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Category: Solar Panels

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Solar Panels in the Winter: Myths and Motivators 101

It may not be surprising to you that when the sun is further away from the earth, ie during the fall and winter months in the northern hemisphere (Nov-Feb), less sunlight reaches the earth’s surface.

So, it would stand to reason that less sunlight is hitting your roof-top during this time-frame than the remainder of the year.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore this phenomenon in more detail, as well as some of the myths about producing solar energy in the winter, as well as a couple of reasons why you might still want to make the purchase anyway, to take advantage all year long of energy savings.

Solar Panels

Myths 

  • Solar panels do not produce energy in the winter.”

False. In fact, solar panels produce on average produce 35% of their overall annual energy production in Texas during the winter time (“On average, 65% of our local solar system’s annual energy output is generated between March 21st and September 21st of each year. The other half of the year, between September 21st and March 21st, accounts for the other 35% of annual solar output.” https://www.lighthousesolarny.com/blog/2017/february/the-seasonality-of-solar-energy-production/).

During the winter storm in February of 2021, Texans learned first-hand just how helpful solar panels can be in an emergency winter storm – check out the following article from Pecan Street’s Chief Technology Officer, Scott Hinson, here: https://www.pecanstreet.org/2021/02/solarstorm/.

  • Solar panels are less efficient in the winter, because of rain and snow.”

This one is partially true, if you live in Seattle or Greenbay, where rain and snow in the winter time should come as no surprise at all. However in Texas, with average rainfall reaching 27.25″ (https://learn.weatherstem.com/modules/learn/lessons/182/19.html#:~:text=The%20average%20annual%20rainfall%20for,climatic%20regions%20of%20the%20state), and average snowfall typically in the ‘none’ range, it’s safe to say that your solar panels will absorb energy as efficiently in the summer months, if the distance of the sun were negligible.

  • The further distance of the sun during the winter months means that your panels will produce less energy than they would in the summer months.”

True, but only if you live in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere the sun is actually closer to the earth, and therefore would produce more solar energy in what American’s would think of as “winter time,” and if you don’t believe me, just check out the following link which explains this exact phenomenon: https://solarcalculator.com.au/solar-panel-orientation/.

Motivators

Winter Solar Panels

Even if you live in the northern hemisphere, where solar production may dip in the winter months, you’re still likely to produce some extra energy – as we saw in myth buster #1.

Additionally, if you were to perhaps accompany your solar system with back-up battery power and/or a generator, you could also keep your heat on should say a winter storm hit and take down the energy grid in your neighborhood for 4-5 days. This is a huge incentive to start looking into solar power generation from your home, because outside of a zombie-apocalypse occurring, you’ll want to start preparing to save money and keep your home well insulated against the negative effects of climate change as well, and having solar energy & energy storage could make a difference if the grid in your area is shut off.

However, if you’re not interested in saving money, or want to save money and carbon emissions in the most effective way possible, going green has really never been easier with solar! Harvesting energy from the sun is renewable and there is a lot of sun to go around, however unlike geothermal heaters or wind turbines, the set up for rooftop solar is fairly simple, and will only require a few months of planning and execution before you’re able to enjoy energy credits on your utility bill from your solar production.

Finally this brings us to the #1 motivator to go solar: Net Metering. If you don’t know what this is, we’ve discussed it on earlier blogs so be sure to check those out (here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/, and https://suntexllc.com/electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common-part-2-of-2/ – to reference just a couple, feel free to uncover more using the search feature).

Net metering is the icing on top of the solar cake that makes this technology feasible in modern every-day life. Net metering works exactly how it sounds: your meter is typically upgraded to a smart meter so that you’re able to measure not only energy consumption, but energy production as well. Therefore, when your solar array produces energy to send to the grid, your utility company can then take the “net” or difference between what energy was consumed and what energy was produced and apply energy production credits to your utility bill. These credits are applied to your energy bill each month and deducted (in simple terms) from your total energy bill, thus making your energy cost more affordable.

So, if emergency planning, saving money, reducing carbon emissions and gaining energy credits on your utility bill haven’t convinced you yet of the benefits of solar, I’m not sure anything will, but feel free to share some additional comments in the section below, and hopefully we can help get those myths busted, and those panels installed!

