It's finally spring time and the daylight hours are starting to get longer again! This brings with it more hours of sunlight, an exciting time if you have solar installed as you can watch your power bills drop. However, there are a few things to take into account to ensure that you are getting the most out of your solar system.
The main contributors to reducing solar panel efficiency is dust and dirt that settles on the surface. A study by Duke University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar has found that pollution is also a factor. Their study found that around 8% of what was removed from panels when cleaned was from human pollution. They found that countries with a dirtier environment lost up to 35% in efficiency, 10% more than those with a cleaner environment when panels were not cleaned monthly. Here in NZ with a lower level of dust and air pollution than other countries like China and India that are mentioned in the study, our efficiency levels will not drop as much. However, the longer you leave between cleaning your panels, the more dirt will build up and affect the ability of the solar panels to produce power.
If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your panels it is probably time! If you are happy to DIY your panel cleaning, it's rather simple. Water and a soft brush will be all you need, and some mild detergent as an option; you just have to ensure that the sponge or brush you use is soft enough to avoid scratching the panel surface. A broom is ideal to enable you to clean the panels from the ground. If this is not possible, ensure you are safe if you have to climb up on the roof. Alternatively, if you are not able to clean the panels yourself, there are many professionals available that have the skills and tools to do the job. Exterior home cleaning companies, such as WashRite, offer solar panel cleaning services. Having them booked in ahead of time could also help you to keep your panel cleaning on a consistent schedule.
Ultimately it is recommended that your panels are cleaned every 6 months. However, if you live in a dusty area or near the ocean where salt can settle on panels you may need to do this more often if you notice efficiency dropping sooner. Keeping on top of cleaning will ensure you can get the most of your solar system throughout the year.
Another way to get the most out of your solar is to prioritise as much as possible to be using power during the day. Most appliances now have functions for scheduling so putting the washing machine and dishwasher on during the day will avoid paying for grid power to run these outside the hours that your solar is producing. Smart plugs are also a way to schedule appliances that may not have time settings as they allow for app control to turn items on/off. If you have an electric vehicle, charging through the day or utilising the features of a smart charger will reduce your car running costs too. Not to mention, charging with solar power makes your electric vehicle even better for the environment as you are not charging with grid power that may be generated from coal or oil burning.
Below is the average monthly sunlight hours for Auckland. We can see that during the winter months of May, June, July, sunlight hours are lowest. During these months your power bill may be slightly higher as there is not enough sunlight to cover your total power usage. However, the rest of the year has over 150 hours of sunlight per month. Your power bill should be much smaller during this period. Depending on the size of the solar system installed, in summer months some users will have an almost non existent power bill or even be earning money with excess production being sold to the grid. Using as much of the solar you are producing yourself is the most favourable approach though. Adding batteries to your system can be a good way to keep your excess solar reproduction for your own use. This allows you to store clean energy for power outages or to keep your home operating on solar power at night.
Combining clean panels with appliance scheduling and solar batteries you can get the most out of your solar power installation to save money and power your home, business or vehicle with clean energy.
If you are considering solar for your home or business enquire at email@example.com