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Is Your Solar Array Ready for Winter?

Sustainable Living Carley Fletcher November 16 4 minutes reading time
Winter months approaching means shorter days, less sunlight, and a higher heating demand. Seems like that would limit your solar array, right? Not quite. Based on panel power output and wattage, cold temperatures and the reflection of the snow can actually help the panel output and improve the performance of your solar system. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, research has shown that solar arrays still can successfully generate electricity during snowy times. 

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Follow These 5 Tips to Get Your Solar Module (and Home) Winter-Ready

Clean Your Modules

Before the first snow fall, it's important to periodically clean off your solar array. Grime and build-up can accumulate on your array. Even dust build-up can cause modules to not perform at their best, according to the World Renewable Energy Congress in Sweden. It is important when wiping off the array to: only use soft bristle scrubbers or microfiber cleaning cloths, avoid harsh chemicals, and take safety precautions. If you are unable to or have trouble accessing your array, talk with your installer. They may be able to clean off your array or put you in contact with someone that will.

During the winter, there is no need to remove the snow from your array. Due to the black surface of the module and help from the sun, the panel’s surface temperature gets hot enough that it will melt and slide the snow off. Just note, if you’re in an area with heave snow coverage, you will want to talk with your installer to make sure your array can withstand that amount of snow. The buildup of snow on your modules could cause damage, which is why it is important to consult with your installer during the design process. 

Utilize your Monitoring System

With less daytime in the winter, maximizing your array production is a must. This is why (if you aren’t already) you should be using your monitoring system that comes with your inverter. Not only can you track production, but you can see the best times to use your energy draining appliances (depending on your monitoring system). Now, you know when to run the laundry machine or dishwasher to your advantage. Along with tracking your production, many systems alert the user when an error has occurred, pinpointing the exact panel and inverter (if using micro-inverters). From there, the inverter’s technical team can remote in and fix the problem. You can do all of this from the comfort of your own home.

Reduce Shading

Before it gets too cold outside, make sure to clean up the potential shaded areas (overgrown trees or branches) that could block sunlight or become hazardous to your array. If your array is mounted, check to see if any twigs, leaves, or other debris have fallen underneath the panels. 

Proper Insulation

One of the first things you should do (preferably before installing solar modules) is to make sure your home is properly insulated. Keeping your home comfortable while saving money applies to all seasons of the year. Proper insulation can reduce your energy consumption, which means less solar modules are needed for your home. Homeowners who take this step first ultimately saved more in the end. We offer tips on properly insulating your home here.

Consider Geothermal

To achieve the full benefits of a solar-powered home, it may be in your best interest to look into a geothermal heat pump. When paired with a PV solar array, the vast benefits of solar increase when you have a geothermal system. Not only could you offset your heating and cooling load with solar, but you could have $0 utility bill and help the environment. Geothermal provides radiant, in-floor heating and cooling, forced air heating and cooling, and 100 percent of your domestic hot water, and it can be used to heat the water for your pool, for snowmelt, or for radiant, in-floor heat on your patio. The options are almost endless for any type of building or home whether it be retrofit or new construction. You can find many real-life examples of homes and buildings using geothermal and solar to suit their unique needs.

Don’t get stuck in the cold. Make sure you take these precautionary steps to be prepared when “snowmageddon” knocks on your door. After checking this list off, sit back and let the sun take care of it this winter.

Download the 5 Reasons Why Solar + Geothermal Make Sense When Paired Together  Infographic 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carley Fletcher
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