What Is Solar Shading and How Can You Deal With It?
We all know by know that solar panels produce electricity from the sunlight. So it makes sense that when there is shade cast upon them, they produce less electricity. It would seem fairly obvious that the power output produced by the panels is reduced proportionally to the amount of area that is shaded – this isn’t true.
Most domestic solar systems include anywhere between 5-30 panels, and most of the time these panels are connected in a ‘string’. Smaller systems may only have one string while larger scale systems may have more. We find it easiest to explain a string of panels as a string of Christmas lights. Electricity flows from one bulb to the next, lighting up the entire string of lights. However, when one bulb blows, the whole string of lights fails. This is the same for a solar system connected in strong. Even if a small amount of shade falls on just one cell in the panel, the output of the whole string of panels is reduced for as long as the shadow remains. Instead, it is because when one panel fails, it begins to become an energy consumer, rather than an energy generator. The shaded panel begins to draw power from the other panels, who in turn are not producing their optimum or maximum output.
There are many different factors that can result in solar panel shading. Shade from overgrown vegetation (trees and plants), cloud cover, dirt, bird feces, etc. all cause an effect on overall power production. During the design and layout stage of having your solar system installed, your installer should have taken a look at your roof from above, using technology, and be taking into account many factors such as optimal sun direction. They should be designing your system to sit in a location where it is not shadowed for half of the day, e.g. behind a chimney or a tree.
Fortunately, while there aren’t many ways to completely eliminate solar shading, there are ways to manage it.
How To Manage Solar Shading
1. Regular cleaning of your panels
Cleaning your panels every three or so months ensures that they stay free of any on-surface shading that may occur. Running a hose from the top of your roof, directly down to wash away leaf litter and debris that can get caught on top of your panels. Using a squeegee or cloth to gently clean the more tough dirt and grime is fine, but scourers and high-pressure water cleaners are not.
2. Be aware of vegetation
Be aware of overgrown plants and trees that may cast a shadow on your panels. Make a point observing this every three months or so, to ensure that your panels remain in maximum sunlight for as long as they can. Also, remember to observe this at all times of the day, to see how they are affected as the sun moves.
3. Micro Inverters
Microinverters are just as the name suggests, however, they are much smaller and designed to sit underneath each individual panel. They perform the same function as a string inverter, however, they accept the output of that panel only, rather than a series of panels collectively. This maximises your total production output because if one panel fails, the others are not compromised.
They are slightly more expensive upfront, but as time goes on, the product price is dropping. Microinverters allow for an expansion of your system, so there are no restrictions when it comes to your system’s future and they are often labeled as the safer choice due to the minimised voltage running through them.
4. DC Optimisers
DC Optimisers are similar to microinverters in that they are also located on each individual panel. However, DC Optimisers, or power optimisers, are used in systems where a string inverter is involved. These DC Optimisers work with the string inverter to enable the maximum production from each panel individually, despite the fact that the panels are connected in a string. When a panel becomes shaded and its power output differs from the unshaded panels, the optimisers correct ‘mismatch’ of energy production between each panel by allowing it to function at its Maximum Power Point (MPP), and then converting that energy to the optimum voltage and current for the string inverter.
All of these factors should be looked at by your solar installer and they should be informing you of the best choice for your situation and requirements. Green Efficient Living solar installers use a number of programs to look at all of the factors required to provide you with a system that will work best for you.
To speak to one of our solar professionals today, call (08) 8297 3422 or fill out a request form on our contact page.
Green Efficient Living made it very clear at the inception of our company that we would only align ourselves with businesses who project the same values as us. These values focus on providing our customers with high quality and reliable products, impeccable customer service, a dedication to innovation and being strong advocates for reducing environmental impact.
This is why Green Efficient Living promote and install Enphase Energy products for our solar installations. Enphase is a company dedicated to pushing the boundaries of solar technology and are passionate about developing new technologies that make energy ‘more intelligent, more connected and cost effective’.
