Tips for maximizing the effectiveness of solar energy

Tips for maximizing the effectiveness of solar energy

18 April 2020 4 min read

Solar energy has rapidly become one of the most accessible forms of renewable energy in recent years. Harnessing an energy source that is eco-friendly by nature, solar tiles and panels are a relatively affordable solution that has thus gained attention. By installing solar panels, homeowners can decrease both their bills and carbon footprint – all while the market rushes to provide ever more aesthetically pleasing options. Maximizing the effectiveness of solar energy did, indeed, use to be far less viable to the average homeowner when such options were in their infancy, but technological strides have made it all the easier since.

US homeowners specifically have found further reasons to opt for solar energy, from the federal solar tax credit to intense tropical sunshine in some states. Solar panels also provide much more autonomy in the event of outages and blackouts; the US does, unfortunately, face more natural disasters such as hurricanes compared to most of the West. Grid infrastructure may not be able to facilitate increasing power needs, and generators are only a temporary solution for times of need. Solar energy is thus not only the eco-conscious choice but also one with both practical and economic merit.

Solar panels and solar panel efficiency

Solar panels capture solar energy and convert it into electricity, through the photovoltaic cells they are comprised of. This function has elevated this eco-friendly option above both natural wind and gas in terms of capacity additions and has expanded to various products beyond panels – from solar hats and lamps to solar rucksacks. All such products fundamentally function in the same way, but panels specifically provide far more than circumstantial or small-scale utility; they can provide power autonomy. For solar energy to be harnessed effectively, a solar energy system requires panels to absorb sunlight, a controller to regulate its flow, an inverter, and a battery. In essence, the more sunlight is available, the more power can be generated.

Solar efficiency is not quite as simple, of course, and the term itself holds two meanings – ones that are often used interchangeably. “Solar panel efficiency” can mean either;

  • A solar panel’s built-in energy conversion capacity, or
  • A solar panel’s efficiency in reaching maximum energy output, through optimal installation and operation.

The former factor depends solely on individual solar panels themselves, so there is little to be analyzed on the part of the customer beyond the solar cells’ rated efficiency. The latter, however, both warrants attention and is highly dependent on the homeowners themselves. So, without further ado, let us explore some tips for maximizing the effectiveness of solar energy in this context.

Be mindful of panel quality

The most crucial factor in terms of the panels themselves is, predictably, their quality. Being mindful of panel quality is as essential as fixing your roof before installing panels since photovoltaic cell quality directly affects power output.

Most commercial solar panels are comprised of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, and the silicon’s purity directly affects quality and output. Such solar panels can be either;

  • Monocrystalline – relatively more efficient and more expensive, or
  • Polycrystalline – relatively less efficient and less expensive.

The practical difference between the two is a result of their production process; polycrystalline solar cells are made through a relatively cheaper production process, which renders them comparatively less efficient and less heat tolerant. Their usual speckled blue color may also make them aesthetically unappealing to some, although this is highly subjective.

On the whole, both types are viable options. Polycrystalline panels may suit one’s needs and budget effectively and are by no means an unviable product. It is noteworthy, however, that monocrystalline panels may suit some parts of the US market better; some states boast very high summer temperatures, which monocrystalline panels are generally better suited for.

Ensure ample sunlight and a correct installation

Beyond panel materials, maximizing solar energy effectiveness naturally hinges on the availability of sunlight. It is thus vital to ensure that they get as much exposure to the sun as possible; tree shades, antennas, and any other obstructions should be minimized. Proper installation and panel angle can also make a drastic difference in how much sunlight panels can absorb throughout the day.

Shade from any obstructions is a vital factor to keep in mind for a simple, practical reason. Most conventional solar panels are installed in interlinked strings – therefore a single obstructed panel can affect its entire string’s ability to produce electricity. It is thus vital that all panels have as clear an opening to the sky as possible.

Similarly, the panels’ orientation and tilt angle can affect efficiency, especially in the long term. A tilt angle of 28°–30° is generally recommended, while orientation depends on the location’s hemisphere. Being located in the northern hemisphere, US homeowners should ideally be facing as close to the south as possible.

Use one device at a time and use backup batteries

The effectiveness of solar energy does not depend on a system’s capacity alone, but also on a household’s power consumption. Moderate power usage ensures better overall efficiency, while a backup battery can expand it to night hours and provide autonomy in times of need.

Ideally, while total consumption will still depend on individual devices’ consumption, using one device at a time can keep consumption low. It is thus advisable to not use such appliances as vacuum cleaners and dishwashers or hairdryers and electric razors simultaneously. Similarly, not using such devices as televisions without being free to dedicate to them can also be beneficial.

Additionally, some of the aforementioned solar-powered products and systems come with backup batteries. Using them during night hours can limit overall consumption, while also offering autonomy during potential emergencies.

Maintain panels regularly

Lastly proper and regular maintenance is crucial to maximizing solar energy efficiency. Poorly or irregularly maintained panels will incur a loss of efficiency over time.

Such obstructions to panel surfaces as dust, leaves, and bird droppings may seem less common in the US than in other countries, but they do remain factors – in some states even more so than others. Most noticeable drops in efficiency tend to be attributable to accumulated dirt, so maintenance is essential. Fortunately, all most panels require is a wash every few months, and rain alone can clean some panels’ surfaces rather well. For more severe or specific cases, the professionals that installed the panels in question, and are thus also familiar with the installation and arrangement, should be able to rectify the problem.

GreenBrilliance, headquartered in Virginia, USA, is a vertically integrated, end-to-end Solar systems Installation company. Our corporate mission is to make solar energy affordable for the grassroots level consumer by tightly securing, owning, and managing the supply chain, thus accumulating cost savings to pass on to our customers.