Entering Day Light Savings time means days are getting longer and warmer. For most residents in bay, air conditioning is a remedy from the heat – with an unwelcomed spike in electric bills. Approaching summer’s increased energy usage is just one of the many reasons to have your solar system installed and activated before summer begins. Let’s take a look at why now is the best time of the year to install solar.
A/C Usage & Energy Efficiency in the Summer
Utility companies know the demand for energy use during the summer is high. That’s why the cost per kilowatt hour is more expensive in summer than in winter. Here are variable that may contribute to a high energy bill:
- House size
- Energy consumption
- Seasonal heavy energy loads such as A/C, pool pumps.
- Ongoing loads like EV charger usage
Generally speaking, A/C, pool pumps, and EV chargers account for the heaviest energy loads for most homes. This can lead to higher bills, since as much as half of the energy used in the home goes to heating and cooling. Paying for electricity based on usage and skimping on the amount of A/C you use can be a good money-saver, yet be extremely uncomfortable.
A better option would be to make use of solar energy. With the sun as a free, renewable fuel source, the cost of power remains the same regardless of usage, as long as your system is big enough to handle your power needs. Keeping your power costs stable will be especially important as utilities in California continue to move to a time-of-use (TOU) pricing model.
More Sun Means More Power, Right?
A solar system will generate close to 40% more power in summer compared to what it will produce in winter. Variables depend on several factors – starting with the sun’s orientation in the sky and how much sun exposure the solar panels can receive during the day. Professional installers take all of these factors into account when designing a system.
Rooftop Solar System Power Generation Factors:
- Roof shape
- Shade obstruction (from trees, chimneys, rooftop a/c units, etc.)
- Directional orientation
- Exact geographic location
- Time of year
Your professional solar installer will use this information, including data from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to provide you with an accurate estimate of your system’s power generation for decades to come.
Sun Exposure in the Bay
The Bay Area receives about 66% sunshine throughout the year. LA gets an annual average of six hours of sunlight a day, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), peaking at around six and half hours a day in August and falling to about five hours a day in February.
Solar Power Generation
What happens to solar system’s power generation when temperatures increase? One might think that the ideal conditions for solar power would be on hot, sunny days. In fact, since the solar modules contain electronics, excessive heat actually makes them operate less efficiently. However, such circumstance are more common in dry, desert climates during 100-120 degree temperatures.
Your installer can help design your system so that you continue to have ample power during the winter. If you want to ensure you’re using solar power beyond daylight hours, you might consider residential energy storage such as the Tesla Powerwall to store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining.
Solar Panel Maintenance
Solar panels need minimal maintenance to keep them operating at peak efficiency. An occasional rinse several times a year should do the trick, depending on how much debris/soiling they collect (more on when to clean your solar panels). The idea is to keep them free from leaves and anything else that would prevent them from collecting sunlight properly. As residents of The Bay, soiling will include salt spray, algae, or other filmy coatings. This is definitely about more than aesthetics: dirty panels produce anywhere from 1% to 20% less power than clean ones. Keeping panels clean and keeping an eye on your system by monitoring it year-round will help keep power generation at maximum possible efficiency.
The Best Time of Year to Install Solar
It’s important to remember there’s no wrong time to install solar. A rooftop system will maximize solar energy at a high efficiency rating year-round. However, if you want to reduce summer electric bills and produce the most solar energy possible, having your system installed and activated by May will let you generate the highest amount of energy for the calendar year.
Sources: NREL, US Climate Data, PGE