How to Keep Solar Batteries Warm and Functioning Effectively During Cold Weather in Sydney

Across Australia, there’s a solid understanding that weather conditions can impact solar installations. After all, it’s understood solar panels need sunshine to harvest energy, so the night time hours won’t see solar panels charging up like a superhero before a final battle with the villain! The same principle also applies to the winter months, where a reduction in sunshine throughout the days will diminish what the panels can harvest. For many solar panel owners, the gains they get year-round from having a solar installation – such as having no energy bill in summer and a significantly reduced one in winter – illustrates these limitations on solar are very small.

Nonetheless, taking steps to maximise the performance of a solar installation is always wise. There’s a big difference between a reduction in performance, and letting technology outright lag and underperform. That’s why when it comes to solar batteries and their performance during colder conditions, it’s essential to know how to keep them warm and functioning effectively.

Why Batteries Can Underperform During Wintery Weather

Like solar panels, solar batteries are designed to withstand tough conditions 365 days a year. Among the various types of batteries out there, there are even some Lithium options in the US that can perform in cold weather. But while Lithium batteries offer additional benefits in this area, they can also be far more expensive than the lead-acid types that have been more commonly used in years prior. In turn, regardless of whether a battery can perform in the cold, maintaining an ideal temperature can of course help achieve optimum performance.

It’s necessary to note in some respects cold conditions can actually be best for battery storage because the cool climate helps a battery hold its charge longer. But this isn’t the case when it comes to deep-cycle batteries that are charging and discharging regularly. For a regular Aussie household going about their business with a solar installation with battery storage, the latter is going to be getting an ongoing workout.

Obviously, there’s no ability to control the elements, so the only way to prevent underperformance by a solar battery vulnerable to cold weather is to recognise with clear eyes the challenge winter brings. In turn, to then take steps to minimise the impact of chilly conditions on a solar battery.

Warming to the Idea

There are many ways to protect a solar battery from the cold depending on the battery and particulars of conditions in a local area. But there are common principles found in use from one locale to another that can serve as a blueprint.

1. First, it’s important to consult with a trusted professional regarding the particulars of your solar battery, where it’s currently installed, and how it could be shielded from wintery weather.

2. Second, to recognise numerous options could be available depending on these factors.

3. Third, that depending on the change in environmental conditions from one season to the next it may be necessary to adjust a battery storage structure a little now and then. Once again, we can advise on this too.
Yet as an example of the potential solutions on offer, the best remedy can often be the storage of a solar battery with insulation, within an enclosure. An insulated box that fits a battery’s characteristics can allow for temperature regulation, wherever a battery is ultimately located on a property. Ideally, it may be an insulated box that is easy to remove, so if the need arises once warmer months roll around, the box can be taken off.

Regular Maintenance for Reliable Outcomes

It’s certainly important to see a solar battery stays warm and continues to operate effectively during winter. But it’s useful to keep in mind that while maintaining a solar battery is indeed a key element of keeping a solar installation in good working order year-round, it’s not the only one. In fact, there’s a number of steps that should be pencilled in to-do throughout the calendar year to see a solar installation’s performance is at optimum. For example, checking an inverter is working, and getting the panels cleaned.

Staying Power in Winter

Solar panel installations are terrific pieces of tech, but they’re also not static. Unquestionably, getting the actual installation done of a rooftop solar system is the biggest step in the process – and choosing to work with a quality solar installer makes this step much easier. But ongoing upkeep will be necessary following the installation to get the most out of the system. Keeping batteries warm during winter is an essential part of this for installations that make use of battery storage.

Understanding how batteries perform during different seasons is the first step in this process. Then consulting with a trusted professional regarding what solutions will be available follows (keeping in mind enclosing a battery in an insulated container is often the best option). Finally, it’s wise to be mindful slight adjustments may need to be made to a battery storage process in future when changes in seasonal weather occur. But this notwithstanding, usually once a battery storage structure is in place it should be able to serve the system well from one year to the next with little hassle. That’s surely a solution to winter woes we can feel charged up about!

We provide expert advice and consultations on solar power solutions in Sydney for commercial and residential properties. If you are interested in installing solar, contact Soltek Energy for a quote.

The Smart Way to Maximise Use of Your Home Solar Installation in Sydney

There’s no doubt the 2020s will see immense growth in both smart home and solar technology. Australians with a smart home have the ability to use a more affordable and enjoyable property each and every day. For Australians with a solar installation there’s the chance to harness an effectively unlimited natural resource.

With a smart home and solar combo, Australians can have the best of both worlds. Especially because having a smart home does not mean by default, that you need to have an array of gizmos and cutting-edge tech at your disposal. Instead, having a smart home and solar combo is about bringing together the best possible resources in your property, and making any improvements where you can.

Aussies who do this can build a powerful plan for the future of their home. It’s essential to understand the value in starting to make this shift now. 

