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  • New system stuck on night mode and not producing

    New to this forum after searching for answers. We had a residential system installed that supposedly went online with PG&E in December. Being new to solar, we just watched our bills for the first couple of months before we realized that it apparently isn't generating anything.

    The outfit that sold it to us, which will remain unnamed until we know more, has apparently suspended all operations due to the pandemic. A day of digging with the lender who financed it revealed that it's basically a sales front, but the city permit records revealed that the contractor was doing business as the sales front, so they're one and the same. I called the phone numbers I found. One went straight to voicemail, and the other got a residence, where a guy who matched the name on the contractor's license said he'd have their tech people call back. That was ten days ago.

    Is this kind of flaky, shady stuff common in the industry? Their online consumer reviews show that solar is their primary business, but this is about the worst customer service I've ever experienced. We're paying monthly on a note for a pile of equipment that just doesn't work. Our true-up balance is up around $600, and PG&E's records show nary a watt, ever.

    The weird thing is, I called one of their local competitors just to see what I could learn. They're open for business as an essential, so the pandemic excuse is just not credible. They are willing to send a tech out to troubleshoot our system and see if they can find the problem. $250 for the first hour, and $120 per hour after that.

    I'm trying to educate myself and maybe fix it myself. What I've learned so far tells me that they just didn't finish the job. The inverter is a SolarEdge SE5000.

    No one came out to confirm that it was working after we got the PG&E notice. No one walked us through the control display. There's no monitoring setup at all. It seems to be stuck in Night Mode, but it will show "On" now and then. It typically shows 2-3 volts of DC, and the most I've seen is about 18 volts. From what I've seen online, the DC voltage should be in the hundreds?

    I'm not inexperienced with displays and menu manipulation, but I can't guess at a sequence that will let me toggle it out of Night Mode. The best I've been able to get to is "On", 18 volts, and the green "Power" led blinking.

    I plan to connect the inverter to our house wi-fi modem/router with an Ethernet cable, but the SolarEdge manual is awfully cryptic about the setup procedure.

    So, can anyone offer more than sympathy? If I don't hear back from the contractor. I think I'll send a demand letter by certified mail with a return receipt, then hire the competitor to have a look and send the bill to the contractor. I'm a retired attorney, so I have no compunction about recouping the expense in court.

    We're heading into AC season with long, sunny days, and that true-up is going to murder us if we don't start producing. I really don't want to trash the contractor's reputation before they have a chance to make it right, but, obviously, I'm quite capable of writing a scathing review. Thanks!

  • #2
    Have you checked the breaker to see if it is on? Give it 5 minutes to boot up and try to sync to the grid. Even at night it should sync to the grid. If it has a screen see if it provides more info. I presume if you are with PG&E you are in the north half of California?
    Is the notice you got from PG&E, a Permission to Operate letter?
    9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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    • #3
      I'd also complain to the state contractors lic board.

      If the display is active, it has AC power. See if you can find the DC disconnect and determine what state it's in, on or off.

      If you are handy with a volt meter, see what the AC grid voltage is, supposed to be 240VAC + - some 5% If too high or low, the inverter won't qualify the grid as being good, and won't turn on. Bad grid voltage is more common then you think. Find a manual for your inverter online and study it, see what makes it tick.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ampster View Post
        Have you checked the breaker to see if it is on? Give it 5 minutes to boot up and try to sync to the grid. Even at night it should sync to the grid. If it has a screen see if it provides more info. I presume if you are with PG&E you are in the north half of California?
        Is the notice you got from PG&E, a Permission to Operate letter?
        Yes, I identified the inverter's breaker and tried power cycles of various duration. The notice we got from PG&E was an email, which I forwarded the same day to the contractor. It was simply notice that net energy metering through our system was good to go.

        Yes, Northern California, Sacramento Valley. Gonna get hot soon. And sunny.

        I feel kinda dumb for not getting on this in March, but there's been this virus thing. Everyone please stay safe.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mike90250 View Post

          If you are handy with a volt meter, see what the AC grid voltage is, supposed to be 240VAC + - some 5% If too high or low, the inverter won't qualify the grid as being good, and won't turn on. Bad grid voltage is more common then you think. Find a manual for your inverter online and study it, see what makes it tick.
          The AC voltage is consistently right around 245, so that sounds about right with your variation margin. It's the DC that just isn't there. What's the fix if the grid voltage is too hot, some kind of attenuator/pad?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Andan View Post

            The AC voltage is consistently right around 245, so that sounds about right with your variation margin. It's the DC that just isn't there. What's the fix if the grid voltage is too hot, some kind of attenuator/pad?
            My SolarEdge currently is reading 242 volts..I will check my manual and see what the max is..I did have a Xantrex go offline because of voltage. PG&E would have to fix it. Your screen would probably show an error.
            Can you get an Ethernet cable connected?
            9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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            • #7
              A quick search of the SolarEdge site shows output voltage range of 240-264. I did not specifically see anything about input voltage. Perhaps it is in UL1747 or California Rule 21 which are specs that GT invertrrs must comply with. As i become more awake this morning, I seem to recall that my old Xantrex went offline at 254 volts. That was before Rule 21 which may be more tolerant. Your. new inverter is most likely Rule 21 compliant.
              The reason I asked about Ethernet is that then your inverter could talk to SolarEdge's cloud and you could talk to tech support. You still may be able to talk to them and tell them what your screen reports.
              9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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