They design and manufacture products for solar generation, energy storage and web-based monitoring and are currently the market leader in microinverter manufacturing and distribution. The company was founded in 2006 and since then has grown to become a global leader in solar energy technology. In 2008, they introduced the world’s first microinverter system and just three years later they hit the milestone of having shipped one million micro inverters worldwide.
Eight years on and they have begun operating in 21 countries across the globe, opened their own research and development facility in New Zealand (March 2016), and have shipped over 15 million microinverters worldwide. During this time, they have won awards such as ’14th Fastest Growing Company (2013)’, ‘Technology Pioneer (2013)’, and ‘#1 Residential Inverter Supplier’.
But it isn’t just their size or expertise that makes them the industry leader and Green Efficient Living‘s choice. It’s their dedication to providing the very best products and services for their customers. Their web-based monitoring software, MyEnlighten, allows for complete connection and communication between your solar PV system and your home via an app on your phone or tablet. It lets you track your energy production in real time and monitor your system’s health through a status indicator. It also allows your solar installer to monitor and track your system’s production to make sure that everything is running as it should be.
Enphase also has an Australian head office, which can give you peace of mind knowing that if something was to go wrong, or if you have any questions as all, we can easily get in touch with somebody local and get you an answer straight away.
They have a passion for providing an alternative energy resource that reduces our environmental impact and are driven by a sense of responsibility towards our planet and communities. Their systems have already helped to offset almost 6 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide worldwide…yes, 6 TRILLION! And that number is continuously growing.
Consistent and rigorous quality testing means that their products are at a consistently high level and are reliable in all conditions and climates. All Enphase products undergo one million ‘power-on’ hours of accelerated, long-term reliability testing prior to their release. Our confidence their products extends far beyond our business, as we have installed them in our own homes as well! This way, our customers can be assured that their products and systems are there to last.
Green Efficient Living always have our customers in the forefront of our minds with every decision that we make, so it is imperative to us that we work with companies who see the same value in that. This is why we use Enphase microinverters.
If you are considering having a solar PV system installed, or to see the MyEnlighten app working in real time, come into our office and let us discuss how using Enphase micro inverters can work for you. Alternatively, you can contact us here!
What Questions To Ask When Buying An Air Conditioner
These days, air conditioners come in many sizes and with many different upgrades and new developments. There are also different companies and installers out there who can sometimes offer vastly different quotes for the same system. So how can you be sure that you are being quoted the best system for you? It’s important to always ask questions of your installer before approving any work. Here are just a small list of questions to ask your installer when buying an air conditioner, to ensure that you are getting the best system for your home and lifestyle.
1. What type of air conditioner do I need?
There are a number of reasons why one type of air conditioner may be better suited to your home than another. What type of climate do you live in? For example, evaporative air conditioners work brilliantly in drier climates, but not as effectively in tropical, humid climates. Are you looking for a system that will cool one room only? If so, maybe a high wall split is best, or possibly an air conditioner with zoning capabilities. It is important to discuss all of your needs and desires with your installer to ensure that you are getting the most accurate system for your situation and location. Make sure that you are prepared with all of the information before you meet with them.
2. What size air conditioner do I need?
As explained in our previous blog (here), the right size air conditioner is dependent on a lot of factors. For example, are you looking to cool your whole home or just a few rooms? is your home open plan living? How many windows does your home have? It is important that your installer asks all of these questions before they offer you an exact system. Ensuring that your installer has made a trip to your home, or has a copy of your housing plan so that they can do a load calculation and offer you the correct size for your space. This will ensure that you are being quoted the best unit based on power, efficiency and cooling capacity.
