After years of hoping and wishing [Dave] finally took the plunge and installed solar panels on the roof of his house. He’s got twelve panels that are each rated at 240 Watts! But just having them sitting there and pumping power back to the grid isn’t enough. Understandably, he decided to add his own solar array monitor so that he could see just what those babies are bringing to the party.
The solar array has an inverter which takes the DC from the cells and converts it to mains voltage AC for use on the grid. The system includes a panel meter which you’d normally find on the supply to the house. All he needed to do is find a way to grab the data from that device. It’s an Elster meter, and offers two types of feedback: a blinking LED that corresponds to each Watt-hour passing through the meter, and an IrDA port which provides a more error-proof method of reading data. Monitoring the 1 Wh pulse is quite a popular method for keeping track of your electric meter, but if your hardware misses a pulse the data will be off. [Dave] chose to use a light sensor to monitor the IrDA output, which is encoded data. As long as you can read the protocol, which has been published by Elster, a transmission can be missed now and again without disturbing the overall power consumption data.