Maximizing Your Solar Panel Efficiency - Tips and Tricks

Whether you have installed solar panels or are considering purchasing one, knowing how to maximize their power is essential. These simple tips and tricks can help you get the most out of your investment.

Solar panel efficiency can be improved by keeping them clean. Rainwater usually washes away dirt, but it is recommended that you clean your panels regularly.

Keep Your Panels Clean

It’s essential to regularly clean solar panels to ensure they continue to produce energy at their maximum potential. Dirt and dust accumulation can reduce solar panel output by as much as five percent per year.

Regular cleaning should occur in spring and fall to avoid the hot summer months when the panels are most likely to get dirty. It is best to use non-abrasive cleaning materials to keep from scratching the glass, and if possible, distilled or deionized water as opposed to hard tap water, which may leave mineral deposits.

Using a soft sponge or cloth and non-abrasive cleaner is usually sufficient to remove dirt and debris from the surface of the panels. Be sure to dry the panel with a squeegee or chamois afterward to eliminate any streaks and ensure the panels are as shiny as possible.

In desert climates, you may need to clean your panels more often as the solar energy system is more susceptible to dust and sand buildup. If you’re on a time-of-use electricity payment structure, you will want to maximize the energy your solar panels produce during peak hours when electricity prices are highest. This means your solar panels must be positioned to face the sun directly.

Trim Trees and Shrubs Around Your Panels

A solar panel’s efficiency is directly impacted by how much sunlight it receives. If there’s a shade over your panels for part of the day, it will significantly reduce energy production.

If you have trees on your property, keeping them trimmed is essential. Keeping them in the right shape and providing sufficient airflow will help them stay healthy. If a tree is shading a large portion of your solar panels, you should have it removed to improve energy production.

However, this can be a difficult decision for many homeowners. After all, trees provide several benefits, including comforting shade from the sun and birds’ shelter. If you are considering removing a tree to increase your solar panel output, contact a solar energy system installer to ensure it is done safely and correctly.

An experienced solar installation company will have worked with all types of properties, including those surrounded by trees. They will be able to advise you on whether or not a tree should be removed and how much energy you can expect from your system if it is.

Monitor Your Panels’ Output

Solar panels function best when they can soak up all the sun rays they need to generate energy. If they’re obstructed in any way, it can significantly reduce their energy production. It’s a good idea to regularly check for new tree growth that may be shading some or all of your solar panels. If this is the case, make an appointment with an arborist to trim these branches so that your solar panels receive the full sunlight they need.

Remembering solar panel performance changes throughout the year is also essential. It’s typical for residential solar systems to experience a dip in their energy production during winter. This is because the sun appears low in the sky during this time of year.

To help combat this, you can adjust your solar panel’s tilt angle for the winter to point at a steeper angle than its summer setting. This will help them shed snow and produce energy throughout the winter.

Tilt Your Panels at a Sharper Angle

An excellent way to maximize the performance of your solar energy system is by tilting it to a sharper angle. This will help it take in more of the sun’s rays, increasing its energy production and decreasing your electricity bills.

Ideally, your panels should be angled to aim at the sun directly overhead (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere). However, this is only sometimes possible for a variety of reasons.

If you’re on a grid-connected system with a time-of-use billing, your optimal panel angle will vary depending on when you consume most of your energy. A south-facing system will give you the most energy during peak demand times.

If you have a fixed solar system, you’ll need your installer to readjust your panels’ angles semiannually or more often if necessary. This will allow you to capture the sun’s energy more effectively throughout the year, avoiding production drops caused by heavy snowfall. Alternatively, you can opt for an adjustable mounting system that lets you change the tilt of your panels on demand.

Keep Your Panels in a Good Position

Solar panels produce energy when sunlight hits them, but their position is vital for optimal efficiency. Many homeowners install their solar system and forget about it, but if your system’s output levels fall, consider some simple steps that can help improve its performance.

For most homes north of the equator, the proper orientation faces true south (this differs from magnetic south shown on a compass). Panels that face directly east or west will usually produce about 20% less electricity than a southern-facing system.

It is also essential to keep your solar panels free from any shade. If you have a large tree or buildings nearby, consider trimming or moving them to reduce the shade your solar panel receives. Additionally, a power optimizer inverter can maximize the electricity generated from unshaded areas of your solar array. This can result in higher average power generation and additional savings on your utility bill.