SolaX Australia chief engineer Edwin Cotter talks about what’s been bothering installers.

Consumers are bombarded with a variety of different options for renewable energy. Once the choice is made to go with solar, they are then met with options for panels, inverters and, if they so desire, batteries.

Once a product combination is selected, one would theorise that the system would simply be installed without incident and that everything selected will work together in perfect harmony. In fact it is expected that the installation of such a system is a mere formality.

The deciding factor in the process, I believe, is the installer.

As part of my role working for SolaX Power Australia, I speak with many installers in regards to system installation. I answer questions and provide training where needed. But there are also the calls when the installer has hit a roadblock such as a fault message on the inverter or a battery that will not work. These are the calls that keep things interesting as I get a good idea of an installer’s understanding of the system quite quickly.

My first question to most installers would be: “Have you installed a hybrid system before?”

Whilst I appreciate honesty if the installer mentions that this is his first ever hybrid system, it does involve some explaining depending on the installer’s understanding of a hybrid system. It also means that an installer is at a customer’s house, setting up a system he does not fully understand.

One of the most common questions I will receive is: “The Inverter says CT/Meter Fault and is producing no power – what’s wrong?”

It could be a new installer or an experienced installer but when this question arises and I ask: “Did you install the CT or energy meter?” I will frequently receive the answer: “What CT?” or “Why do we need a CT?”

The CT or energy meter is what a hybrid inverter uses to keep track of what the home is doing. If the home requires power, the CT/meter will allow the hybrid inverter to supply the required power from the most appropriate source.

Without a reference point such as a CT/meter the hybrid inverter cannot control its batteries and hence cannot provide the required power to the home. More importantly it would mean that the batteries could interact directly with the grid uncontrolled. Luckily the Clean Energy Council has thought ahead and requires any and all multimode inverters capable of interfacing with batteries be installed with a CT/meter or similar measuring device.

Even when the installer has a good understanding of hybrid inverters, the CT/meter may not be installed as the installer will sometimes believe the CT/meter is only required when installing batteries and not required for an inverter installed without batteries. This could be considered sound reasoning as without batteries or an export limitation, why would you need a CT/meter?

The simple answer is, any hybrid inverter that can control batteries must have the CT/meter installed. The consumer may try to install batteries at a later time without assistance, or may use another company unfamiliar with the installed hybrid. Essentially if there is a possibility of grid disruption, the CEC ensures no mistakes can be made.

Once all elements of the hybrid system are fully understood, and the installer is familiar with the products selected, we can then begin to consider the installation of a system as a formality for all parties involved. The best way to find out is simply to ask. Most installers I have worked with are very open about their experience and passionate about their work.

Whether your source for a renewable energy system is a large company or an independent installer, in the end it comes down to the individual putting that system up at your property.

If you are an installer, my recommendation would be to stick to products that work for you and product combinations that are proven to work. Do not re-invent the wheel. If you are going to try something new, do not assume logic will dictate success.

Please call the appropriate source and ask the right questions.