Four tips for looking after your solar panels

Keep them clean and you’ll be evergreen

You don’t have to wash your car in order for it to run, but it certainly helps. It’s the same with solar panels.

If you live in a neighbourhood that has a lot of dirt and sand, ongoing construction or is particularly windy you’ll want to keep a more regular eye on the state of your panels. In general, panels can very two or three months without a hose down, especially during the rainy season.

For more tips on how to clean your panels, check out our previous blog [here].

Keep your panels in the sun, SPF not required

You will want to regularly ensure that there is limited shade [0% is preferred] on your panel array. Any new branches that are causing shade, should be regularly trimmed back to ensure that your panels are producing to capacity.

Removing any shading is crucial for maximizing the ROI on on your solar investment because shade on your panels actually negatively impacts the power output exponentially and not proportionally. What this means is that if 25% of a panel is in shade, the output is not decreased by just 25%, but closer to 50% output.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Your whole solar system, panels and inverter is the prize. Installing solar is not a “set and forget” proposition. This doesn’t mean that you need to monitor every single kilowatt, but it’s best if you regularly give your system a once-over to ensure that everything is on and producing electricity [you know, saving you money].

The simplest way to manage this is by checking your inverter to ensure that the green power light is on. Regular checking of the system will ensure that if the system is down, you can react to it quickly to make sure it’s fixed and back to saving you money sooner than later. Be sure to know the duration of your warranty as its most likely that your issue will be covered.

Just app it

One simple method for keeping your eyes on the prize is using an Energy Monitoring System [EMS].

An EMS will automatically monitor your systems output and track any issues, pushing that data direct to your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can easily follow your system’s real-time energy consumption and production. If your system did not come with a complimentary online application [App], ask your installer about options for retro-fitting one to your system.

These are particularly beneficial for businesses that rely on solar to run the day-to-day operations. More about EMS can be found [here].

Like everything else in your life, the better you treat your panels, the better they will treat you.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.