Get the Most Out of Your Solar Panels During Summer’s Heat – CNET

Few of us are probably thrilled by the increasingly hot summers induced by climate change. But all that sunshine is at least good for solar power, right?

Well, not necessarily. Solar production does benefit from the additional sunshine, but the heat itself actually decreases how much electricity we get from solar panels. Plus, there are some maintenance issues to be aware of during the summer months.

“Solar has been traditionally sold as something that you set and forget, and that’s simply not the case,” says Kate Collardson, senior manager of residential operations at Omnidian, a solar technology company.

If you’re a homeowner with solar panels, there are a few things you should know to get the most out of your system this summer.

Do solar panels work better in the summer?

Summer is when we get the most heat and the most sunlight — so it must be all sunshine and roses for solar power, right? Not quite.

Solar is less efficient when it gets hot,” Collardson says. “While the sun is great, the heat … does cause a drop in performance.”

It’s similar to any kind of electronic equipment. You probably know that computers run best in cool environments. Solar equipment is the same way. “The best solar day is a cold, sunny day,” says Collardson.

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The summer weather isn’t all bad for solar panels. Those extra hours of sunlight do boost production, but the trade-off is lower efficiency in converting that sunshine into electricity.

Temperature coefficient: How heat affects solar panels

According to Collardson, when solar panels are tested for efficiency ratings, they’re always tested at a baseline temperature. But, of course, solar panels have to perform at a whole range of temperatures.

The temperature coefficient is a data point that tells you how that temperature change will affect performance. Basically, with each increase in degree, the performance will deviate from the mean. The temperature coefficient is the rate, or speed, that the efficiency changes as the temperature changes.

Different solar panels will have different temperature coefficients, meaning they will be affected differently by the heat. You don’t have to do any math, however, to know the general rule of thumb: Performance and efficiency decrease with the rise of the thermometer.

How to maintain solar panels throughout the summer

While your solar panels are up on the roof baking all summer long, there are a couple of maintenance items to keep in mind.

One is the pollen or dust that can accumulate on the panels and reduce the amount of sunlight they absorb. If your panels are easily accessible, it might be worth spraying them down with a hose if they’re looking pretty dirty.

But Collardson says that’s not always necessary: “If you know that rain is coming, there’s no reason to.”

Summer, however, isn’t the only time to be thinking about solar maintenance. It’s often an overlooked part of owning a solar system year-round. Things break from time to time and, just like owning a car, the system will need occasional repair. It’s not just the panels themselves, but also the wiring, inverter or even home battery (if you have one) that need to be maintained. 

You can follow the user manual from your solar system and try to perform your own maintenance, or you can get help.

“Ideally, when a homeowner is purchasing solar, they’re also getting some kind of maintenance plan” from the installer, Collardson says.

That kind of plan might include an annual inspection to check for maintenance issues and can take the burden off you as the homeowner. 

Whether you do it yourself or call in the pros, summer is just as good a time as any to remember your solar panels need to be taken care of. 

This post was originally published on Cnet

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