50 check.

They can't be our existing customer, of course.   Just get us their name and phone, and leave your name too!