Winter is well and truly here, and while we see the thermometers go down, it is this time of year that we usually see our electricity bills go up. With shorter days and cooler temperatures, heating our homes to warm ourselves and our family becomes a priority. Luckily in Australia, the sunlight we receive in Winter is still ideal for generating solar energy, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you are getting the best value out of your solar panel system.
Hotter doesn’t mean better
It seems to make sense that the hotter the weather, the more power your solar panels are going to produce. It’s not as quite clear cut as that, however – winter conditions can actually improve the performance of your solar panels!
Technology in the solar panels (called Photovoltaic technology) means that they can more efficiently convert sunlight to power when they are cooler, because solar panels absorb energy from our sun’s abundant light, not the Sun’s heat. On the other hand, in Summer the higher temperatures can actually reduce the power out of a solar cell. If you notice diminished output in your energy produced, it is only due to the shorter daylight hours, rather than the temperature.
How does sunlight make power?
Sunlight is made up of photons, and when those photons hit a cell in a solar panel, they can be reflected or absorbed by the cell. When they are absorbed into solar panel Photovoltaic cells, electrons are set in motion. This creates an electric current or Direct Current (DC) which is then fed into an inverted and converted into Alternating Current (AC), then fed into the mains electricity power your home.
Adding a solar battery like the Tesla Powerwall can help store this electricity so you can still use solar energy at night, during peak electricity usage, or when the grid goes down. You can also feed excess energy you generate back into the grid, which can give you a credit on your bill.
How does temperature affect solar panel output?
Electrons naturally have low energy, but they become animated when they are in contact with an energy source such as light or heat. The difference between the electrons resting state and ‘excited’ state is the voltage that can be produced by your solar panels.
So why doesn’t it follow that more heat would cause the electrons to be more active? As solar panels get hotter in the Summer, they produce less power from the same amount of sunlight because the electrons in the panels have a higher energy in them already, because they are warmer, so the difference between the resting state and excited state is smaller, resulting in less voltage output. This is why your solar panels are actually able to produce electricity more efficiently when it’s colder.
Top tips to get the best out of your solar in winter
With less daylight hours to produce power, there are a few ways you can help to make it through the cold Winter, without having a shock when the electrical bill arrives next quarter. Here are some things you can do to maximise the efficiency and output of your solar panels:
- Maintain your yard – overhanging trees can create hours of shade. Make sure you cut back any leaves that will reduce your energy production.
- Upgrade appliances – if you’re able, replace old appliances which will have greater energy consumption. High energy star ratings will save you money in the long run.
- Take advantage of Smart Home Technologies to monitor energy production and maximise your energy production and energy saving.
- Use a smart electricity meter – control and monitor your electricity usage via your smart phone and watch for any surges in power usage.
- Make sure your panels face the Sun – Aztech Solar can ensure your solar panels catch the winter sun and can adjust your solar panels to change the angle of your solar panels to increase your energy output.
- Consider when you use appliances – high energy appliances like the washing machine should ideally be run during the daytime on sunny days, and only run one appliance at a time.
- Turn the lights off – save energy and money by reducing the lighting you use at night. Change high wattage to warm white LED lights to help save energy.
How do I maintain my solar panels?
Winter is a great time to give your solar panels an early ‘Spring Clean’. Your solar panels won’t need to be completely free from specks of dust, but years of grime build up, leaves and animal marks will slowly amount to less energy production. If you’re not producing the same amount of energy as you used to, you’re losing money. It may be time to give your solar panels a clean.
However, being gentle is vital to your panel’s longevity. It is important not to scratch your system in any way. Water and a non-abrasive sponge and a mild detergent like dishwashing liquid (if necessary) are enough to clean the solar panels, without risking damaging them and a pressure washer is likely to damage the sensitive panels.
Let Aztech Solar help you get the most out of your solar this winter
Winter in Australia serves us up some lovely blue skies, with warm sunlight just waiting to be turned into energy. Aztech Solar can provide you with professional advice for your individual needs, so you can be assured your solar panels are getting the best out of the Winter Sun. Get in touch with us today to find out how to make your solar system more efficient.
We service the Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens regions. Call us on 02 4067 2634 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.