Did you know that solar panels work better in cold weather than in hot?
That’s surprising since we think of solar panels craving lots of hot sunshine. Another interesting fact is why shadows on solar panels decrease the amount of electric output.
You’ll never guess the real reason for this.
Electric output actually increases when the panels are cool, even cold. What solar panels really like is perfect skiing weather — clear noontime sun, cold temperatures, and lots of bright white snow on the ground.
This is good news for people who make their own electricity since they need an extra boost to their solar system when the daylight hours are shortest.
When the solar cells get hot, their power output fades. This can be a particular problem when panels are fastened flat to the roof with no air circulating behind them.
So when mounting solar panels, always attach them to some type of support that holds them up from the roof or ground.
Another surprising factor that affects the electric output of solar panels is shadows. You’re probably saying to yourself that this is not surprising at all, since solar cells need sunlight to produce electricity.
But it is the reason why shadows are a problem that is surprising.
It is not because the cells are not getting direct sunlight and therefore cannot produce electricity. What happens is that when solar cells are struck by sunlight, electrons move to the other side of the cell.
This creates an imbalance, which the electrons do not like. Therefore, they flow like water to where the electrons are less dense. Usually, this is through the wire and into the battery of the solar system.
However, a shadow on a part of the panel results in a drop in voltage in that area. The electrons that are seeking a balance will flow into the shaded area of the solar panel because it is closer and easier than flowing all the way to the battery.
The shadowy section actually gobbles up the electricity produced by the sunny parts of the panel — or even the entire array of panels — resulting in a remarkable drop in electric output.
Exactly How Do Solar Panels Work?
Most solar panels that supply power to a 12-volt solar system have 36 cells for a simple reason.
Solar cells come in a variety of sizes. Some are 3 inches by 3 inches. Other sizes are 3 by 5, 4 by 4, and 6 by 6. There are some other odd sizes, too, but these are the typical sizes used for producing electricity in homes and cabins.
Solar cells produce DC (direct current) electricity when exposed to sunlight. Off-the-grid solar setups, electricity produced by the cells in a solar panel is stored in batteries.
However, batteries have their limits and can be damaged if over-charged. Therefore, it’s important that your solar panels are producing the amount of electricity the batteries can handle.