With winter and spring still to work their way through solar panel owners will be seeing a 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, you may be losing up to a half of your solar system’s usual output. While this will impact on your power bills — there are things that can be done to make sure your panels continue operating as efficiently as possible all through the winter months.
Winter weather doesn’t necessarily mean less solar power – as your solar system can function better in cool sunny weather than in the very hot summer days. 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 needs all the help it can get with the added challenges of shorter days and increased cloud cover.
With that in mind, there are some ways you can offset the seasonal drop, starting with the most low-tech solutions and working up to the ones that might require a little extra investment.
Clean your panels
While taking good care of your solar panels should be a regular affair, autumn is a particularly good time to give them some extra attention. Winter is when you’ll be needing that little bit extra, after all.
If you haven’t done so recently — and if it can be done safely — you should give your solar panels a good clean 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 and we will put you in touch with a specialist panel cleaner.
Get the most of the winter sun
Now is also a good time to make sure your panels are still getting access to all the sunlight they need. Generally, your panels should be receiving full sun from 9am until 5pm — and taking into consideration the angle of the winter sun, you may find that stray branches or overgrown trees are shading part of your panel array. This is especially important to address if you’re running on a central inverter rather than a microinverter. If you can, trim any branches that may be interfering with your precious sunlight.
Time for a check up
Like your car your solar system should be maintained and checked at least once a year, though many work on the ‘set and forget’ principal. Some early systems may need repair in that isolators, inverters, wiring and sealing may need attention. If you have not had your system checked for a few years then we suggest you do this over the next few months. If you are in Victoria or Queensland we can provide a full system audit by an accredited CEC installer. Contact us today using the form if you need this service
What gets measured gets better
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 in solar energy. If you want to get more hands-on with your power, it’s time to look at monitoring.
While some inverters come with monitoring via Wi-Fi and apps most of these only offer limited feedback. If you are really keen to not just monitor but actively manage your energy, then I suggest you look at a more comprehensive Smart Energy platform. One I recommend is Emberpulse which offers great feedback on the energy produced by your solar system and the energy used within the home as well as appliance automation. It provides real-time alerts for better energy management and if your system goes down with all of these backed with money back guarantees.