Increasing Your Solar Power Efficiency

How efficient is solar power? Solar systems harness the sun’s power and convert it into usable — and free — electricity in a clean, simple and expedient way. With only a little extra effort, you can actually increase the capability and effectiveness of these revolutionary systems.

The following methods can help ensure that your results exceed your expectations.

Passive Solar Design Strategies

Ideally, homes and buildings should be passively designed around the movement of the sun. The home’s windows should face the south to take advantage of the sun’s heat during cold months. An effective roof overhang can shield the windows during the summer.

Of course, most homes and buildings are sited by the builder according to the lot’s conditions, rather than the optimization of solar energy, although that paradigm is rapidly changing today. This is something to keep in mind if you are remodeling, building a new home or applying thermal window film.

Other passive design strategies can provide much the same benefit. The selection and placement of trees — particularly deciduous varieties that shed their leaves in the fall — can provide shade in the summer while allowing the sun to heat the building in the winter. Windows can also be glazed, and overhangs, awnings and porches can be added to increase efficiency.

Solar Panel Coatings and Concentrators

Solar panel owners can improve their photovoltaic systems’ effectiveness by applying a panel coating. The coating is essentially a type of varnish that helps increase the amount of light absorbed by the panels. This boosts the capability of the system as more electricity is produced.

Adding a concentrator can increase effectiveness as well. A concentrator is essentially a large magnifying lens that directs the sun’s rays toward the panels. Trackers can also be installed, which allow the panels to shift with the sun’s path to maximize energy capture throughout the day.

Routine Maintenance and Cleaning

Just as with other mechanical or electrical appliances or devices, a solar energy system requires occasional maintenance. The system’s efficiency can be optimally maintained with a periodic check of system components.

The panels also should be cleaned regularly of built-up dirt, dead leaves, insects and other debris. In some cases, this can be done with a damp cloth or warm water from a standard garden hose, but cleaning must be done in the early morning or evening in order to avoid potentially cracking the panels.

Though handy homeowners may be able to inspect and clean their own systems, many prefer to rely on the expertise of a qualified solar technician rather than risk life and limb up on a ladder.

If you live in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada or Idaho, contact Intermountain Wind & Solar today for more information about solar energy for your home or commercial building. We will be happy to help you adopt this economically favorable technology and provide suggestions for increasing your solar power efficiency.