Since solar panels draw their power from the sun, you’d think they get pretty hot. Many of them are used in expanses of desert where there’s nothing to block the power of the sun. But do solar panels absorb or reflect the heat?
When they sit under direct sunlight all day, solar panels absorb heat and warm up as they begin to produce electricity. They are usually about 36 degrees warmer than the air around them and some models can withstand temperatures of more than 149 degrees before they start breaking down.
Solar panels are often hotter than you might expect, so touching panels that have been exposed to direct sunlight usually isn’t a good idea. Even when it seems mild outside, solar panels can be hot enough to cause minor burns. Read on to learn more about solar panel’s temperature range, how they process heat, and how to properly maintain them.
Safe Solar Panel Temperature Range
Solar panels run on… well, solar power! They literally need the light and energy of the sun in order to function. This means that they need to be exposed to direct sunlight as often as possible.
Most solar panels are tested at 41-77 degrees Fahrenheit, although they’ll still function at higher or lower temperatures. This is the ideal temperature range at which the silicon electrons begin to get excited and produce energy.
Many solar panels have been installed in desert areas, but these can sometimes get overheated by the soaring temperatures. There have been reports of solar panels have losing tons of efficiency at 122 degrees, and breaking down at 149 degrees.
Solar panels function best during clear, bright days. It doesn’t necessarily need to be very hot for them to work, however, and in fact, high temperatures can decrease their overall efficiency.
The principles that govern solar panels have shown that as temperature increases, efficiency actually decreases. There is a measurement for every solar panel that is called the temperature coefficient rating. This number shows how much efficiency a solar pane will lose as the temperature increases
A research article from Alternative Energy Sources explains this process with the following hypothetical:
“Suppose, your solar panel has a rating temperature coefficient rating as -0.5%, then, for every one-degree rise in the temperature, the solar panel efficiency decreases by 0.5%.”
So basically, solar panels work best when they are coldest! Many electronics can overheat and become damaged if they’re exposed to high temperatures, and computer banks and other industrial electronics are often kept in cold rooms.
Obviously, they still need access to the sun in order to function though, so this middle ground of light and heat can be hard to find. But if you see an uptick in productivity during bright winter days, don’t be surprised!
Most home setups for solar panels will be perfectly fine with the local weather and temperature ranges. Most people don’t live in areas that regularly reach 120+ temperatures, so as long as solar panels can get regular sunlight, they’ll work well and produce electricity.
Solar Panel Maintenance And Fire Risk
Solar panels are generally quite safe to own and operate. They are sturdy, efficient, and protected against many natural hazards. Very few fires have ever been attributed to solar panels, and they have proven themselves to be much safer than most other energy sources.
However there are some guidelines that owners should use when dealing with them directly. As mentioned previously, solar panels can get hot when exposed to the sun. If people touch them directly during warm or hot days, it’s possible to get minor to major burns.
It’s kind of like touching a hot stove!
Messing with hot solar panels can also damage them as well. Sometimes you might want to clean off your solar panels, or try to cool them down with a spray of water.
However, you should never put cold liquid on hot solar panels. This practice can create steam on the surface and damage the outer coating of the panels. You also run the risk of sizzling hot water dripping off the panels and onto your roof or yard.
Solar panels don’t need to be cleaned often and they can handle most day-to-day weather conditions without issue. If you do want to clean them though, consider calling in a professional crew. If you do it yourself though, only clean the panels in the morning or evening because the temperatures will be more moderate.
In general, just exercise common sense when it comes to interacting with solar panels. If it’s hot outside, the panels will be hot too. Don’t try to change the temperature too quickly, don’t sit on or touch the panels, and don’t be tempted to cook an egg on the surface (even though you probably could)!
How Solar Panels Work
So now we’ve covered some of the ideal temperature ranges for solar panels, but how does light get converted into electricity?
Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells, which are usually made of silicone. These cells are then covered by clear, protective coverings such as tempered glass and are exposed to sunlight. The light and energy from the sun is absorbed into this material.
The electrons of silicone molecules become excited at this temperature and begin to produce energy. This energy then flows into circuits that are connected to the panels.
At this point, your solar panels will probably be getting pretty warm due to the combination of sunlight and electricity!
The pure power that is created by photovoltaic cells is called direct current electricity, or DC. This kind of energy can’t be used by power grids, so it has to be converted to a different type of electricity. In order to be changed, the DC energy must be fed through an inverter, which will change it into usable alternating current electricity (AC).
Once the power has been converted into AC, it can be fed into the power grid of your home or a larger area.
Check out the video below to see more information about how solar power works and how power companies can compensate you for producing it.