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6 ways to increase solar energy efficiency in winter

Even though it's winter, that doesn't mean your solar panels will stop producing power. Here are ways to boost its performance.

6 ways to increase solar energy efficiency in winter

With the onset of winter, it is natural for solar panels to produce less energy, after all, the lower temperatures are due to the inclination of the angle of incidence of solar radiation, the shorter length of the day, the presence of more cloudy days, and the snow cover. All of these factors limit the amount of light available for the panels to convert to electricity, but while you can't extend the hours of sunshine or clear the clouds, there are some ways you can increase the efficiency of solar energy in the winter, here are a few.

1. Buy a high-efficiency solar module

Photovoltaic cells found in solar panels are what turn the sun's energy into electricity. But panels cannot convert all of the sunlight they receive into electricity, so the quality of a solar panel is determined by its efficiency in converting solar energy. Panel efficiency is the percentage of the energy that reaches the panel that the photovoltaic cells convert into electricity.

In general, solar panels vary in their efficiency between 15-20% or more, according to the panel’s material, structure, and price. So, to obtain the highest efficiency of the solar energy panel, it is necessary to purchase the best types, so what types are available?

  • Monocrystalline: This type is the most expensive and most efficient, as its efficiency exceeds 20%, requires a relatively small space, and lasts for more than 25 years, which makes it a suitable option for owners of small homes or with difficult installation necessities.
  • Polycrystalline: It is the most common type, it can generate enough electricity, but its efficiency ranges between 15-20%, and these panels last for about 20 years.
  • Thin-film panels: It is the least expensive and efficient, as their efficiency does not exceed 10%, and it needs a wide spreading area, and it deteriorates quickly.

2. Purchase of high-concentration photovoltaic panels

High-concentration photovoltaic systems mean that a large amount of sunlight is concentrated into a small area with highly efficient photovoltaic cells. The efficiency of panels containing concentrated photovoltaic cells increases to 46%, but it comes at a high price, as it costs more than 4 times the cost of conventional photovoltaic panels.

3. Adjust the angle of the solar panels

In winter, the sun in the northern hemisphere tends to the south, while it tends to the north in the southern hemisphere in the same season, so it is necessary to re-adjust the angle of inclination of the solar panel towards the sun in order to receive the largest possible amount of its rays. Moreover, adjusting the angle of inclination of the solar panel helps prevent snow build-up and snow on the roof of the panel. There are formulas to calculate the ideal angle, or you can buy panels with a built-in seasonal tracker to automatically maximize sun exposure.

4. Reduce energy consumption

With the decrease in the number of daylight hours in the winter, the production of solar panels electricity necessarily decreases, so rationing your energy consumption and reducing your use of it helps to increase the efficiency of solar energy. 

There are many ways to save your energy consumption, including:

  • Replacing ordinary lamps with energy-saving types that are characterized by lower consumption and long life. In general, traditional lamps with an electrical capacity of 60 watts can be replaced by lamps with a capacity of 15 watts.
  • Turn off the lights during the day or when you are not using them.
  • Separate devices when not in use, because they are still able to consume electricity, even in small amounts.
  • Insulate the house well to reduce the consumption of air conditioners and maintain the temperature.

5. Cleaning the solar panels

Throughout the year, solar panels are exposed to various weather conditions, as a layer of dirt may accumulate on them and their efficiency decreases by 5%. If they are in a place where it does not rain, the thickness of the layer may increase and the productivity of the panels will decrease by more than 20%. Since solar panels have no moving parts, it is necessary to clean them from time to time.

The same applies to snow, its presence may be useful in cleaning the panels from the layer of accumulated dirt, but if the amount of snow increases so that it covers the entire panel for a long time, it will not receive enough sunlight energy, especially in the panels that have a frame that hinders snow from falling on them.

The increased weight also leads to micro-cracks in the panels, and stress on the mounting points and the support structure of the photovoltaic system, so it is necessary to clean the panels from snow using a soft brush, and it is preferable to review the maintenance department to ensure proper cleaning without damaging the solar energy panels.

6. Isolation of solar energy batteries

Although low temperatures favor slow self-discharge, in cases where the charge and discharge are frequent and the cycles are deep; Like solar energy systems, low temperatures have the opposite effect. The cold slows down the chemical reactions that take place inside the battery, which reduces its production of electric current, and thus its energy storage capacity.

In general, batteries lose about 10% of their capacity with every decrease of approximately 5-7°C from 25°C. To maintain a suitable temperature for battery performance, it must be isolated or its temperature adjusted, which varies according to the type of battery:

  • Lithium-ion batteries: These can be safely stored indoors, or models with a battery temperature management system that can turn on an outside heating source when ambient temperatures approach freezing can be used.
  • Liquid lead-acid batteries: They cannot be installed indoors safely, as they release explosive hydrogen gas in small concentrations of about 4%. Alternatively, they can be kept in a box with two holes for ventilation and placed in an insulated garage or shed, or insulated with rigid foam insulation.
  • Gel lead-acid batteries: These are safe enough to keep in the home.

So, although winter is coming with its clouds and rains, this does not mean that you should suffer. By understanding how solar panels and batteries work and maintain cool temperatures, you can increase the efficiency of solar energy in winter.