Solar power is a cleaner and more efficient energy source that happens to have a few tricks up it’s sleeves. Solar panels do not always have the ability to work at peak efficiency. So what causes them to decrease in their efficiency?
Solar panels can actually be affected by both high and low temperatures. As a solar panel is only built to function around the range of a specific temperature, every degree beyond that temperature will decrease the efficiency by it’s coefficient rating.
So what plays into the temperature difference and causes the efficiency rating to decrease? Does this decreased efficiency and extreme temperature change cause damage to the solar panels?
High Temperature affect
Contrary to popular belief, an increase in temperature can actually decrease and or damage the functionality of your solar panel. Each solar panel is created with a specific temperature and climate in mind. Before getting a solar panel, you should look into what temperatures and climates your solar panel is designated for.
For example: If your solar panel is designated for a temperature of about twenty five degrees Celsius and the coefficient rating is -0.5%. Then every time the temperature raises by one degree above the given temperature, the efficiency of the panel will decrease by 0.5%
Tip: The coefficient affect of the temperature ranges in size according to the type of material the solar panel is made up of.
For your information: Living in an area that has increased sunlight, does not mean that you will always have more solar power. In fact, because of high temperatures in sunny climates, it could actually have the opposite affect then what you had originally planned for your solar panels.
The most optimal time for solar power intake is actually a cold sunny day, so the rise in temperature doesn’t decrease the efficiency of the solar panel itself.
Cold Temperature affect
In a similar pattern, a decrease in temperature will not have the same effect on it’s efficiency as it would under the condition of high temperatures. Unlike higher temperatures, damage is more likely to occur under colder temperatures.
Colder temperatures can cause many materials to become brittle, which can apply to your solar panels as well. Upon contact, depending on how brittle the material has become, the solar panels can crack and maybe even undergo permanent damage.
In this case, it is important to plan ahead and contact a repairman for your solar panel, or find a way to repair your solar panel on your own. For example; if the cracks are minor, then you could more easily repair them yourself.
However, if the cracks are large, or greater damage has occurred, then it is more likely that calling a repairman who specializes in solar panels would be the optimal solution to your problem.
Fun fact: Per usual cold climate conditions, it would be unusual to have a high solar intake due to clouds of rain and snow. And more often than not, there could be snow build up over the tops of the solar panels, further blocking their solar intake.
Fun fact: Another problem that could occur, is that if it rains and the temperature drops, a coating of ice could also cover the tops of the solar panels, once again blocking the solar power intake.
Coefficient correlation to temperature and material
As previously described, certain materials cause the solar panels to be affected differently by temperature. However, most solar panels are built with a standard of twenty five degrees Celsius, causing this gap to be just a little bit smaller.
But even then, some materials are more quickly impacted in their efficiency than other more standard materials. For example;
- monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells – These cells have a coefficient rating range of -0.45% to -0.50%.
- hybrid solar cells – These cells have a coefficient rating range of -0.32%.
- amorphous based thin film cells – These cells have a coefficient rating range of -0.20% to -0.25%.
All possible damages and issues related to temperature
- Covered in ice: In the winter, as temperatures drop, a sheath of ice can form over the tops of solar panels and decrease the efficiency. This occurs purely because it blocks part of the solar rays from reaching the panel.
- Cracks: Cracks are dangerous because water can seep into the smallest of cracks, damaging the panel internally and increasing the area of damage that occurred once the water freezes.
- Hot surface: Solar panels are designed to soak up sun rays, and as such, can easily overheat themselves. This can cause damage to any wildlife or insect that it touches.
- Cloudy skies: If the climate is too cloudy, then this can also cause a lack of efficiency as the clouds block out the sun’s rays.
- Snow Buildup: Snow needs to be carefully brushed away and off of the solar panel. As the snow builds up over the top, it can cause damage to the solar panels, cause a layer of ice to form over the top of the panel, and further prevent or block the sun’s rays from reaching the panel itself.
- Debris buildup: any buildup of debris can cause damage and also prevent the solar panel from picking up solar energy in it’s full capacity from the sun’s rays and radiation that it normally receives.
- Rooftop temperatures: Greater temperature than the ambient temperature may occur on the rooftop solar panels. This can cause the solar panels to more easily overheat and cause damage in this sense (source: Solar Panel Temperature | Effect on performance (solarcalculator.com.au))
Solutions to Protect Your Solar Panels
To help with solar output, and to keep your solar panels running at a higher efficiency, you can commit to the following options;
- Keep the temperature down: Find a way to keep the temperature down as this will optimize the solar power generation efficiency from your solar panel. The further that you are able to decrease the temperature of the solar panel, the more solar radiation that your panel will be able to absorb.
- Provide ventilation: Ventilation on both sides of the solar panels will aid in keeping them somewhat cool in higher temperatures. This will also aid in keeping your solar panels at a more optimal efficiency, increasing your solar power intake.
- Consider the type of panel used: As previously described, the type of material used in your solar panel, will affect how quickly the efficiency will drop in hot weather. Be wary of the potential drop before choosing your solar panel material.
- Minimize solar power usage in your home: The less energy you use at home, the more energy that your solar panel has to increase it’s intake of solar radiation and sun rays to create the solar power that you need on more difficult days.
Solar Panels in the Sun
Solar panels are designed to soak up sun rays, and as such, can easily overheat themselves. This can be dangerous and can cause your solar panel to be capable of burning anything that it touches if it gets hot enough.
Having a really hot solar panel could cause damage to wildlife and insects that it attracts. and it can also burn you.
Solar panels are a mirage for aquatic insects and it draws them in, dazzling them with the prospect of water. This would cause the insects to hover or jump over the tops of the solar panels, cooking them alive at the touch of the solar panel.
If you have a cat that enjoys climbing over things, especially a rooftop, then any solar panels placed there could have the potential to burn the paws of your cat.
Tip: When and if you are trying to cool down your solar panel, then it is helpful to pour water over the tops of the solar panels.
Warning: Do not attempt to dry the panels off. Let the sun evaporate the water on it’s own, because it is most likely hot enough to be able to do so on its own. Attempting to brush or dry the water off of the solar panels could damage the panels.
Tip: To aide in cooling down your panels, you can also leave a six inch gap between your panels and the surface underneath. This allows for air circulation on both sides of the panel.
Warning: Leaving a six inch gap can also allow for the accumulation of debris among other things, which can also cause damage to your solar panels as well.