Installing solar panels allows us to operate more environmentally-friendly homes and give back to the power grid but will they survive the long, dark winters?
First, let’s dispel some myths about owning solar panels in winter. For one, winter weather doesn’t necessarily mean less solar power – in fact, your solar panels will function better in cool, sunny weather than they will in the summer heat.
Solar panels are tested at 25 degrees Celsius, so for every degree, the temperature climbs above that, the panel’s output efficiency is reduced. In that regard, winter weather has an advantage over summer, though it still needs to make up for the winter roadblocks of shorter days and increased cloud cover.
With that in mind, here are some ways you can even further offset that winter drop, starting with the most low-tech solutions and working up to the ones that might require a little extra investment.
Keep Your Panels In Top Shape
While you should be taking good care of your solar panels year-round, autumn is a particularly good time to give them some extra attention. Winter is when you’ll be needing that little boost after all.
By keeping the surface of the solar panels clean, you need to ensure that there is more surface area for them to absorb the sunlight. This, in turn, implies that more electricity will be generated.
In most cases, cleaning of roof mount systems is a job for the professional.
But if you have a ground mount system to clean here are some general guidelines.
Safety first – Before working on the panels, we would recommend shutting down the system. Instructions can be found in the schematics provided after the installation. But remember that the roof cabling will still be live can carry dangerous voltages. If any of the cables are broken, you should immediately report it!
Read More: Tips on Maintaining Solar Panels
You should avoid using harsh chemicals or rough brushes to clean PV panels. Instead, use some warm water and a sponge wrapped in a cloth, or a soft brush. If you can’t get to your solar panels easily (or if you just don’t have the time) contact your installer or supplier and see if they can recommend a service for routine maintenance and cleaning.
Catch The Winter Sun
While not all setups are capable of changing the angle of solar panels, now is the time to do it if yours are adjustable. Because the sun hits your panels at a different angle in winter than they do in summer, you can easily increase your energy output with a single adjustment to the panels’ tilt. Some people do this twice a year – summer into winter and then back again – while others change the angle for all four seasons.
An obvious, but often overlooked area of preparation is to trim down on the excess usage of power in the smaller appliances and bulbs around the house.
This may be achieved in several ways.
All of it will help towards reducing power consumption in the high-usage months when solar power is stretched.
- Turn off the lights you don’t need. Don’t forget outside lights, pantry lights, and display fixtures.
- Unplug appliances from the wall to stop unnecessary power leaks. This applies to all sorts of things, like the TV, kitchen and cooking appliances, phone chargers, hairdryers, unused battery chargers, and heaters, for example. If plugged into the socket, these appliances still draw from the grid, even when switched off.
- Use energy-efficient lighting and bulbs (consider wattage and lifespan). Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) provide for 15-watt bulbs, for example, which perform at the same level as a normal 60-watt bulb.
- Use solar-powered lamps for the garden, walkways and sidewalk features rather than connecting to another power source.
Store the energy
The last thing you can do to get the most from your solar this winter is something you may have already looked into if your solar panels generally perform well – battery storage.
Connecting a battery to your PV system is the next step up in home energy, and can even be a step towards making your household energy independent.
When autumn and winter brings cloudy days and shorter hours of sunlight, storing the energy you do collect on a good day can be vital to your energy efficiency.
Home batteries can generally be retrofitted to an existing solar PV system – though if you’ve yet to invest in the actual solar panels you can also get everything you need to be installed in a single package. All you need to do is decide what battery is going to work best for you.
This relatively new technology may be worth considering if you generate your own energy at home but could use more of it – or plan to start doing so.
Home-energy storage will also reduce the electricity you use from the grid, and cut your bill. If your home is off-grid, it can help to reduce your use of fossil fuel back-up generators.
Start Your Solar Journey
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