3. What new features or technological additions do I require?
These days, air conditioners can be tailored to meet your exact requirements and desires thanks to modern technology. So make sure that you consider which extras you may want or need to personalise your system. Do you require a remote control for ease of use, or are you okay walking to the touchpad on the wall each time? Are you after zoning so you can only cool specific rooms at certain times? Maybe you are looking to have a system that can be controlled from an app on your phone? If you aren’t sure of all of the additions that can come with a system these days, be sure to ask your installer. Let them know which features you may need and work from there. Be aware that most of the time, technological additions can add to the price of the system.
4. What is my budget?
The best thing to do is have an idea of how much you are able to spend. This will let your installer know what type of system they can offer you and what optional extras may be available. Always get more than one quote to get an average idea of how much you should be spending.
5. What is the energy rating of the system?
These days, air conditioning systems should chew through your energy bills. In fact, your installer SHOULD be designing you a system that will be the most cost effective and energy efficient for you to run. This will ensure that your unit lasts longer and save your money in the long run.
6. Who will be doing the installation? Does the company use contractors to install their work?
This is an important question to ask because it lets you know how many companies you will be dealing with and the integrity of those companies. The company that you purchase the system through may use contractors to install it, rather than employing their own technicians to carry out the installation themselves. This addition of an extra party can result in many issues such as unnecessary added costs, communication breakdown, hassle, warranty issues and unexpected poor quality of work and service.
7. If they do use contractors, are the installers qualified to handle warranty repairs and/or servicing?
Green Efficient Living employ all of their own technicians that are all certified installers (Cert. III). This means that they are all fully qualified to handle all installations, warranty repairs and servicing systems of all sizes. Many companies use Cert. II qualified installers that are not qualified to handle all warranty repairs and servicing and can only work on systems under 18kW. For the reliability and quality of your home or business’s system and to ensure that all warranties remain valid, it pays to ask how qualified your installers are.
8. Does the company also provide maintenance services?
It is important to know whether the company who installs your air conditioner also provides servicing and maintenance services. This will ensure that should any warranty issues occur further down the line, that the company servicing your system is familiar with it and has records of it. Green Efficient Living provides comprehensive service and maintenance services to all of our clients and we make that we keep them updated when their next service is due.
9. What is the total cost?
This may seem like an obvious one, but be aware that sometimes the quote that you are being provided may not include all charges. Does the quote include labour and installation charges, delivery fees, etc? Make sure that they provide every cost openly and honestly and in writing so that you aren’t surprised when you receive the invoice.
10. What documentation will I be receiving?
Before the installation date, you should receive a detailed quote and contract. After the system has been installed, you should receive all manufacturers and installers warranty information, detailed maintenance information and compliance certificates. Before purchasing a system, always do research on each company and obtain multiple quotes. It may take a little longer, but the system that you end up with will be far more reliable.
If you are after a new installation, or the service or upgrade of your current one, call Green Efficient Living today on (08) 8297 3422.
Have you ever changed a blown lightbulb and noticed that its replacement does not match the colour of light that it gives off? What once was a nice warm glow has now become a harsh white light and all of the sudden the room no longer has the same ambience and feeling. Or when your white lit, modern kitchen now has a yellow tone that doesn’t accurately highlight the area! It’s because there is a whole colour spectrum of lighting based on colour temperature.
It’s understanding this temperature that makes it easier to choose a light that will give off the look and feel that you want in your room. But why is it that some bulbs glow a bright white, while others emit a warm orange?
Have you ever noticed how when you are away from heavily populated areas that the night sky is filled with stars? So why is it that you can’t see the same stars when you are in the city? The answer is light pollution! Thats right, light is considered a pollutant!
Light pollution is the obtrusive, excessive and unnecessary use of light used for advertising, security, street lighting, etc. that becomes misdirected and filters out towards the sky. This misdirection is due to poorly designed lighting installations and can be an issue for more than one reason. There are three different types of light pollution that occur as a result of poorly designed lighting:
Glare is caused when the excessive brightness of a light causes light scattering in the eye and reduces the contrast of what the eye can see. This reduced contrast can make it extremely difficult to distinguish scenes and settings and can be extremely hazardous when driving.
