Energy Stuff / 7 May 2018
Main Image: CanStock
Winter is almost upon us and most home solar panel owners will be dreading the drop in solar power output that comes in the cooler months. With shorter days, more cloud cover and the sun shining at a different angle, it feels inevitable that solar generation will drop by up to a third. But don’t despair yet, there are things that can be done to make sure your panels continue.
First, let’s settle a common misconception about solar production in winter months. 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.
If you haven’t done so recently – and if it can be done safely – you should give your solar panels a good scrub in case of any built up grime, dirt or other unwelcome additions to your panel like spots of bird poop. 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 us at Energy Stuff and we can recommend a service for routine maintenance and cleaning.
If you live in one of the few parts of Australia that is prone to snow, you may want to invest in a brush designed to move snow from roofs (and solar panels). Aside from physically covering the panels however, snow shouldn’t damage or otherwise adversely affect your solar system at all.
Catch the Winter Sun
Now is also a good time to make sure your panels are still getting all the sunlight they can. Generally, your panels should be receiving full sun from 9am until 5pm. Taking into consideration the angle of the winter sun, you may find that stray branches or overgrown trees are now shading part of your panel array. If you can, trim any branches that may be interfering with your precious sunlight.
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. No matter how often you choose to change the tilt, you can find a resource for the best angle based on your location and the time of year here.
Don’t Just Set and Forget
Now that you’ve run through the basics of setting your solar panels up for winter, it’s time to look at what more you can do to squeeze every last drop of energy out of your investment. If you want to get more hands-on with your power, it’s time to look at monitoring software.
Your system may have come bundled with monitoring software, otherwise you’ll need to look into retrofitting or upgrading what you already have. Regularly checking your monitoring software is the best way to make sure your system is always performing at peak efficiency.
Notice a sustained drop in output that doesn’t match the weather? It’s time to make sure you don’t have a stray branch shading your panels, or a spot of grime getting in the way of your precious solar energy. If nothing is obviously wrong with the panels, it might be time to get a professional in to check for less obvious faults.
Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support (1300 656 205) or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au
Get a solar checkup prior to winter setting in – call us today to book a call with a solar specialist.
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