Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Not Sunny?

solar power not sunny

With everyone talking about solar power and many homeowners making the switch, the name “solar” power might be a little bit confusing. Does that mean that our homes will only be powered when the sun is shining? What happens if it’s raining or when it’s night time?

Residential solar power works for your home around the clock—regardless of how sunny it is at a given moment.

It would not be a very well-designed system if we were only able to use power when the sun decided to shine! Thankfully, the engineers behind solar energy figured that out for us.

Does solar work when it’s cold outside?

Solar panel efficiency is not affected by the temperature outside. Solar panels use the energy from the light of the sun, not the heat. So as long as the sun is shining, your panels are producing some energy. And even when it’s not, your’e still covered–as we’ll see in the next section.

How do solar panels work when it’s raining, snowing, or cloudy?

Because solar panels use the energy from the light of the sun rather than the heat, the amount of energy they will produce in given weather conditions depends on how much cloud cover there is and how much light is still getting through to the panels.

Although you can likely expect the panels to be producing some energy in cloudy conditions, it might be as little as 10% of what you normally expect.

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that the lights are going to go out in your house every time a cloud rolls by. Residential solar systems are set up so that they produce excess energy during the sunny times that can continue to power your home around the clock.

The energy is either banked with your local electric company, often in a program called “net metering,” or some homeowners opt to use their own battery storage system.

solar panels in the snow
Solar panels of photovoltaic power plant on the snow covered roof

What are the optimal weather conditions for solar panels?

Interestingly, the most blazing hot summer months are not necessarily the best months for solar energy production like you might expect.

In very hot climates, the best months for solar production are May and September. During these months the panels receive the same amount of light but not as much heat as during the mid-summer months. Solar panels can work 20-30% less efficiently in extreme heat.

The surface temperature of solar panels is about 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so about 75 degrees outside is the optimal temperature for their production.

How do solar panels work at night?

Here’s a cool solar fact you probably didn’t know!

Solar panels produce a very small amount of energy from the light of the moon on a night that it is particularly bright.

Since solar panels obtain their energy from light, not heat, sometimes the moon is reflecting enough of the sun’s light onto your roof that the system is able to capture some of it’s energy.

Aside from that small amount of production, a residential solar system will continue to power your home throughout the night by using the credit from the excess energy you added to the grid during the day–the process called Net Metering.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Solar Ground Mount?

solar panel ground mount

It seems like everyone is making the switch to solar energy. It’s a great way to make a positive impact on the environment while also making a good investment for your home!

But what if you don’t have a roof that is compatible with a solar system, or you just don’t like the look of panels on your roof?

Well, that’s where a ground mount might be the right choice!

Ground mounts can be a good alternative to a roof system if you don’t like the look of panels on the roof or there is not enough usable surface area on your roof. Although there is some additional upfront cost associated with a ground mount, in some cases they may end up being a cheaper option in the long run.

There are lots of rumors floating around about whether or not this type of system is a good option for homeowners, so let’s look at some of the pros and cons of ground mounts.

Cons of A Solar ground mount

Additional permitting may be required

Depending on where you live and what your local and neighborhood laws are about zoning, you may have to get approval to build a new structure on your property before moving forward with building a ground mount. This can take a few days or a few months depending on your exact circumstances!

THe upfront cost may be higher

While panels that are installed on the roof are installed directly to the rafters already on your roof, a ground mount will require a new structure to be built to the right specifications for your needs. Because of this, there is some additional upfront cost when compared to a roof solar system.

It takes up space on your land

This may seem obvious but it is certainly a point to consider! You will have to be sure that you have the space on your property to fit a ground mount where it is not going to be in the way or cause any headache down the line. You will likely work closely with your project manager to make sure your ground mount is designed and place exactly as you’d like it to be!

Pros of A SOlar ground mount

The overall cost may be lower than a roof system

This is a big one!

Although there is more upfront cost associated with having a ground mount built, in the long run you will often pay less than you would for a roof system because you likely won’t need as many panels as you would if they were on the roof.

This is because your project manager will work with you to make sure that the ground mount is placed and designed to work as efficiently as possible. With a ground mount you have more freedom to make sure that the panels are not shaded, there are no obstructions, and the panels can be angled to the most optimal position. You don’t get this kind of freedom when designing a roof system which is why you may end up needing more panels in that scenario.

Because of the possibility of optimization that a ground mount offers, you may be able to use fewer panels to produce the same amount of energy that more panels would be needed to produce on your roof.

Fewer panels = lower cost !

They are easier to clean

For the most part, solar panels don’t need to be cleaned very often. But occasionally, something does interfere with the output of a panel and they need to be inspected and/or cleaned. In this case, it can be a bit of a headache to have to get on to your roof or have someone else come out and do so.

With a ground mount, it is much easier to actually take a look at the tops of the panels and see what’s going on!

