Contrary to what you may have heard, solar power systems absolutely still work during the winter time. There’s no doubt that there are greater demands on the system - 100 fewer hours of sunshine per month means less solar for the system to suck up - but with the right precautions and techniques, your solar system will continue to function even during the darkest winter days.
How do you take care of your solar system in the winter?
Keep the panels clear of snow
If you’re in an area where you’re likely to get snow, it’s important to take proper precautions during the winter time. Keep your solar panels free from thick snow, using a soft brush or squeegee remove it gently without scratching the panels. The more light that can hit your panels, the more energy you’ll generate.
Take care of the batteries
Solar power storage batteries can be damaged if the weather gets very cold. Either install them indoors ahead of time, or ensure that the compartment is properly insulated.
Clean and maintain in the autumn
Preparation is 90% of success for powering a home with winter sun. Use the pre-winter months to do a system check and make sure that your panels are free from dirt, grime, leaves, branches or any other material blocking the sunlight.
This is also a great time to trim any overhanging trees that may be growing near your panels. Remember that the winter sun is lower in the sky than during the summer, so what worked during the peak of December may be shady during June.
Lastly, consider your insulation and heat retention situation. Good insulation in the walls and roof will help any heating devices keep your home toasty without overusing the power, as will double-glazed windows, thermal-backed curtains and carpets.
Be more precise with your energy use
Probably the biggest impact you can have on your solar panels during winter is how you use your solar power, and when.
Generally speaking, only use power when you absolutely need to. Switch off electric lighting, change bulbs over to energy-efficient options, and use power-hungry appliances like the oven, vacuum and dishwasher only between 9am and 4pm. This is usually when your power generation will be highest in winter. The same goes for heating: use timers to switch your heat pump or other heating device on shortly before you get up in the morning and before you get home from work. Keep them powered off the rest of the time.
Some ZEN Energy power systems come with an app that can help you pinpoint exactly when your peak power generation and expenditure points are. Use it to be smarter about when and where you use up your precious winter solar power.
What’s the best solar power system for the winter?
Solar power systems in New Zealand are typically designed with a north-facing orientation. This is so that it tracks the sun across the sky from east to west, capturing as much sunlight as possible. This is true in the winter as well, but as the sun sits lower in the sky, it may pay to reorient the panel angles for improved efficiency.
Some off-grid solar users also have a separate fuel generator ready for winter to make up the seasonal difference, or for during periods of higher energy demand.
But just like all solar systems, the best solar power setup for winter is the same setup for summer: one that is evaluated and installed by experts.
Get in touch with the team at ZEN Energy to find out how we can help you prep your solar power system for the darker months in NZ.