Tapping into Unlimited Energy

It’s no secret that the cost of installing solar is something you should think carefully about. Not dissimilar to other countries, Australia right now has an abundance of solar installers offering rooftop systems at absolutely rock bottom prices – but this isn’t a good thing. The old adage ‘the least expensive and the most expensive product are rarely good value’ rings true.

But while doing research and thinking carefully about which solar setup is best for you is certainly wise – a poor quality installation may fail to perform properly and even be a safety risk – it’s also essential to understand the immense value a quality rooftop solar installation can provide your household by reducing power bills. Indeed, it’s no understatement to say a quality solar installation can be revolutionary for the average Aussie home in all the benefits it offers. A solar battery is also a very worthwhile consideration in this mix. An investment in home battery technology can save you money, reduce your reliance on the grid and provide peace-of-mind in the event of an outage or blackout.

Solar panels will harvest energy, the inverter will convert it into usable energy for the home, and in solar installations with a battery present excess energy can be stored. As well as the eco-friendly benefits of a solar installation generally, one with a battery can provide an additional level of energy security to the home. In the case of a blackout, it’s possible for a home to make use of the energy stored in a battery when power is not available from the local grid.

View our range of micro inverters here.

If unable to commit to a rooftop solar installation right now, but looking to make a small but significant change in the home? It can be done by simply swapping in some LED lights. In comparison to halogen bulbs, LED lights use around 75% less energy. This can amount to the savings of hundreds of dollars per year. 

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) can be a massive expense on the household budget. In fact, according to the Australian government it can account for up to 50% of energy used in Australian homes. Of course there are sensible steps all of us can take to help drive down these costs. Good habits such as turning off heating and cooling units when not in use, and buying thermals or wearing an additional layer of clothes in winter are key examples of this. But technology also has a role to play here.

A reverse cycle split system air conditioner is the most energy efficient electric heater. Not only do they outpace the competition in their own class, but they can also be cheaper to run than the old and familiar gas heater. They already provide affordable heating in winter and cooling in summer, and when combined with a solar installation their cost of operation drops further still. Furthermore, data by the Australia Bureau of Statistics has shown up to 45% can be saved on heating and cooling energy consumption when roof and ceiling insulation is present. Insulation can help keep a home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. 

Solar and Water Efficiency

The effective combination of solar and water is essential to getting the most out of a smart home and solar combo. Similar to what a traditional water tank looks like, a solar hot water unit may be ground-mounted and still derive the benefits of a rooftop solar installation. A solar hot water system can store any excess energy a solar installation has, and – instead of it getting sent back to the grid – see it put to use in heating the water necessary for daily activities in the home.

Alongside solar hot water systems, heat pumps can serve a similar purpose as an alternative. Their method of operation is different – as a heat pump can achieve its aim via the harvesting of energy from the surrounding air which is then transferred internally for use to heat the water – but a heat pump can be ideal for homes where structural challenges such as limited space may prohibit a solar hot water system from being set up. You can view our range of recommended heat pumps here.

A Wise Move with Windows

Many Aussies looking outside a window in their home for a smart upgrade to make really don’t need to look far. In fact, windows themselves can form a key part of a smart home and solar strategy. By getting window glazing done the cooling and heating capabilities of a home can be enhanced. Whether double glazing or triple glazing, this process can help keep heat in the home during winter, and see a significant reduction in the cost of heating bills once they’re in place. Window blinds – aka roller shutters – are also a good option in this area.

Similarly, external awnings and shadings that encircle the house can help keep the home cooler in summer, reducing the need to use air conditioning and fans. Ideally, any addition to the home’s structure like shadings – or any new home build! – will be done mindful of the optimal home orientation. In the Southern Hemisphere, north-facing homes will receive more exposure to the sun than any other facing. Where possible, factoring in this geography will always yield the best results for a smart home and solar combo. 

However, for any Aussie home presently not in a position to pursue a big piece of work like a glazing treatment or shading installation, you can still make a smart upgrade quite easily.  Installing heavy curtains can help reduce heat loss in winter, and keep the home cooler in summer.

Making Smart Work of the Yard

Utilising a smart home and solar combo effectively isn’t just about what goes on inside the four walls of the home.

For anyone that’s a real green thumb and happiest starting their smart home journey outside the home, landscaping and vertical gardens can be a terrific way to make the property more eco-friendly and drive down energy costs. Examples of this are planting trees in the garden that can cast additional shade over the home in summer helping keep it cool, and the creation of a green wall along the home’s walls that creates an extra layer of insulation.

Rainwater tanks are also a tremendous way to enhance your yard’s eco-friendly nature, while reducing water costs. As well as the big and traditional bulky tanks, a number of thin tanks are also available on the market for any home that requires a unit with a slim profile. And speaking of water, for any Aussie looking to trim down operating costs on the family pool the installation of a pool heater can be especially helpful. These devices can have a similar upfront cost to other options like a gas pool heater, but also have very low annual operating costs. At Soltek we can also help you get the most out of your pool. You can view our swimming pool heat pumps here.