You never have to worry about moving them

Unfortunately it’s just a fact of life that occasionally roofs need to be replaced or repaired. When this time comes and you have a solar system on your roof, you have to remove the solar panels before the work can be done to the roof. And once it’s over, they have to be replaced.

With a ground mount, you never have to worry about moving the panels if and when something goes awry with your roof. They will be a free-standing system that doesn’t need much attention at all!

You can get creative and start a garden underneath

This is a fun one. A solar ground mount will be a new structure in your yard. Which means, new possibilities! Many homeowners take advantage of the new little ecosystem that is created beneath the ground mount by starting an herb garden. You can get creative and think about what you might do with your space!

Now that you know some of the major pros and cons of getting a solar ground mount, you can be certain that you are happy with your choice to switch your home over to solar power!

If you’re ready to talk to someone about your options for going solar, click here!

Do Solar Panels damage Your Roof?

do solar panels damage roof

When you decide to have solar panels installed, you suddenly start doing a lot more thinking about your roof than you’ve done in the past. Is it flat or pitched, is it metal or shingles, is it covered by trees?! In many cases, during the conversation about solar, homeowners decide to bundle the process of replacing their roof in with their solar panel installation!

So, after going through all this trouble to take care of your roof, you may be wondering, do solar panels protect your roof? Or do they damage it?!

Do solar panels damage the roof?

If your installation is done correctly, solar panels won’t cause any damage to your roof. Although there will be holes drilled into your roof for the attachment, these holes are carefully covered up by moisture-resistant material to ensure that neither the exterior nor the infrastructure of your roof will be damaged.

Will there be holes in my roof after having solar panels installed?

The team who installs your panels will have to drill holes in order to use bolts to attach the panels to the rafters of your home. These holes are then filled with weather-proof material so they are not make sure that your roof will not suffer any damage from the holes.

Do solar panels protect your roof?

To some extent, solar panels do protect your roof. Solar panels act as an additional barrier between your roof and the elements. This includes rain, snow, wind, debris…but also sun exposure. If you have shingles on your roof, the solar panels will protect your roof from the sun bleaching that would normally occur to your shingles.

Although the panels likely will not cover the entire surface area of your roof, the areas that are covered will in fact likely be better off in the long run for having been covered by the panels.

Do solar panels damage the roof?

How can you make sure your installation is done correctly?

Make sure that you trust the company you’re working with! Look up reviews online and if possible, talk to other people who have worked with the company to make sure that they were happy with the whole process.

Your best bet is going to be going with a local company whose word-of-mouth reputation is important to them. These are the solar companies that will likely take care of you and your project with integrity and be available to answer questions along the way.

Do Solar Panels Harm Wildlife?

do solar panels harm wildlife

Do solar panels harm wildlife?

Switching to solar energy is supposed to be helpful to the environment, right? So what’s really going on with residential and commercial solar, do solar panels actually harm wildlife?

Rest assured, you residential solar system is not going to hurt the environment.

Residential solar panels do not harm wildlife when installed properly. Some large-scale solar plants have caused disruptions in the surrounding ecosystems because of the heat produced by the panels, the increased fire risk, and in some cases the water usage. More testing still needs to be done in order to determine the full long-term effect that these plants might have on wildlife.

How can commercial solar plants potentially harm wildlife?

One of the most obvious reasons these plants can cause harm to wildlife is simply due to the fact that in order to create the space to build the plant, some of the ecosystem will be cleared—leaving the resident animals to find a new place to live.

do solar panels harm wildlife

Other factors that could be possibly damaging to the wildlife are noise and light pollution, fire risk, and water consumption. (pollutant spills, electromagnetic field energy field flows)

However, compared to nuclear plants which produce radioactive waste, these potential impacts seem pretty manageable!

Do my residential panels harm wildlife?

Residential solar does not pose any major threat to wildlife. If you live in an area where there are small animals around your house including birds, squirrels, raccoons etc., and depending on the design of your system, it’s possible that these critters might try to burrow under your panels. However, this probably poses more of a problem for you than it does the critters!

You will likely have an option when installing your solar system to have a “critter guard” installed to make sure that no small animals try to help themselves to your panels as their new home. This will keep them safe from getting stuck etc., and it will help to keep the wiring of your system intact and your panels clean for longer!

Is the disposal of solar panels bad for the environment?

We are making leaps and bounds every year with how we recycle the materials (aluminum, silicon, copper.) It’s not a perfect system yet! But considering your panels will be on your roof for the next 30-50 years, it’s highly probable that by the time your panels are ready to be disposed of we’ll have a much more efficient system to recycle them.

Does It Matter If Solar Panels Are Horizontal Or Vertical?

When you take the plunge and decide to have solar panels installed on your roof, it’s a big decision! Of course you want to be sure that everything is done the right way and that you’re going to be happy with the way your house looks with the system.

You’ve probably seen some solar systems where the panels are installed in vertical orientation, and others in a horizontal orientation. This might leave you wondering, why are they different and does it matter if solar panels are horizontal or vertical?