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Preparing Your Solar Panels for Fall

Solar Panels in the FallAptly named, fall brings about the shedding of leaves which accumulate in your yard at a much faster rate than the rest of the year. Almost immediately, even if you don’t notice the transition in temperature, the wind starts to blow and the trees shake, leaving you plenty to do on the weekends.

Of course if you’ve installed solar panels on your home, or if you’ve done your homework before going solar, you know that any shading whatsoever can impact the efficacy of your panels, and their ability to produce energy for your home.

That’s why we’ve gathered a few helpful tips on how to prepare your home, and especially your solar panels, from the dire consequences of leaf accumulation.

Check them out below:

All joking aside, I hope you’re enjoying the start to September, and have already begun planning your fall garden as well! Do you enjoying working outside or decorating for the season? Feel free to share your Fall Home prep or Favorite Fall activities in the comments below!

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Energy Preparedness: Summer Edition

Summer Travel  Summer is a fantastic time to escape the rigor of daily activity. You can go to any number of lakes to swim or jet-ski, head to the beach to build sandcastles and catch waves — or for the really adventurous spirit, you can even go camping or hiking in the great outdoors! This year, my husband and I have decided to take a month-long road trip, camping along the way, in order to explore all that this beautiful country has to offer! Or, at least we’ll get to see quite a bit of the West. We’re heading to Colorado first, then through Utah and Oregon and onto Seattle, Washington where we’ll get to see some family we haven’t seen in a while. Then, it’s off to Glacier National Park in Montana (https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm), Custer Gallatin National Forest (https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/custergallatin/home), Yellowstone (https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm), the Gran Tetons (https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm), and finally back home!

While we’re both anxiously counting down the days until we’re sleeping under the stars and cooking s’mores, one huge reason we also decided to take this trip during August is to escape the August heat. Every year in Texas this seems to be our highest energy bill — no matter what we do to mitigate it.Glacier National Park

This is a common theme in August in Texas, as any Texas resident will tell you, however with the effects of climate change more prevalent now than ever before in our life times, and with more and more people moving to this great state every day, the peak energy demand season is sky-rocketing. It’s no wonder that as the heat index moves above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, people want to escape inside an air-conditioned building as quickly as possible — but what people don’t realize is that the short spurt of increased demand must be managed by Grid operators — similar to the reports we read in February during the winter storm. Just take a look at what the Texas Tribune reported about summer energy outages this past June: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/19/texas-power-grid-ercot/. The good news is that because we’re in Texas, engineers have designed these systems to withstand the heat (so it’s very likely that you won’t have any of the natural gas plants freeze up during this time of the year like we saw this past winter), however any time there is increased demand on the energy Grid, the additional loads must be managed. This week, we’ll explore what to do if your power is interrupted or even goes out during the hottest days on record — and hopefully you live near a body of water if so! For those of you with solar + battery storage, you can tune out for now.

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Product Deep-Dive: Solar Panels

Product quality is important to us, and luckily in the solar market, it doesn’t always counteract Product Cost. Using locally sourced materials and products are part of our company fiber.

Thus, we proudly use Mission Solar panels for most of our Solar-Panel System installations and we have provided their website for more information on how these panels are manufactured, with a special video featuring how they’re built with Texas weather in mind.

When Mission Solar Panels are not available however, we will substitute for other high-quality panels that are not manufactured in Texas, such as REC Alpha solar panels, or Hanwha Q-cells. For more information about these specific panels, please check out the following links from Solar Electric Supply:

If you’re curious to learn more, you know what to do – ask us for a free quote for your home, today!

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Earthly Innovations to Celebrate Around the World

Everyone wants to build their own home, or must, to survive the earthly elements – try being in a hail storm, for example, without even a tarp over your head. When we ask ourselves what our ideal homes would look like, how many of us ask what the ideal energy solution would look like too? For example, you might want vaulted ceilings and marble flooring – and all of the latest Energystar rated appliances, of course – but how many architects are ensuring that these tall-walled rooms are bright and warm in the winter, and lit but cool in the summer? By design, and perhaps a couple of windows/sky lights in the right place, and you’re set! When you apply then the carbon footprint cost, how many of us decided to build our homes with locally-sourced materials?

