More people are turning to solar energy. This has led to an increase in the number of individuals that now own a home solar power system. However, a significant percentage of these systems are failing to meet the expectations of homeowners. As a result, many are losing faith in solar power despite its potential, forcing them to rely on the costly power from the grid.
The poor performance of residential solar systems is linked to common issues in the design, utilization, and maintenance of the system.
The common practices that result in an inefficient system are poor design, overloading, and lack of maintenance. Depending on the issue, the person at fault can be the technician/ firm responsible for installing the system or the end-user.
Poor Home Solar Power System Design
Poor system design is the main reason why most solar power systems in Kenya, Africa, and across the world are failing.
Depending on the type of residential solar power system, the problem can be caused by a failure to calculate power demand and the wrong sizing of:
- PV modules
- Charge controllers
- Storage batteries
How do the factors affect the performance of a system?
A mistake in calculating the load demands make it impossible to determine the rating of solar components to be installed.
Poor sizing of PV modules results in the system being unable to generate sufficient power during the day.
Choosing the wrong charger controller makes it difficult for a system to charge the batteries to full capacity. This applies to solar power systems with battery storage.
Poor sizing of storage batteries results in a system been unable to store enough energy for use during the night and in cloudy days.
Failing to pick the right inverter leads to inefficiencies during the conversion of DC electricity into AC.
Choosing the wrong size of cables results in loss of power between the components, which then affects the output of the whole system.
How can you ensure the system is designed properly?
It is the responsibility of a solar technician or solar company you contract to ensure the solar home system is designed accurately. Thus, if you are planning on going solar, ensure you hire competent solar technicians or a firm with a good reputation.
If you already have a system in place that is inefficient, call solar experts. They will identify the problem, with the load demand in mind, and then make the necessary improvements. This will ensure there is proper sizing of components, and consequently, a system that meets your
Overloading a Home Solar Power System
Overload can be the reason why your system is inefficient. Overloading, in this case, means using the solar system to power devices that were not considered at the design stage.
For example, the system could have been designed to light the house, power a TV, and to charge phones. However, you now use the system to run additional appliances such as a refrigerator, cooker, or water heater.
The extra loads are a burden to the system. This means that the already installed PV modules, charge controller, battery, and inverter are unable to handle the extra power demand.
How can you prevent overloading of the home solar power system
You can avoid the issue by making sure you only power devices that were used to estimate the total energy requirement during the design phase. If you have added some more appliances that you want to run using solar energy, then expand the system. Alternatively, you can consider installing a separate system to provide extra power.
Lack of Maintenance
Solar power systems should be checked regularly to ensure that each component is functioning as required. Why is this important?
Failing to check PV modules can result in dust, bird droppings, and leaves, among other unwanted materials settling on top of the panel. This causes shading of solar cells, which then reduces the amount of electricity generated by the panel during the day.
Failure to check the storage bank regularly can cause serious problems that will affect their performance and that of the whole system. It can result in a low electrolyte level, sulfation, and stratification, which affects how the battery charges and discharges. For example, the batteries might fail to charge to the fullest on a sunny day. This will then limit the quantity of stored energy that is available for use during the night.
Charger controllers and inverters also need to be checked to ensure that the connections are still intact. This is necessary because loose terminations result in power losses at the terminals due to arching, thereby affecting the output of the whole system.
So, consider carrying out maintenance works the next time you realize your solar system has become inefficient. It will allow for the identification of issues that might be affecting the performance of the system and for the necessary improvements to be made.
Why you should hire an expert to carry out maintenance
The good thing about the maintenance of a solar home system is that it is less costly. Also, in most cases, it only takes a few minutes. However, make sure you hire an expert to carry out the work since they know where to look and what should be done. If you are not qualified, doing maintenance can result in accidents such as falling and electrocution.
Poor system design, overloading, and lack of maintenance could be the reasons why your home solar power system is inefficient. You should, therefore, have the system checked and the necessary improvements made.
Poor system design can be solved by hiring professionals to size solar components with your energy demand in mind. Overload can be avoided by ensuring the system only powers appliances that were considered during the design stage. The problem of maintenance can be addressed by checking the status of solar components regularly.
Observing the acceptable practices will ensure that you have an efficient system that meets all your energy demands. You can then forget about the expensive power from the grid, and might even start selling extra units to utilities.