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How to increase your solar panel efficiency

You might be tired of listening to common solar panel efficiency advice. There is no doubt it works.  But today I am going to give you some tips to improve your solar panel efficiency without occupying more space.

For me as a common user, the only thing matter is how much money I am spending on solar panels and how much money I am saving in term of electricity bills. And it hits home. You don’t want to be fooled by a solar panel salesman calling you from other countries just to make ends meet.

If you don’t have much information about what you are buying, these salesman and big giants can rip you off. If you are buying a solar panel with no capacity of increased efficiency whatsoever, you won’t see any difference in your electricity bill.

 I am writing this article for a common user. I hate jargons so I won’t trap you into difficult terminologies. My goal is to lay it down in a simple way possible without confusing the readers. 

Add more efficient solar panel models

This goes without saying! The more money you put the more efficient solar panel you get. There are a lot of expensive models in the market. If you want to get the maximum efficiency, I’d suggest going for higher-end brands.

For example, Sunpower & LG gives you a whopping 22% efficiency. The normal average solar panel range from 16-18% efficiency.  If you do your math right, you can get your money back more quickly if you invest money in more expensive solar panels.  This list might be helpful to understand what brands are killing it with efficiency.

You might be thinking about why I shouldn’t buy more solar panels to increase efficiency? 

Just adding more solar panels of average quality will not just increase your maintenance cost, it will also occupy more space. The only way to increase your solar panel efficiency using the same amount of space is to go for a high-end solar panel with more than 20% efficiency. 

The decision about what solar panel you should buy is not black & white. It has a lot of grey areas. So I won’t recommend which brand you should go for. But depending on your area, I would suggest reading the manuals warranties of different solar panels and make sure you are buying the model with the most efficiency and durability regardless of its pricing structure.

Use a solar tracker

Unlike fixed-tilt ground-mount systems, solar tracker makes panels follow the sun’s path throughout the day. The tracker detects the sun’s activity and sends a signal to the motor installed underneath the panels to move it for maximum efficiency. 

There are very few solar panels available in the market. We at LoriSense created our solar tracker after intensive testing and tweaking for years.  The good thing about Lorisense is that the user can adjust sensor sensitivity. 

There are both single-axis & double-axis solar trackers on the market. A double axis can move the solar panel in both directions. Double axis solar trackers are more expensive and need more resources to install. 

A solar tracker is a very inexpensive way to increase the efficiency of your solar panels, why? You already have all the equipment installed,  and spent $20-30k on your system.  Adding a couple of hundred bucks won’t make a big difference but you can increase your efficiency by up to 30%

If you are buying a solar tracker, make sure it can be exposed to rain and dust ( all parts are IP65 grade)

There is a lot of chatter about solar trackers whether they do the job or not. On paper, if you are moving the panels following the sun, you will get more energy from the sun. In practice, it depends on the sensitivity of your solar tracker and how durable your mechanics is to move the panel. Discuss it with your provider and ask them how they will fix it to make it durable and in working conditions for years without much maintenance.

Avoid shaded areas

Your provider can take care of it but if you don’t have a basic understanding, you can’t double-check or approve your provider’s work.  

Some tools help you track shades and can help map out where exactly you should install your solar panel to avoid shades. Expect your solar provider to make frequent site visits to figure out the best location for solar panels. 

If you are planning to install a solar panel in your backyard, remove all trees and other obstacles which may create shades and impact the performance. Ask your provider what else you need to remove to avoid shades. 

Keep track of your system performance and see if you are getting any decrease in output during a sunny day time. It might be an indicator of shades impacting your solar panel performance. If this is the case, call your provider immediately to figure it out. 

I have seen soo many lazy providers do the same mistake over and over again. Ask questions from your provider about what they are doing to avoid shades and see if they are doing any tangible stuff to make it happen.

Get an expert to install your solar panels

Solar panels are pretty expensive and you need to hire an expert to install them properly. A professional and experienced provider will take all aspects into the account and make sure you are getting the most out of your solar panels.

Installing solar panels requires in-depth technical knowledge and experience. You don’t want to take a risk hiring a beginner. If one thing goes wrong, you lose. everything. 

Here are a few important points you should keep in mind before hiring a solar panel installer. These requirements aren’t mandatory but if you should be more confident if they have the following: 

  •  NABCEP certification. 
  • C-10 license & a general electrical contractor’s license.
  • Track record and experience ask for other customer testimonials. 
  • Ask for at least 20 years of workmanship warranty. 

These requirements can be different depending on your state of your country. But 3 & 4 are pretty much the same for everywhere. 

Figure out what is the standard period for a workmanship warranty. It is ok being skeptical if any company is giving you a workmanship guarantee for a higher period above the market. 

The same goes for pricing. There are “ churn & burn” types of companies outbidding other companies on pricing but their service is terrible, they just believe in one-time costumer. So if you are spending a hefty amount on solar panels, it makes sense to hire experts to do the job properly.

Clean your solar panels  

So you bought solar panels and you are saving some money on your electricity bills. But these solar panels won’t work forever, you have to do some maintenance to keep it clean.

To get the maximum efficiency possible, you must clean your solar panels periodically. The method and tools might be different depending on your area and the type of solar panels you are using. 

You don’t need sophisticated washing equipment if you are just a household user. Make soapy water, and wash your solar panel with a squeegee. Some restrictions are depending on the brand of your solar panel. So read their manual carefully to see what chemical you are allowed to use. 

Allterra Solar created a pretty in-depth step by step video explaining how you should clean your solar panel

Conclusion:

Small incremental changes to your solar panels can make a big difference. Note down all points mentioned in this article and go through them one by one. Make sure you are doing common mistakes. By just doing the basics, you can save a lot of money on electricity by keeping good care of your solar panels.

There are a lot of crap products in the market. The key is to know what your requirement is and what exactly you need to achieve and test different products to see which one works for you. I can understand you might not have the budget and time to test different products, in this situation, I would trust a reputable installer to make the right decision for me.

If you have any questions or disagreement with me, please post in the comments. Let’s have a fruitful discussion!

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