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Are My Panels Working?

How You Can Know & Some Solutions If They’re Underperforming



So you’ve made the correct decision and put a PV array on your home.


There they are — glinting gloriously, all marine blue or black under a smiling sun. The inverter is humming away efficiently in the garage or on the side of the home.


All things being equal: ought to be blitzing it.


Is it?


Why Wouldn’t They Be?


Clouds — Heavy cloud coverage can affect how much usable sunlight hits the surface of your panels.


Season — Some seasons see more sun than others. Spring and Summer are optimal for PV power. Autumn and Winter, less so.


Time of Day — Your inverter will need a certain amount of sun exposure to tick on and get going. The sun will be higher in the sky as the day proceeds. Highest at midday. Your system will again begin to ebb in production toward the later afternoon and early evening. Will not produce power at all of nighttime. However, a battery enables you to use energy stored during the day. If you haven’t got one of those, do look into it.


Orientation of Array — How much your system produces and when, depends on the direction the panels have been installed to face. North-facing panels ensure peak production. East more in the morning than West. West more of an afternoon than East. East-West split array claws back some of the power given away by not installing on the North side of the roof.


Shading — Trees, power lines, neighbors’ upper storeys. Go on, get involved! You can probably think of two or three more for yourself too.


Dirt — It can cake up on your panels and so prevent the sun’s reaching them or significantly reduce how much does.


DC to AC loss — A nominal percentage of power is lost in the conversion process from DC to AC current. It isn’t much.


Excrement — Birds and certain shameless cats have been known to defecate on panels.


Solutions


The best and most comprehensive way to know what your PV array is up to on a given day is a Smart Monitor.


The better brands of battery, such as sonnen, have up-to-the-minute state-of-the-art software as standard.


Some brands of inverter have them as an add-on installed direct into the mains.


Some of these are now Smart devices. That is to say: they learn behavior, utilise weather forecasts, quantify how much specific devices are consuming and actually interactively offer suggestions about which appliances to use and when.


Either of these pairs with a user-friendly App to make monitoring as easy as checking in on your Facebook feed.


In any event, every inverter installed in the last 2-4 years should have an online portal accessible via a standard browser to view a very basic breakdown of the system’s performance data.


As for improving performance — for the first five causes of relative underperformance the best answer is optimisers. These are an added bit of kit, one to each panel, that will force each one to peak performance irrespective of whether or how many panels in the same string are clouded, shaded or dirty.


Seasonal production can be strategically offset by the clever use of battery storage.


Dirt and faeces can be cleaned with water manually if it is such that rain on its own isn’t enough to do so already.


One has to make sure they turn the array off at the circuit breakers so it’s not live while you’re splish splashing about up there. Water + Electricity + People = Not Ideal. All relevant safety precautions are to be taken to be careful you don’t fall, obviously.


However the elements tend to police the panel’s cleanliness of their own.


To look in on a battery storage solution for your PV array, be sure to be in touch today with a friendly, informative and helpful Astra consultant.

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