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Does Solar Still Work in Winter?

As winter rolls around again in New Zealand, there’s a tendency for people to stop thinking about installing domestic solar energy system simply because they think there’s not that much sunshine about.

And, certainly, as the temperature drops and it starts getting greyer and wetter, there’s a good chance that homeowners will investigate ventilation, insulation, and heating as options to create a healthy home.

But shorter days and a drop in the mercury are no reasons why you shouldn’t still look to make your home more efficient and environmentally friendly – because converting solar energy into usable domestic power is still a good way to lower your electricity bills and create a greener home... even in winter.

The starting point here is that the whole system from solar panels to inverters is powered by light and not heat, and so what counts when it comes to generating power is daylight hours, not soaring temperatures.

And, yes, New Zealanders living from Kaitaia to the Bluff will all have fewer daylight hours during winter – but they will still harvest power when the sun is up and the latest ranges of solar panels and inverters have been designed to run as efficiently as possible. It’s just a matter then of being smart about how you use that power.

So what are the key points to consider about running a solar energy system during winter?

Placement

How you arrange your panels will depend largely on the elevation, pitch and position of your roof, but the amount of shade and sunlight to which they are exposed will obviously change during the course of the year. Factors to take into consideration include:

  • The sun being lower in the sky the further south you go in the country.
  • Sunrise and sunset times.
  • How shade cast by geography (hills, mountains), buildings and trees (including trees that shed their leaves, which can cover panels) changes during the seasons.

And that’s why our experts offer free, in-home consultations so they can fully get the lie of the land and create the perfect array, set-up and system to suit your home’s needs.

Usage

Although you’ll read about plenty of nay-sayers in the media claiming that solar simply doesn’t add up during winter, they’re missing the point that domestic solar generation works at its most effective and efficient levels when it’s being used straight away. Power companies ensure that buy-back rates aren’t going to make a solar system efficient, so it’s up to the household to match usage to supply – then every kWh your panels produce from the sun is a kWh you’re not going to see on your power bill!

There are always going to be periods when a household needs peak-time power when the sun isn’t up in winter – early morning starts and cold evenings coming back from work or school – but that is what a grid-tied system (or, battery storage if you’re looking for the more revolutionary option) is for.

Equipment

Because Harrisons Energy Solutions is dedicated to helping you save money on your power bills from day one of getting your solar system set up, we’ve scoured the world’s leading technology to find the most efficient products that ensure the free electricity you generate is used in the most coherent and effective way – even during winter.

Products include:

  • The SolarEdge DC power optimisers that fit on to each of your solar panels and calculate exactly how much energy can be harvested from that panel before sending it on to the inverter. A 25-year warranty, individual smart monitoring of each panel’s performance and lower start-up power required means that you can start generating power earlier in the day and trust that you’ll generate up to 25% more energy per panel. They also ensure that partial shade or leaves on your roof wont’ compromise the entire array of panels.
  • Because usage plays the major role in whether a system is operating as cost effectively as it can, Harrisons supplies two products which help match your power consumption with your power generation – something that can be a vital way to maximising power savings during winter. The Honeywell Hot Water Timer and Harrisons Solar Power Diverter will help increase your consumption and significantly hit your power bills by letting you heat big-ticket items such as pools or spas, or directing solar-generated electricity to your hot water cylinder at the peak times of solar generation. These smart products put the power in the user’s hands by ignoring low buy-back tariffs, cutting down on peak-time imported power, and instead using free solar power to cover some of a household’s costliest energy uses.
  • The best way to ensure the smooth running of your system while maximising the return on your investment is to have a robust monitoring system. Both the StorEdge and SolarEdge systems have cloud-based monitoring you can access via your laptop, computer or mobile device meaning you can keep control of the all-important usage-generation ratio and also check your system is operating at peak performance.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about creating a cost-effective, comfortable and energy-efficient home, contact us on 0800 00 33 54 or via the website for a free on-site consultation at a time that suits you and one of our solar experts will let you know how you can start making savings right from day one.