Glare light towards the eyes can cause temporary blindness and constant exposure to glare can have longer effects on the health of your eyes and it can worsen with age.
Light trespass is the unwanted light entering a property where it is not needed, for example, street lights entering through a bedroom window at night. Not only can unwanted light be annoying while you are trying to sleep, but having a disrupted sleep can also be damaging on your health.
Skyglow is when the overflow of many sources of lighting brightens the sky over inhabited areas. In other words, when there are too many bright lights outdoors in one area, it can illuminate the night sky. This form of light pollution is of greatest concern to astronomers who study the night sky. The brighter the skyglow, the lighter the night sky and therefore the less celestial objects can be seen and studied.
Why is light pollution bad?
First and foremost, light pollution is a large form of energy wastage. Lighting that emits too much light or is focused when and where it is not needed (i.e. upwards towards the sky) can have large economic consequences, as the wasted energy that is used to produce this light can contribute heavily to greenhouse gases and unnecessary expenditure.
Light pollution can also have environmental consequences and can be detrimental for both flora and wildlife that inhabit the areas. All living creatures rely on the steady rise and fall of the sun to regulate body patterns and quality of life. Their natural migratory and breeding patterns can be affected along with their ability to interact with one another.
As the rhythm of life is dependent and coordinated by the natural rise and fall of the sun, disrupting the pattern can severely impact the ecological behaviour.
The health of humans can also be affected by light pollution for almost the same reason. When we are exposed to larger amounts of light when we shouldn’t be, such as at night when we are trying to sleep our melatonin levels are suppressed. This can lead to many different issues such as sleep disorders, lowered immunity levels and increased levels of anxiety.
What can be done?
While it is understood that there are necessary reasons that areas need to be lit up during the night, such as for safety on the streets and the ability to see in the dark, there are ways that it can be reduced around the home.
The most obvious way to curb your contribution to light pollution around the home is to switch off lights when they are not needed. Do not light up your front and backyard when they are not in use. This will also save you a large amount of money on your energy bills!
Have a motion sensor installed to switch your outdoor lights on and off when appropriate.
Replace your high-energy bulbs with much more energy efficient LED ones to reduce the carbon emissions that are being discharged.
Properly shield outdoor lights to focus the light where needed and avoid any misdirection.
Use dimmers where possible to control the amount of light that is being released.
Do you want to have a solar PV system installed, but are slightly skeptical because of something that you may have heard or possibly some general misunderstandings that you may have? There are so many different opinions on solar PV systems and so many myths, so Green Efficient Living has decided to clear up a few up in order for you to make a clearer decision. Here is the truth about a few solar myths that you may have heard that could be holding you back from enjoying all of the benefits that solar has to offer.
“The solar system that I am offered must be the right one for me!”
Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. There are many different solar systems out there and many different solar installers, and while the industry is one that is heavily regulated with strict compliance standards, it is still up to you to do the research and find the most trustworthy installer that will provide you with the most suitable system.
A reliable solar technician is one that is also a qualified electrician, giving them the sound knowledge and understanding of how to correctly wire the panels to ensure their efficiency, reliability, and safety. Your energy consumption habits, your location, your roof pitch, your needs, etc. will all need to be reviewed before they can even begin to understand what the correct system might be. If they are offering you a system before these questions have been asked, then the chances are that they are offering you a system for their benefit and not yours.
Never pass up the opportunity to have your system inspected. Through inspections carried out by Green Efficient Living, it has been found that a large number of systems are non-compliant which a high percentage of them being sub-standard. It is for this reason that your own research is extremely important to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company. It is important to that you are aware of whether or not your solar installer is approved – a good company should always be able to provide proof of quality. Asking for their accreditation and certification is one way to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company.
It is also important to be aware of what is available to you once the system has been installed, such as warranties, after-installation support, maintenance checks, and customer service. A quality provider should be with you long after the system has been installed.
