Are you a solar owner with a quick question about system maintenance? Are you considering solar and wondering what maintenance is involved? This guide is for you!

For many NYC families, going solar is a long awaited milestone. Although our process requires little effort on the customer side, we really enjoy including everyone in the process to make sure our customers understand how their system works.

Everyone who goes solar with BSW receives a copy of our Solar System Maintenance Guide. This guide explains the basics of how your solar system works, like the anatomy of a system, rebooting a system, connecting to WiFi, and using the customer portal. Continue reading for a glimpse at our official solar system maintenance guide for solar owners.

Solar System Maintenance: Hardware

Where are my solar panels? How do I maintain them?

Your solar panels are mounted on your rooftop. They are most likely LG or REC brand modules, but may be another brand (double check with us to be sure). Regardless of their brand, your solar panels have no moving parts or electronics and are therefore long lasting, requiring no regular inspection or maintenance.

How do I clean snow and debris off my solar panels?

You are not required to clean your solar panels. Your solar array is angled to allow rain water to run off naturally, taking with it any build up. Therefore, solar system maintenance does not include cleaning.

You don’t need to worry about removing snow either, as the power lost during snowstorms is extremely small. Not to mention, it can be dangerous climbing up to a snowy, icy rooftop. If you do choose to clean your panels, avoid harsh detergents and metal or hard plastic brushes that could scratch the glass.

What kind of inverter do I have and what does it do?

Your solar system has an SMA SunnyBoy inverter. This inverter converts your solar panels’ DC electricity into AC electricity used by your home and the utility grid. Larger solar systems have multiple inverters. Inverters are typically mounted in your basement near the main electrical service. It can also be placed on your roof attached to the solar array. 

We like to think of the inverter as the “brains” of the operation, because it plays an important role in solar system maintenance. It monitors the health of both your solar array and the utility grid, and will isolate itself and send an alert if either becomes unsafe for operation. It has LEDs and a display in the bottom right corner which provide a snapshot of its operating status.

An SMA SunnyBoy inverter located in a solar customer's basement.
Inverters are mounted in the basement (pictured here) or can be located on your roof attached to your solar array.

What do the lights on my inverter’s display indicate?

The green light indicates the current power production status of your solar system. It pulses slowly or quickly depending on how much power it’s creating. It blinks on and off when it’s on standby. The light will be off if the inverter is off or hibernating at night. 

The center red light is the error light and only illuminates if there’s a problem. The display will also show an error code and time stamp when the error occurred. But don’t worry — if your equipment is connected to Sunny Portal, all errors are automatically reported to our team within 24 hours.

The blue light is the communication light. If your inverter is connected to a WiFi network or hardwired with an ethernet cable, it will be solid blue. It will blink slowly while connecting, and if it loses connection, the light will turn off.

What does the display of my inverter tell me?

While in normal operation, the display shows the current power output and total lifetime energy production of the inverter. A knock on the display will illuminate it. A second knock will scroll through different menus with readouts on software versions, WiFi communication info, and AC/DC voltages and currents. At night, the display will be dark while the inverter hibernates.

An SMA SunnyBoy inverter displays solar system information.
The display of your inverter looks something like this.

Turning Off & Rebooting Your Solar System

How do I turn my system off?

In the rare case that we ask you to reboot your solar system (or if you have an electrician working on your house who wishes to power it off) follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the DC disconnect. This is a black dial on the left side of your inverter (below). Turn the dial a quarter turn counterclockwise from the ‘I’ position to the ‘O’ position. 
  2. Turn off the AC disconnect. (Pictured below.) If your inverter is in the basement, you may have a circuit breaker in your electric panel labeled PV Solar Breaker with a red sticker. If not, you’ll have an electrical switch outside your electric panel that has a red sticker labeled AC Solar Disconnect with either a black lever on the right side or a circuit breaker. If your inverter is on the roof, there should be a box within 5 feet of the inverter labeled as an AC disconnect, operated either by an external switch or a circuit breaker covered by a weatherproof door.

After turning off the inverter, allow at least one minute for the inverter to fully discharge before rebooting. If an electrician has turned your system off, please make sure they remember to reactivate your system before leaving.

How do I reboot my system?

To reboot your solar system, turn both the DC and AC switches back on. Either order is fine, but turning on the AC connection first will allow the inverter to resume operation more quickly. The inverter will take up to 5 minutes to fully reboot and reconnect to WiFi/cell networks. It may take another 5 minutes to begin making power.

Solar System Inverter & Wi-Fi Maintenance

What data does my inverter collect? Where can I find it?

Sunny Boy inverters send data to be recorded on SMA’s monitoring website: www.sunnyportal.com. This is where you can track the output of your solar system. Our team also monitors system performance against guaranteed output levels and receives automatic notifications should any errors occur.

