Optimize Your Solar Power System This Winter
Dec 18, 2020
by EmPower Solar
When the cool weather sets in and weathermen start predicting snowfall, we get many questions about the effectiveness of solar during this season. A lot of people ask: do solar panels even work in the winter?
The answer is a resounding yes! Funnily enough, though daylight hours are shorter and snow can disrupt their output, solar panels are more efficient in cooler weather. Lower temperatures actually increase production.
Since winter is officially upon us, we wanted to share some helpful tips for maintaining your solar power system and optimizing your home for ideal operating conditions.
Monitor Your System
It’s critical that you consistently check your system to ensure that it is producing energy as expected. We recommend that you login and verify system operation at least once a week. You’ll also have access to full reports on your energy data. Note: if there is snow on top of your panels, you may get errors. This will go away when the snow melts in a few days!
For more information on monitoring your system, visit our Client Corner.
Be Mindful of Your Energy Consumption
Since the days are shorter and your panels have less access to sunlight, we recommend keeping an eye on your energy consumption. If you already monitor your system closely and want to keep production and consumption even, here are a few tips for you:
- Everyone loves a good holiday light display, but those shows can be energy hogs. Blow-up decorations use a lot of energy with the fan motor constantly running, so make sure to use a timer to prevent your displays from using all of your produced energy.
- It may be tempting to turn on that electric space heater if you’re working in the garage or the basement, but remember that they pull an enormous amount of energy and operate extremely inefficiently. Use portable electric space heaters sparingly and only when necessary.
- Unplug idle electronics, such as coffee makers, microwaves, chargers, printers, and even your computer. It feels good to power down for the day!
- Replace your traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs. LED bulbs are the most efficient lighting option, and use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. When you’re not using those new lights, be sure to switch them off!
- Consider turning down your thermostat by a few degrees, especially during the hours you’re tucked away in bed or at the office. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests saving energy in the winter by setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.
Leave the Snow!
During periods of light snowfall, your panels will still be able to capture sunlight and produce energy. Heavy snowfall, however, may prevent sunlight from reaching your panels. While it may be tempting to clear your roof using a scraper or to melt the snow with hot water, we strongly recommend against this, since such methods can cause damage to your panels’ anti-reflective coating and tempered glass. Instead, we suggest allowing the snow to melt and slide off your panels. Since this isn’t peak production time anyway, and we accounted for this in our project models, a few days of snow cover won’t matter much.
Pair Solar with Battery
For a truly resilient home, we recommend adding battery storage to your new or existing solar system. Batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall can store unused solar energy for your access when production is low, such as during New York’s infamous snowstorms.
Get a $1020 rebate when you sign up for a new solar system plus a Tesla Powerwall before the end of the year. Give us a call today!
Cash in Your Net Meter Credits
When solar panels are installed on a home, the home still remains tied to the electric grid and has access to net metering. During high production months (spring through fall), solar panels generally operate at maximum capacity, producing more energy than you can consume in a given month.
In that case, the extra energy that your home does not use is sent back to the grid, earning you energy credits which can be used at times when your system is not producing the energy you need. Come winter, you can access these credits and pull power from the grid without necessarily needing to pay the utility. This happens automatically, so no need for you to do anything! If you want to dazzle the neighborhood with that light display or keep your house a little extra toasty, go for it; your lights will stay on and you can always pull energy from the grid if your energy bank gets tapped.
For more information on net metering, visit our Client Corner.