The orientation of your solar panels doesn’t affect the production of your system. In the US, panels are generally installed vertically by default unless you have a flat roof which better allows for horizontal panels since they won’t protrude as much.

Let’s dive a little deeper to think about why your solar panel orientation may have been chosen for your home, and why other systems have their own design.

Why are your panels installed in a vertical (portrait) orientation?

  1. Solar panels are mounted to the rafters on your roof using “rails.” Since panels are not as wide as they are tall, it takes fewer rails to install the panels in a vertical orientation than in a horizontal orientation. Less railing means less overall cost!
  2. The slant and size of your roof allow the panels to fit more efficiently with a vertical orientation.
  3. This tends to be the default orientation for many solar installation companies.
new mexico solar panels installed in a vertical orientation

Why are your panels installed in a horizontal (landscape) orientation?

  1. You have a flat roof or a roof slanted in a way that if the panels were oriented vertically they would stick up higher than is ideal at their 10-40 degree tilt.
  2. You live in a place where that is the aesthetic norm.
  3. Due to the sun exposure on your roof, a horizontal orientation will be exposed to more light throughout the day and therefore provide you with more energy.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your solar panels are horizontal or vertical. Your solar system was likely designed to best fit your individual needs and preferences! So, if you’re not happy with the orientation of your panels for any reason, you should talk to your contact with the solar company to find out if they can work with you!

Just keep in mind that the most important thing about your new solar system is that it’s able to do its job in providing your home with energy. So in some cases, changing the recommended orientation of the panels may not be in your best interest.

Solar Works Energy wins Panasonic’s Regional Installer of the Year

Panasonic Corporation of North America today announced the Customer Appreciation Awards celebrating its recipients for 2020, and Solar Works energy has taken home some hardware!

The awards program recognizes high-performing installers for solar panel installation and exemplary customer service. New for 2020, the Customer Appreciation Awards also celebrate EverVolt battery installers, whose hard work and commitment has led to an extraordinary year of growth and success in the residential battery storage category.

Panasonic Elite, Premium and Authorized solar panel installers, and EverVolt Certified battery storage installers, are recognized in several award categories across each region: Installer of the Year, which recognizes installers who work on both commercial and residential installations,  Residential Installer of the Year, Commercial Installer of the Year, Fastest Growing Installer and Fastest Growing EverVolt ESS Installer.

“This has been an extremely difficult year for companies of all sizes, but it has been an unquestionably challenging time for small businesses,” said Mukesh Sethi, Director, Solar and Energy Storage, Panasonic Life Solutions Company of America, a division of Panasonic Corporation of North America. “We are incredibly thankful to Panasonic’s Elite, Premium, Authorized and EverVolt Certified installers for their fortitude and commend their resilience. It is an honor to recognize our top performers and those installers whose achievements surpassed every expectation in 2020.”

See the full list of winners here:

Why Wait?

Why should you consider making the switch to solar power today?

Let’s ignore for a second the benefits to our environment that switching to solar provides (some estimate that switching to a 5 kWh electric array can offset the deforestation of over 100 trees per year!) and instead focus in on the bottom line of switching – the MONEY. With high quality solar systems costing New Mexico homeowners an average of about $20,000, it’s important to understand the options available to you for financing such a large expense. Fortunately, in New Mexico, you have options. If you have the money to buy a system outright, that’s great! You’ll end up making the money you spent back in an average of 10 years, and afterwards you never pay another bill for electricity again. The savings just keep piling up after that. For the rest of those who don’t have $20,000 lying around but who still want to reap the rewards from solar panels, the best option is a solar loan.

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Tesla Solar Panels vs. The Other Guys

Addressing a common concern for solar customers

We occasionally hear from those interested in switching to solar that certain name brands are on their mind. These people usually express that they want to look into such headliners as Tesla. Of course, having the trendy Tesla logo somewhere on your solar panels might be what some people want. What some might not realize, however, is that paying for such a brand comes with an added cost cost. According to recent research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), large installers like SolarCity (Tesla’s solar panel manufacturer and installer), usually price their products at a premium of about 15% over local installers like us at Solar Works Energy.

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Solar Owner Feature: The Taylors

When it comes to owning a home, there are many expenses that have to be considered. It isn’t surprising that with the rise of electricity many people are switching to solar across the country. In New Mexico, alone there was a 7% increase for electricity September 2016 – and that number is projected to grow even more!

This was the exact motivation that lead Joan and James Taylor to switch to solar, February 2017.

The Taylors have owned their adobe styled home in Rio Rancho for over 15 years. Each month, they were spending about $150 to power their home through PNM, sometimes reaching bills as high as $300! It may not seem like much, but that’s nearly $2,000 a year. Here at Solar Works Energy, we know that you can save A LOT and your hard earned money can be spent better!

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Ready to find out how much you can save?