Does my inverter connect to WiFi?

Yes! The inverter can connect to most standard WiFi networks and is the preferable communication method where available. We’ll connect your inverter to your WiFi network initially, but may ask for your assistance to reconnect should you change your WiFi equipment or password in the future.

What if my WiFi signal isn’t strong enough?

When a WiFi network does not reach or has low signal strength at the location of the inverter, we may install a WiFi booster to extend the range of the existing WiFi network.

The booster plugs into an outlet and is positioned between the router and inverter. The booster connects to the router and broadcasts another WiFi network with the same name plus “_EXT” added to the end. It has the same password as the existing WiFi network. The inverter then connects to the booster’s stronger network.

What do I do if my WiFi network name or password changes?

If we installed a WiFi booster in your home to increase signal strength and you’ve changed your WiFi network name or password, you will need to reconfigure your WiFi booster prior to updating your inverter’s settings.

  1. On your phone or laptop, connect to the WiFi network that says SMA############. It will ask for a password. This is located on a sticker on the right hand side of the inverter under the heading WPA2-PSK. If you don’t see the network on your phone, shut the inverter down (both the AC & DC disconnect) for 60 seconds then turn it back on. It will take 2-3 minutes to reinitialize and the WiFi network to appear.
    • Note: It may redirect you to the SMA sign in page automatically where your device says “Sign into WiFi Network”. If that happens, it may ask you to set a user password. You can choose any password you like that meets the password criteria. Remembering this password is normally not necessary. Once you set a user password, you should be redirected to the login page.

If your connection is consistently below 60%, there is a good chance the inverter will lose connection in the future. If this is the case, please notify us and we can look into improving the signal strength.

Using Sunny Portal to Manage Your System

How do I set up my Sunny Portal account?

After your inverter is connected to your WiFi network, we’ll register it in Sunny Portal. You will receive an email invitation to log into your account. A website and mobile app are available.

Sunny Portal allows customers to manage their solar systems.
SMA’s online portal allows BSW and our customers to track solar system performance and be alerted should irregularities occur.

What does Sunny Portal tell me?

This overview will discuss the website, as the app is just a trimmed down version with slightly less information.

Your Sunny Portal account will show you the following metrics: 

  1. Readout of the real-time output of your solar system. The value will update every few seconds, so you may see it jump around with passing clouds. If the WiFi connection is poor, it may show a value from the last time the system was connected.
  2. Total energy output. Today’s output is listed in the center. Total output all time is listed at the bottom. As of 2020, residential electricity in ConEd territory costs between 22 and 25 cents per kWh.
  3. Approximate CO2  emissions avoided for the current day and lifetime of the system.
  4. Basic info on system equipment. This includes system nameplate power capacity and date of system commissioning
  5. Local weather info.
  6. SolarCoin management. Your system comes with an option to automatically send production data to SolarCoin. We can’t provide assistance with managing SolarCoin, but if you would like to register your system let us know and we can set it up.

The graph will update every few hours throughout the day and displays the output of your system. Tabs are available which display the total kWh output per day/month/year in blue. There will also be gray prediction bars which show how much energy we expect from your system on a monthly/yearly basis.

The menu leads to some other pages, but most of this information is already on the home page layout.

  1. Annual Comparison will show a summary of each year’s performance and numeric values for each month.
  2. PV System Logbook contains a history of messages sent out by your inverter. Most of these are just informational. Any equipment faults will have a red X and will send an automated alert to our team.
  3. The Inverter tab is useful if you have more than one inverter. It will show a breakdown of what each is doing individually.

Although there isn’t any real maintenance involved, we believe it’s important that every solar owner has an understanding of how their system works and has access to our solar guide. The above is a crude breakdown of how our systems work and what solar owners should know.

It may seem overwhelming to see so much information at once, but you’re not alone! We’ll walk you through each step: consultation, installation, tax season, and beyond. 

Our next article will explain the financial elements of the solar guide and how your system interacts with NYC’s electrical grid.

Questions? Get in touch with a member of our team now.

Are you ready to flip the switch to solar? Schedule your free consultation today.

Recent Posts

What is the NYC Climate Mobilization Act?

May 3, 2022

We’re proud to service New York City for a number of reasons. But, one of the things we love most about NYC is its commitment to sustainability and doing its…

Post Solar Panel Installation in New York 

Apr 1, 2022

Not only does going solar benefit the planet, it benefits your wallet too. It will drastically reduce your electric bill, and you can take advantage of some of the best…

Why is Solar Energy Important in NYC?

Mar 30, 2022

Solar energy is important in facilitating a clean energy future, which is imperative in the fight against climate change. But the use of solar energy has benefits that extend beyond…