Don’t get caught by hidden costs – ensure that you are aware of everything that you are paying for! Some companies may charge you for small things such as your meter box upgrade, so make sure that you have every little detail written in full and provided to you for your own personal records.
Green Efficient Living are Clean Energy Council approved installers and all of our technicians are qualified electricians. We only use quality components and products that are guaranteed to deliver and make you aware of every cost involved in the installation.
We take pride in our work so you know that you are getting the best possible service before, during and after your system has been installed.
“I’m not home during the day, therefore, solar panels won’t benefit me!”
It is true that unless you have a battery system installed, you cannot store the enery that your system produces to use at a later time. As a system’s energy production is highest during the day, this is ultimately when you need to be utilising it. Although most families of individuals are not home during daylight hours, there are still a number of ways that you can benefit from solar panels. It just means that you will need to change your energy consumption habits to match that of the solar energy production. Try to find ways that you can use the majority of your electricity usages during the day. Instead of waiting until you are home to turn on and use your appliances, schedule them to come on while you aren’t home. Have your washing machine run its cycle, and then your dishwasher, etc. This will ensure that you are making the most of your energy that is being produced and reducing your electricity bills in the process.
Also, remember that weekends are two days out of the week when you are home during the day to utilise the energy products. Even if your solar energy production is only able to make up a slight amount of the energy needed to run your appliances, you are still benefiting from having solar installed.
“I don’t need to worry about using all of the energy that my system produced because I’m being paid for the energy that I don’t use!”
This is true, but it is also slightly naive. Long gone are the days of high feed-in tariffs (what you get paid for the elecricity that you send back to the grid). Currently, this rate is at $0.068 per kilowatt hour (kWh), so for every kWh of solar that you don’t use, is sent back out the grid and you are reimbursed $0.068. For such a small amount, it is far smarter to try and utilise every kWh that you can, by timing your appliances to come on when energy production is at its highest. By using your solar, you’re saving yourself from having to purchase it from the grid at approximately $0.32 per kWh.
“Solar panels only produce energy on warm, sunny days so they aren’t really worth it!”
The myth that solar panels aren’t effective on cloudy or overcast days is one that has been argued for a long time now. Solar panels rely on light (UV rays) and not heat to produce energy, so as long as light is hitting the panels, there will be energy production – the amount, however, varies.
A study by the CSIRO is 2012 found that although cloudy weather can reduce energy production, they are still able to generate as much as 25 percent of the output that they would on a sunny day. Take Germany, for example – despite being a country that experiences a lot of cloud cover, they are currently one of the world’s top solar energy producers.
But, there is no such thing as a ‘shade-tolerant’ solar panel, although some solar panels deal slightly better under different shading conditions. These conditions can be quite complicated and it is dependant on how the shade falls over your panel, i.e. does it fall in a horizontal or vertical line, is the shading diffused or concentrated? But the long story is, if your panel is shaded, it will produce less power.
Many people also think that the warmer the temperature, the more energy is produced as a result. However, with all solar panels, their electricity production decreases as the temperature increases. Instead, the perfect weather for producing maximum solar energy is a day that has maximum sunlight (minimum cloud cover) and cooler temperatures.
“A solar system requires far too much maintenance!”
Solar systems contain no moving parts and are therefore very reliable and self-regulating – so much so that it is quite easy to forget that you can even have a solar system installed! For this reason, the system requires very little maintenance and effort on your behalf. But while this may be the case, it is important that you remember to complete a few easy tasks every now and then to ensure that your system is running smoothly and providing you with all of the benefits.
Despite what you may have heard, no solar panel is self-cleaning. Just think, if there was self-cleaning, non-stick glass, wouldn’t you have it on the windscreen of your car? If you can see your panels when you are standing outside, take a look to see if there is any dirt or debris sitting on the surface that may be covering them slightly and run water over them as needed to clear it away. How often you need to clean your panels is also dependant on the area in which you live. Near coastal, salty or farming regions or industrial areas will require you to clean your panels more often as there will be a faster build-up of grime. It is also wise to make a habit of taking a look at your inverter each time that you walk past it to ensure that it is running as it should be and that your energy production is still at its highest. Lastly, trim back the surrounding vegetation that may cause shading and therefore reduce your panels’ production.
