Solar energy is a great way to save money, but the initial cost can be high. You want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your solar panels so that you get all the benefits from them. Follow these steps and learn how to increase solar panel efficiency for your home or business!
Solar energy technology has made giant strides, especially in the last decade or two. Now you have choices in solar panels to suit your requirements. The cost has come down, the efficiency has gone up, and it is easier to install and aesthetically appealing. Solar panel improvements have made them more attractive.
Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, it is lucrative to go solar taking into consideration all the benefits to the environment, freedom from the grid, and potential to sell excess energy generated to the grid through net metering.
The icing on the cake, as they say, is the federal and state tax credits for going solar. This plus other financial incentives available in your location can take away the sting of additional expenditure.
That said, it would be foolish to jump into the solar bandwagon just for the sake of it without giving it a 360° consideration. Not all solar panels work the same way. You need to choose the ones that will give the maximum output based on your location, availability of sunlight, space constraints, and suchlike. All these will affect the efficiency of the solar panels.
Read on to learn about how to improve the solar panel efficiency of residential and commercial solar panels.
How to make solar panels more efficient
Spending a fortune on high-end solar panels or solar energy systems may not get you the best results unless the installations are compatible with your location or circumstances. Moreover, you also need to support the solar installation with efficiency-boosting measures like regular maintenance.
Let’s see how you can get the best out of your solar installation.
Buying a solar system
1. Choose the right kind of solar panels
Solar panels come in three major types – monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. The first two are made from silicon crystals – monocrystalline from a single pure crystal and polycrystalline is composed of fragments of silicon crystals melted together in a mold.
Thin-film panels are made from a variety of materials – cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si), and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), being the most commonly used.
Monocrystalline solar panels are the highest in efficiency but are also expensive. Polycrystalline solar panels come next in efficiency levels and cost less. Thin-film panels are the lowest in efficiency and the cheapest of the lot.
If your location has limited space and not much sunlight, monocrystalline solar panels can get you the maximum energy output. To generate the same solar energy using the others, you will have to install more panels.
2. Use High Concentration Photovoltaic (CPV) cells
The principle of CPV cells is to provide focussed sunlight to highly efficient solar cells. This is managed using optical light collectors like mirrors and lenses. It collects sunlight from a larger area and concentrates it on a smaller PV cell.
CPV systems are available in varying efficiencies – low, medium, and high efficiency. While the low-concentration CPV system uses silicon panels, the medium uses materials like silicon, CdTe, and CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide).
The high concentration CPV systems are multi-junction solar cells that can be up to three times more efficient than a traditional PV cell. However, CPV cells cannot function on diffused radiation. This means it needs to be directly exposed to the sun.
Installing a solar system
1. Get certified providers for installation
A solar energy system is not an off-the-shelf device you can buy, plug it in, and use by following instructions. It is highly recommended to take the help of accredited professionals to make the assessment, recommend the right panels, and do the installation. Most of them offer quotes free of charge.
There are advantages in using their expertise, be it for assessment and quotes or solar panel installation. The type of solar panel to use, the capacity of the solar system, the accessories you may need, the location for installation, or the kind of installation – experts can help you figure out the most efficient solar installation within your constraints.
Besides helping you with the purchase, they can also help you with the actual installation. Where and how the solar panels are installed and how the wiring is done have a direct impact on the efficiency of the system. Orientation of the panels and the angle of installation can make a huge difference.
The orientation of the panels is based on your location. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the panels should face south. The angle of installation can vary a lot based on the location to ensure maximum exposure to the sun. It changes between winter and summer as well. The optimal angle is when the sunlight falls on the solar panel at 90°.
Another point to note during installation is the gap between the panel and the rooftop. The efficiency of the solar panel goes down when the temperature increases. As the roof may get heated up and transfer the heat to the air close to it, placing the panel close to the rooftop may not be ideal. Allowing a sufficient gap can prevent the panel from heating up.
All these major and minor points are hard to understand and follow by yourself. It would probably be worth the extra expense to engage the services of a professional.
2. Use the right mounts for solar panels
You have a variety of mounts to choose from, whether you are choosing ground or rooftop installation. Once you have decided where you are planning to install the solar panels, you can look at the choices available.
In addition to the basic ground mounts and roof mounts, you have pole mounts, adjustable mounts, tilting mounts, and tracking mounts. The availability of sunlight and the angle of its incidence are the factors that will help you choose the right mounts for your solar panels.
Maintaining a solar system
1. Keep the surface of solar panels clean
The incident sunlight will get absorbed by the panel only if the surface of the panel is free of dust, dirt, and debris. If you have installed solar panels on your roof, you may not be aware of the filth collecting on its surface. Periodical checking can help you with this.
If you get frequent rains, that may be enough to keep the solar panels clean. If this is not the case, you will have to get it cleaned. If you cannot clean it yourself, you will have to engage labor for this.
Most solar panel manufacturers recommend cleaning the solar panels at least once a year even in places that get a fair amount of rain. How often you should clean them depends on how fast they get dirty and the cost of cleaning solar panels.
2. Monitor the energy output with software
If you are facing trouble figuring out the drop in efficiency of solar panels, you can get help from energy management software. This can free you from the task of monitoring the various components of the solar energy system constantly.
All you need to do is to check the efficiency levels in the software. Once you see a drop in the performance of the solar system, you can check the various components to identify the trouble.
Related: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Tips for increasing solar panel efficiency
- Avoid installing solar panels where trees or nearby buildings may cast shadows on them.
- Install a battery backup to store the excess energy generated for later use.
- Make sure that your energy usage stays within the energy generated. Else you may face voltage drops.
- If your location receives a lot of snow, you can install a warming system to melt the snow off the solar panels.
Even after buying the best solar energy system, you cannot expect it to function with maximum solar panel efficiency forever without constant monitoring. Various factors can bring down the efficiency of the solar panels, the most important being the weather.
Choosing the right panels and method of installation are as important as monitoring their efficiency levels and carrying out periodical maintenance.