Some people are clearly making this connection, like the woman in Kenya who created her own recycled bricks using locally sourced materials. Nzambi Matee’s buildings are not only structurally sound, but installations of art as well: “Kenyan woman’s startup recycles plastic into bricks that are stronger than concrete”(https://www.designboom.com/technology/gjenge-makers-recycled-plastic-bricks-kenya-02-08-2021/). According to the article on Designboom.com, “before creating gjenge makers ltd, nzambi matee majored in material science and worked as an engineer in kenya’s oil industry. in 2017 she quit her job to start creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. she gets the waste material for free from packaging factories and also buys it from other recyclers. through experimentation, she understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would allow her to mass produce them.”

For another example of a local innovation, check out the young entrepreneurs featured (right) whom created a solar-powered cooking station! According to his account on Twitter, Mr. Usman Dalhatu and partners had this to say of the collaboration, “We met with Dalsman Technologies Limited, creators of the iCart Solution. We explored areas of mutual interest, and avenues to empower petty traders in Kaduna. iCart is a solar powered, compact kiosk targeted at small businesses including Shayi, Suya and Kosai vendors,” and also the following: “The journey from ideation to final development of products is a truly fascinating one. It was delightful to discuss with @KadunaMarkets, our dev’t vision for Kaduna through deployment of the iCart. Looking forward to the exciting implementation journey that lies ahead.” https://twitter.com/UsmanDalhatu5

What’s in your area, or in your home, that could be re-purposed into something sustainable? It could be something as complex as designing a brick for a home using locally sourced materials and keeping natural heating and cooling elements in mind, or a solar-powered food-cart instead of using a gas or electric-powered stove – to something as simple as a dish-rack, for example – which is a much more sustainable way to dry your plates and dishes, and costs little to nothing to purchase and use. What else will make a difference in energy consumption in your home, your schools, in your business?

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Stars that Decided to Harness the Power of the Sun

Perhaps you’re not the type of person that just does something because “everyone else is doing it,” which is of course smart, but you might be interested to know that celebrities aren’t just sipping cocktails by the pool, they’re also going solar! It’s no surprise that California has lots of sunshine, making it a very appealing place for solar panels, in fact it’s the #1 state in the US in solar production according to the Solar Energy Industry association, or SEIA (https://www.seia.org/research-resources/top-10-solar-states-0). While it pains me to write this, at least in this race, Texas came in second. Even though their careers have taken them in some very funny/dramatic turns, celebrities such as Will Ferrell, Scarlett Johansson, and Jim Carrey decided to invest in this renewable energy source, see the full list here: https://www.purepointenergy.com/blog/2016/may/10-celebrities-who-support-solar-panels/.

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Solar Panel Efficiency

Though most of today’s solar panels are nearly equivalent in efficiency, it’s important to understand what you’re paying for, and why you might want to go with a higher wattage panel in some instances, versus a lower wattage panel which is likely a cheaper system, in others. For a simple example, using the same type of materials, a 290-Watt panel will be less efficient than a 390-Watt panel. The higher the wattage, ignoring all other factors, the higher the efficiency. Seems easy, right? The truth is that the quality may vary depending on the type of materials used, and the way in which each solar cell is built, however again, we’re talking in almost negligible differences in productivity. Let’s take a look at why:

According to CleanEnergyReviews, “solar panel efficiency is determined by two main factors; the photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency, based on the cell design and silicon type, and the total panel efficiency, based on the cell layout, configuration and panel size” (https://www.cleanenergyreviews.info/blog/most-efficient-solar-panels). This article may seem somewhat cumbersome, however it outlines the key differences pretty well – check it out! The author goes on to explain that “The efficiency (%) of a panel is calculated by the maximum power rating (W) at STC, divided by the total panel area in meters,” however if you’re not designing a system yourself, this equation isn’t the most important part – it’s understanding how this will impact your system and your budget, based on your current and perceived energy usage. Again, to understand why – let’s keep digging! If you keep reading on to find the image below, you might start to see the differences in panels the article is referencing – for example, take a look at the labels below each to note the difference between the silicon types: “multiple busbars (MBB), and passivation type (PERC)” – while we’re here, also note the percentages at the bottom of each label – the variance is only ~7% from the lowest efficiency panel, to the highest efficiency panel, however the cost difference can be significant. Keep in mind, this is not to say that the lower efficiency panel is poor quality necessarily, since you might not need the amount of energy that the higher-efficiency panels produce (these are often used for commercial projects, instead of residential homes).