If you have experienced wild weather, call an expert to have your panels inspected for any damage and professionally repaired as needed. Making these few rules a habit, along with having your panels professionally inspected once a year, is all the maintenance that a solar PV system requires for it to continue working at its best.
“I won’t be living in my home long enough to repay my investment!”
This is up to personal opinion, but at the end of the day, having solar installed on your home is beneficial both while you are there, and when you decide to leave. Statistics show that panels pay for themselves within six to fifteen years, depending on the type of system that you have, your location, your energy consumption habits, etc. In addition to this, a study has revealed that 85% of Australian home buyers believe that a house with a solar system installed has an increased value and three-quarters of renters would pay higher rent to live in a home with solar energy(1).
So even if you are not planning on living in your home for the next fifteen years at most, you are reducing the amount that you are spending on your electricity bills while you are there and increasing the value of your home when it is time to leave.
“My roof doesn’t face North so my panels won’t produce enough energy!”
There are two key factors in the positioning of solar panels that determine the maximum output of energy that can be produced by your system – direction and tilt/angle.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, we experience a sun that is predominantly from the north. Therefore, for your house to receive the maximum amount of sunlight, your panels should face north. In Adelaide, it has been found that panels that do face true north, at 30 degrees tilt, work at 100% efficiency that decreases by 10-20% if they face east (84% efficiency) or west (86% efficiency)(2).
Do not worry too much if your panels cannot face true north, as there is always other options. In this situation, it is best to have them north-east or north-west, with the angles of the panels being the main focus, to maximise the amount of sunlight that they can receive. The optimal direction of the panels also depends on what time your family uses the majority of your electricity. For example, you and your neighbour may have the exact same house design, facing the same direction, however your neighbour is retired and home for most of the day and will benefit more from having his panels face true north. You on the other hand have a young family, and are out the majority of the day. You therefore, would benefit more from having your panels facing east and west.
So just because your panels may not have the perfect placement, it does not necessarily mean that it will be detrimental to your output. It may in fact, work in your favour. If you are thinking about having solar installed, but are unsure if your location and roof will allow for optimum placements, speak to an expert at Green Efficient Living today and allow them to professionally design you a system that will produce the greatest yield.
“My panels are made in Germany, so they must be the best on the market!”
Firstly, a few things must be clarified before we can continue. Are your panels MADE in Germany, or are they just supplied by a German company? The difference between the two will distinguish just how superior they are. Germany holds the title for being able to produce the highest quality panels on the market and have a strong reputation in the solar industry. If you buy a genuine German-made solar panel you can almost guarantee that they will be of a high quality. But the line between what is German-made and what isn’t is a little blurry.
There are a few companies out there that maintain that their panels are made in German simply because that is where their distribute them from, but a lot of these companies still use Chinese manufacturers to produce their modules. This misleading branding is easy to believe and causes a lot of confusion about the quality of their products.
In saying that, it does not mean that panels made in China are necessarily of a lower qualitt. The only way to know whether you are truly choosing a reputable company with high quality and high performing panels, is to do your research and choose one that is classifed as Tier 1.
Green Efficient Living only use Tier 1 panels and high quality components so you know that your home system is designed to last. We only use brands that we would use, and have used, on our own homes, so you can rest assured that we are supplying you with the best.
If there is anything else that you are still unsure about regarding a solar PV system, give Green Efficient Living a call on (08) 8297 3422 for more information.
H. Jones, 9 May 2015, 85% of Aussies say solar panels boost property prices, <http://www.realestate.com.au/news/85-of-aussies-say-solar-panels-boost-property-prices/>.