This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
The solar panels on the roof are a year-round money saver for most people, especially at a time increased energy costs. Combine solar panels with an energy efficient heat pump and you can save while heating your home. In fact, colder temperatures help solar panels perform better. efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.
It is completely normal for solar panels to produce less during the winter months, for a simple reason: there is less sunlight. Shorter days, cloudier days, and ice and snow cover all limit the amount of sunlight available for the panels to turn into electricity. Although you can’t make the days longer, there are things you can do to get the most energy out of your solar panels in the winter.
Read that below. See also cheaper ways to integrate solar power into your home and how the US government is doing it more affordable to buy solar panels and energy efficient home renovations.
Adjust the angle of your panels
The angle of the sun in winter is different from that in summer. Accordingly, you may want adjust the angle of your solar panels to make the most of it during the winter. Most people won’t be able to because solar panels are often mounted on fixed brackets, but for those who can, adjusting the angle can bring your panels a bit more sunlight.
Because the sun is lower in the sky in the winter than in the summer, you will want your panels to be more angled during these months. Some sources suggest a winter angle of your latitude plus 10 to 15 degrees. In Chicago, for example, that would be an angle between 52 and 57 degrees. (Chicago’s latitude is approximately 42 degrees.) As an added benefit, not only will a steeper angle help capture more sunlight, it will also help snow fall off your panels more easily. Talk to your solar panel supplier about your options before making any adjustments. You must be extremely careful not to tamper with your panels in a way that could void their warranty.
While changes of 10 to 15 degrees may not be possible with adjustable racks, even small changes can result in a little more power.
Reduce your energy consumption (or be prepared to pay more for electricity)
Solar panels can still capture sunlight and create energy for your home during the winter. But since there are fewer daylight hours, you can also expect your solar panels to produce less power than they might during the summer. Therefore, you may need to either reduce your energy consumption or be prepared to pay a higher electricity bill. The good news is that there are many ways to reduce your energy consumption, including:
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs. They last longer and perform better. In general, a traditional 60 watt bulb can be replaced with an energy efficient 15 watt bulb.
- Turn off lights and appliances you’re not using. Although most of us know that we waste energy when we leave these devices on, we forget that it has a real impact on our wallets.
- Unplug small appliances that you are not using. Even when not in use, they can use a small amount of electricity, which increases your energy bill.
- Turn down your thermostat. You can save money by lowering the temperature in your home a few degrees. Wear layers to feel more comfortable.
- Check your home’s insulation. If your home is poorly insulated, more heat will escape, which will cost you money.
Here are 23 ways to save on your electric bills right now
Properly isolate your batteries
You will need to take special care of your solar batteries during the winter to ensure that they continue to function. It is important to maintain your batteries at an appropriate temperature. The batteries are not designed to operate in the very low temperatures experienced in some regions. Therefore, you should either store your batteries indoors or make sure they are well insulated.
If you keep your batteries outdoors, monitor the temperature to make sure it is within the optimal range.
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Monitor your battery discharge
It’s also important to monitor your battery’s discharge levels. It is not recommended to fully discharge your solar batteries. In fact, while some batteries may be suitable for discharge levels of 70% to 80%, the recommended discharge level is actually 50%. On heavy usage days, such as you might have in the winter, monitor your battery drain and consider investing in a backup generator.
Remove heavy snow from your panels
If you live in an area where there is snow, it is natural for some to land on your solar panels. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Light snowfall should melt fairly quickly. And snow on your solar panels can actually have some benefits because it can clean your panels as it falls.
Although a little snow on your solar panels is acceptable, be careful of excess snow. Solar panels covered in snow simply won’t capture sunlight in the same way. Additionally, heavy snow can cause excessive weight on your solar panels, which puts pressure on the mounting points.
If you’re going to be cleaning snow off your solar panels, make sure you’re using the right tool. A rough brush or rake can damage your solar panels. Instead, use a soft snow brush that will clean the snow without scratching the surface of your panels. Again, it’s always a good idea to check with your supplier to make sure you won’t void your warranty.
The bottom line
The good news is that your solar panels can still capture sunlight and create power for your home during the winter months. They may just need a little more care and maintenance before and during winter.