Finally, this article goes on to list the top efficiency panels from 2021 (see below, updated as recently as February of this year), but the paragraph just below it really outlines the whole picture, saying “what matters most is the manufacturing quality which is related to real world performance, reliability, manufacturers service, and warranty conditions.” Please do continue reading through the end – not only is it an interesting read, but it just might help you make a more informed decision when selecting the solar panels for your solar system. For questions on the information outlined within this article, give us a call today! We’re happy to walk you through it or provide you with a free quote for your home or business.

* List of the most efficient solar panels announced and expected to reach high volume production during 2021 – Residential 60 to 66 cell size format size panels only – Last update Feb 2021.

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Spring has officially Sprung!

If you’re like me, and thought that the Spring Equinox fell on March 21st every year, you would be wrong for 2021! I was waiting to post about it until today, however the first official day of spring was yesterday, March 20, 2021.

What is the spring equinox? It’s a sign that the days will continue to start getting longer and longer, but for a more scientific answer, check out the following link (https://www.space.com/vernal-equinox-2021-spring-arrival-equal-day-night) which states, “Spring will officially arrive on Saturday morning (March 20) with the occurrence of the vernal equinox. That occurs when the sun will be positioned directly over the Earth’s equator at 09:37 Universal Time; 5:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time or 2:37 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. At that particular moment, the sun will appear to shine directly overhead from a point 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Meru, in Kenya; a city of approximately 241,000 residents.

From that moment, until the occurrence of the summer solstice on June 20, the sun will appear to migrate northward and the length of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere will continue to increase. As the altitude of the midday sun gets progressively higher, the arc that it takes across the sky will also increase. On the date of the equinox, the sun will rise due east and will set due west.”

What does this mean for solar customers? Now is the time to go solar and start saving on your monthly electricity bill! With summer just around the corner, and longer days, full of sunshine, those solar panels are poised to help support the high energy demand on the grid, and keep your house cool even when we get to those triple digit days. Call us today for a free quote!

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Snow on your Solar Panels

For some odd reason, Texas has decided to really show out this year and give us not just one, but three or four possible days of snow! While in years past this knowledge may have seemed irrelevant for us down here in the lone star state, this year we will need to equip ourselves with hats and gloves and new skills to deal with sub-freezing temperatures. The good news is that your solar panel production should remain largely unimpaired by the snow, according to Simpleray, and since Iowa gets more snow than Texas annually, I will defer to their better judgment on the subject: https://www.simpleray.com/resources-and-informations/solar-panels-after-snowstorm. The short story is that due to the heat produced by the silicone tiles, and the angle at which they’re installed on your rooftop (or in a ground-mounted system), snow should melt off of them relatively quickly, and even if it stays for a few days, winter days are not as important for solar production as summer days, which we all know will be here before we know it! So go out there and have some fun – or stay inside and enjoy the warmth – but whatever you do, don’t worry about your solar panels. The snow will melt soon enough, and that Texas summer heat will be here to make up the difference in your energy production.

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Budgeting Tips and Tricks

You’ve probably heard this word over and over again – perhaps you’ve built one and stick to it rigidly, perhaps you’ve set it loosely and try to monitor it sparingly throughout the year – but something that’s important to think about when you’re looking at home improvements: your budget. The good news here is that a new roof or a new solar system can actually add value to your home, so unlike other luxury goods, home improvements can actually pay off in the long run. Additionally, these items are typically financed through a financial lender (such Sunlight Financial or Loan Pal, for example) or through your bank (through a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC), which means you don’t have to pay them all off at once, however you will still need to think about these types of projects ahead of time and plan accordingly. Having said that, there are a ton of ways you can seek out a financial planner, but for some quick tips, feel free to check out the following article, and share your favorite budget hacks in the comments below: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-budget.

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