Do solar panels work in the winter?
Winters are undoubtedly the most demanding time for solar power systems, but yes: solar energy systems certainly work during winter time. When you
take the right precautions, you can be sure that your solar energy system will function properly even during the harshest winter times.
Solar panel equipment that can withstand snow loads
If you’re living in a country where you get plenty of snow and wind during the winter, it’s highly recommended to purchase solar panel that have been tested to withstand the a certain snow load.
Most IEC / UL certified solar panels can withstand 2400Pa of snow load and wind load. However if you expect meters of snow every winter, it’s highly recommended to go with a more robust version, such as panels that withstand 5400Pa snow load. ‘
Nowadays there are even panels on the market that withstand 7200Pa of snow load! It may seem exaggerated, however when meters of snow build up, and then it starts raining / snow starts melting, the pressure from the snow will be very large.
Solar system performance in winter
During winters, the days are shorter restricting the amount of electricity produced; sunlight strikes the panel at a ‘lower angle’ resulting in further reduction of the amount of available sunlight.
Very often the demand for electricity is the highest during winters. This calls for the real test for your solar power system, and you’ll find out if you sized your system correctly.
How to prepare your solar energy system for the winter
Even before the winter kicks in, it is recommended that you are prepared.
Make sure that you have all the diagnostic tools ready at your disposal. This includes a digital multi-meter and a set of clampers and cutters.
For Off-Grid system owners, have enough supply of anti-freeze distilled water for your batteries. Also you might want to have proper tools for snow removal, such as a snow brush.
Battery storage during winter
Make sure that the batteries are installed indoors, and if they are outdoors, make sure that the compartment is properly insulated. Remember that the lead acid batteries freeze at -20 degree C and will be destroyed.
9 tips for making sure that your PV system lasts a demanding winter
Here are some valuable tips to ensure optimum performance of your PV system during the cold winter months:
- To maximize the performance of your solar system, make sure that you adjust the tilt angle of the solar array to the winter angle.
- Make sure you only use the necessary loads that are required. Turn off excessive lighting when not needed.
- Disconnect ghost loads that consume power even when off as long as they are plugged in. A perfect example is that of a Television. Over a period of 24 hours, a plugged in TV consumes the same power as when it is ON for thirty minutes.
- Replace all the high wattage bulbs with energy efficient ones. You could save about 75% of energy consumed by a 60 watt bulb by replacing it with a 15 watt energy efficient CFL, without sacrificing your light output.
- Monitor the battery temperature closely and never let it go below zero degree.
- Monitor the voltage level for each cell of the lead acid type batteries. Most batteries do not fail instantaneously, but over time. Regularly checking the voltages identifies a potential problem earlier than later.
- Ensure that your house has proper insulation to conserve heat.
- Make sure to use a heating system that automatically maintains a preset temperature with the help of a digital thermostat.
- And last but not the least; if a constant power supply is crucial, make sure that you have a backup generator ready and tested for functionality in advance. Some fuel supply would be handy as well..
A PV system comes with responsibilities
The bottom line is that during the severe winter months you have to act wisely when it comes to maintaining your solar sytem.
While you have to be smart in ways to maximize your electricity generation, you also have to be stingy when it comes to consumption.
Don’t forget that you are your own power company now, and proper planning and maintenance is one of the responsibilities.