The wonderful thing about solar panels is that they generate electricity for use within the home. When used efficiently, they can even provide enough energy to power everything in the house at certain times of the day and in certain conditions. According to those at Vivint Solar though, many people have no clue as to whether their system is working properly.
Most of those with a home solar panel system will have it installed and then forget about it. They do not know how to tell if it is working to its full capacity and will just hope for the best. If their electricity bill is less than it used to be, then they assume that everything is okay. But just because you may be paying less for your energy billdoes not automatically mean that your system is generating the most that it could.
How Much Power Should Your Solar Panel System be Generating
The first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with your own system so that you know what the maximum amount of power it can generate is. Most domestic solar panel systems can generate between 1kW and 4kW per hour. However, it is unrealistic to expect your system to be generating the maximum because they would need conditions to be perfect – and they rarely are.
Things that affect the output of a solar panel include the direction the roof is facing as well as the angle at which it is tilted. Then of course, you need to take your location into account. Some states get more sunshine than others, and as you will already know, the sunnier the location, the better a solar panel system will perform.
Checking Your Solar Panel System
There are a few ways to tell if your solar panel system is working properly. If you know how much your system can generate, you will have an idea of whether it is working to capacity (weather dependent, obviously). On a sunny day with clear skies, your system should be generating as close to capacity as possible. If it is not, then you need to check for problems.
To find out how much energy your system is generating, you should have a look at your solar panel meter as this will provide information on how much it is producing at any one time. The meter sends information to the energy company regarding the production of storage solar energy. When reading your meter, you will see that it is scrolling through various screens. The one you should be interested in is the screen that displays the total kilowatt hours.
However, if you do not already have a solar monitor, you should get one as this is the quickest way to see how much your panels are generating at an instant. A monitor is a standalone device that you can place anywhere in the house to quickly read your system’s output.
Another way to see how much your solar panel system is generating is to check your electricity bill. The amount you pay for electricity should be offset by the amount of energy that your system is generating. This will undoubtedly fluctuate during the year depending on the season and the weather, but if you notice that your energy bills seem higher than you expected then it may be that your panels are not working properly.
You can also check the inverter attached to the system. This should be in a garage, basement, or loft. It may also be found in a covered box on a wall. When your inverter is working properly, it will usually have a green indicator light. If there is a problem, you may find that the light is not working or there is an error message on the display.
What Causes Solar Panels to Perform Poorly?
There are many things that can affect the output of a solar panel system and thus prevent it from working at maximum capacity. As already mentioned, panels work best in sunny conditions, but did you know that when the temperature is too hot it may not perform as well as it should? Indeed, when temperatures are too high, solar panel output can be reduced by as much as 25%.
Sometimes, the cause of poorly performing solar panels is something as simple as dirt and debris on the panels that is blocking the light from getting to the cells. A small amount of dirt and dust on solar panels should not be enough to prevent them from working efficiently, but if this is allowed to build up then it can hamper energy production. It is for this reason that solar panel installers usually recommend that solar panels be cleaned at least once a year.
If surrounding trees have grown higher than they were when your solar panels were first installed, they might start to shade your system; solar panels in the shade do not perform well. If you see that trees are blocking light to your solar panels, you should investigate whether you can have the branches trimmed.
Something else to bear in mind is that solar panel production tends to decline with time. In fact, you can expect output to drop by around 0.5% every year. It may simply be that your system is getting a bit older and is unable to produce the same energy that it once did.
Many people have no idea of how much energy their solar panels should be generating and are therefore unable to tell if their system is working as it should. It is important to remember that most home solar panel systems will never work at full capacity, but when conditions are rightthey should be getting as close to it as possible. Checking your solar meter or a monitor will let you see how much energy your system is generating. If you think this is not high enough, you should get the system checked.