The holiday season is a wonderful time of year full of food, presents and twinkling lights. It is also a time of year when the sun sets sooner, snow is falling, and temperatures drop. All of this adds up to a surge in energy use as lights go on sooner and the heaters come on. For those using solar energy, the winter weather provides some unique challenges as the sun is available for fewer hours and build-up from snow and ice can affect your solar panels. So, whether you have already invested in solar or are interested in going solar this holiday season, here are some tips to remember.
1. Solar Panels Do Work in Winter: First, let’s overcome the misconception that solar panels do not work during the winter months. The reality is the cool weather helps the panels to work more efficiently because it keeps them from becoming overheated. In addition, the sun can still charge a panel even if there is cloud cover, so no need to worry about those cloudy, winter days.
2. Keep the Panels Clear of Snow and Ice: In order for your panels to continue to work effectively, it is important to keep them clear of snow and ice. After a storm, or about once a month, clear your panels of any build up. One way to do this is to cover the panels with a tarp before a storm and then simply remove the tarp once the storm is over. You can also use a roof rake to remove snow or hire a professional that keeps your roof and walks clear of snow and ice.
3. Use the Sun Naturally: If you don’t have solar panels, there are still ways to gain benefits from the sun during the winter. Try keeping the shades and curtains open throughout the day on the south side of the house so the sun can help to heat the home. Using heavy drapes throughout the rest of the home will also help to keep that extra heat inside.
4. Use Solar Christmas Lights: Solar Christmas lights are sold just like regular lights, but there are some special considerations when setting them up. First of all, they will, of course, need access to sunlight. Be sure to place the solar panel in an area that gets the most sunlight throughout the day. Most strands will be connected to a panel on a stake that is easy to maneuver, but occasionally the panel will be incorporated into the decoration. In the later case, the decoration will need to be placed in a sunny area. Also bear in mind that if you want to see what the lights will look like as you set them up, you will want to charge them throughout the day and then set them up at dusk.
5. Connect with Home Automation: If you don’t use enough solar energy to completely power your home, using home automation to control your energy usage can help you to still lower your energy costs. By using a smart thermostat to lower your home’s temperature while you are away and raise it when you are on your way home, you can significantly lower your energy bill. Shades that automatically raise during the day will also help you benefit from the warmth of sunlight without having to remember to do it yourself.