Can Solar Panels Be Left Out in Winter?
Solar panel systems have been long hailed as an economical and environmentally friendly source of sustainable energy. However, become an owner of a solar system naturally brings up a few questions with regards to the timing of installation and usage of the system. One of the biggest queries that solar energy installers are often asked is whether or not solar panels can be left out in winter. This article is intended to answer that question and establish a context for how winter impacts solar panels and how to best safeguard the winter efficiency of the system.
Explaining the Capacity and Limits of Solar Panels
The average lifespan of a solar panel is about 25 to 30 years, but their efficiency and production levels may vary depending on the type and quality of the system as well as environmental factors. Generally speaking, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are designed to be able to cope with weather conditions ranging from -40 degrees Fahrenheit up to a maximum operating temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While it may appear as if solar panels are vulnerable to colder weather, cold temperatures will have no lasting negative affect on the panels.
How to Safeguard the Winter Efficiency of Solar Panels
Installing a Winter-Ready System
If your home is located in an area which is prone to colder temperatures and you wish to install solar energy, it is recommended to look for solar systems that have been designed with cold weather in mind. This includes solar panel systems with optimally placed after-transformer cooling fins and properly conditioned and insulated junctions, which are better able to handle particularly cold climates. Additionally, the choice between crystalline and monocrystalline solar panels is also important for winter months. Monocrystalline solar panels and their higher wattage (210-250 watts) and dense cell concentrations tend to generate more electricity in cold weather due to their lower temperature coefficient.
Checking the Panel Efficiency Regularly
Although the panels themselves tend to be at peak efficiency during winter, their performance may decrease due to snowfall and prolonged winter weather. It is therefore important to check the efficiency of the panels regularly and use in-depth monitoring systems to ascertain the amount of electricity being produced by the solar system. Winter maintenance solutions are available from many of the top-tier solar panel manufacturers, which enable you to keep an eye on the temperature of your panels and the internal temperature of the system.
Adequate Weather Protecting Panels
In order to protect a solar panel system from cold winter weather, it is important to ensure that the panels are subjected to minimal damage from ice and snow. This is particularly important for large solar panel systems, as direct impact snow can cause physical damage to the PVs. Appropriate solar panel weather protectors, windshields and screens can help to protect and insulate your system from winter weather, while also allowing it to function with optimum efficiency.
How Winter Affects Your Solar Power Output
Although solar panel systems have inherent differences when it comes to their performance in cold climates, the primary factor that determines their output during winter is the amount of solar energy they are exposed to. As the winter months cause less energy to be produced due to less sunlight, your solar power output will be reduced – meaning that you will have to rely on other energy sources during this time.
Cold Temperatures and the Effect on the Solar Panels Performance
If your solar panels are not correctly protected from extreme winter weather, the method in which they are secured to the instance can effect their efficiency. It is important to ensure that all associated parts of the system – from the panels to the wires and cables – are properly encased in protective material in order to keep them in top shape. Additionally, if wind chill factors affect the system, ‘tilting’ the solar panels can help improve the air circulation around the panels, which in turn helps to keep them warm.
Monitoring System Performance
Monitoring the performance of your solar panel system is essential in order to keep track of exactly how much electricity it is producing. The amount of solar energy produced is dependent on many factors, including the temperature and weather, so it is important to make sure that the system is operating properly from a performance standpoint. To monitor system performance, installers typically use powerful data tracker systems, such as SolarEdge site-level performance monitoring.
Technology Available to Address Specific Needs
If you are still concerned about the efficiency of your solar panel system during winter, there are various technologies that have been designed to address your specific needs. Thermal insulation, increased air flow and ultraviolet protection can all help to keep your solar panel system in top shape, while at the same time allowing it to operate with maximum efficiency.
Promising Developments in Solar Panel Technology
In recent years, the solar industry has experienced a rapid rate of growth and development, resulting in much improved solar technologies. The latest solar panels often come equipped with winterization features, helping them to stay at optimum efficiency during the winter months. Some of the tools that are included in these winterization packages include special insulation materials for the system, protective coatings for the panels and a low-temperature shutdown system which activates if the system drops below a certain temperature.
Although it is possible to leave solar panels out in winter, it is important to bear in mind that winter weather can impact their performance and overall efficiency. Before installing a solar panel system, it is worth considering a few tips to ensure that the panels are adequately safeguarded from both the cold and the elements, and that their performance is monitored throughout the winter months. Ultimately, solar panels can be left out in winter, providing that the system is installed using winter-ready components, is regularly monitored and adequately protected from extreme weather.
The pros and cons of solar panels in winter should all be taken into consideration before opting for the installation of a solar energy system. Despite the potential challenges posed by the winter months, the efficiency of solar panels during this time can be improved by taking the right steps to protect and maintain the system. Therefore, the answer to the following question: Can solar panels be left out in winter? is a tentative yes.