For those who may not have the funds or space at present to insert some big new additions to their yard, putting out a few buckets in the rain can be an affordable and easy way to take a smart approach to water use. Sure a few buckets won’t catch as much as a tank, but it all adds up. The rain water can be used in days following for watering the garden, outdoor cleaning, and similar tasks.

The Importance of Stargazing

There’s always lots to consider when buying home appliances. The ideal cost, style, and features will vary from one product to the next depending on the particular needs of a home. Yet what all buyers will find in common is the benefit they can gain from seeking out electrical appliances with high energy efficiency ratings. The more stars an appliance has, the more energy efficient it is. Choosing an energy efficient appliance can really be a smart move, given it can result in a lot of money saved in the long run due to reduced energy consumption in daily use.

If your current devices are not very energy-friendly and you’re not in the market for some new appliances right now, there’s still ways to reduce your consumption. Alongside building the habit of switching appliances off when not using them, you can optimise their use by understanding what techniques save power. For example, by filling a fridge sufficiently.

When a fridge is only partially filled it expends a lot of energy replacing the cold air that leaves every time someone opens the door. While you should steer clear of overfiling, keeping the fridge around two-thirds full can help minimise its operating costs as less cool air will escape each time the door opens.

Similarly, always using a washing machine on a full load is best. Common sense applies here – as you also want to avoid overfilling this machine too! – but unless your machine has a special sensor where it can detect you’re running less than a full load, always fill it to capacity. Also, washing on cold water can drive down costs, and so too unplugging the machine when not in use (many machines have a standby mode so they continue to use energy even when not operating).

A Fantastic Way to Future-Proof Your Home

Operating a smart home with power drawn from a rooftop solar installation feels very futuristic – and that’s because it is! But although the smart home and solar combo is in one respect on the absolute cutting-edge, it’s also set to become the ‘new normal’ in years ahead. This is because of the clear-cut advantages it can provide a household in dealing with emerging challenges.

By building a smart home and solar combo and utilising associated apps and online channels, it’s possible to monitor your home’s consumption over time and identify where further optimisations can be made, and inefficiencies reduced. This is a great way to counter the trend of rising cost of living, and do it all from the comfort of your own home with smart tech and data as your tools.

Being Smart About It

Building a smart home and solar combo is an outstanding way for an Aussie household to optimise their daily lives, and reduce cost of living expenses. This alongside the great contribution eco-friendly smart home products in combination with a solar installation makes to drive Australia towards a cleaner and greener future.

For any household that right now has the opportunity to begin building (or adding) to their own smart home and solar combo, there’s never been a better time to do so. Contact Soltek Energy today to take advantage of the opportunities on offer that a smart home and solar combo provides immediately, while also utilising it to drive down living costs as they rise elsewhere in future. 

7 Solar Installation Checks You Can Start Today

The day your solar installation is switched on for the first time can be very exciting – but it is  important that day one isn’t the last time you’ve got your solar installation, front of mind. This is because the failure to complete regular checks can not only lead to a drop in proper performance of the installation but even pose a safety risk. For anyone with a solar installation there’s 7 questions you should ask yourself today to help ensure its ongoing efficiency and safety.

1. Is My Inverter Working Properly?

Commonly, an inverter will display a green light and a screen with a reading of various values. But if your inverter is displaying a red light – or perhaps no lights at all – it could be a sign there’s a problem. It’s always best to refer to your inverter’s manual to confirm what lights correspond to what operating state, as different lights can mean different things on varying models. Yet as a general rule – like traffic lights – if the light isn’t green it’s necessary to stop and take notice. The same applies to the display screen, if no information is showing up it’s usually an indication the inverter isn’t working properly.

2. When Was the Last Time My Installation Was Inspected?

When a solar installation is done with quality parts by a quality installer, then statistically speaking solar panels are very safe. But it’s important to understand that it’s necessary to ensure they’re inspected regularly. The reality is, the daily exposure to the outdoors that solar installations face can give rise to issues such as corrosion, water damage, animals interfering with wiring, and so on. Every installation and its surrounding environment is different – so it’s necessary to check in with a trusted electrician regarding how often precisely an inspection is recommended – but as a guide, getting an inspection once every 12-18 months is common.

3. When Was the Last Clean?

Just the same as an inspection, it’s also recommended a solar installation gets a regular clean. Environmental conditions and other factors will inform how often this should be – so check with a trusted cleaner – but getting one done every 12 months is a common timeline.

4. Has There Been a Change in the Environment Around the Solar Installation?

Solar installations work best when they have an uninterrupted view of the sky. When anything intrudes upon that view it can diminish the effectiveness of the installation. There are some obvious changes that you may recognise could have an impact. For example, if your neighbour recently decided to convert his single storey home into a 3 storey structure, and the upper levels are now shading your installation during the day. Other obstructions such as growing trees may be less immediately obvious but are still able to diminish the production of solar power if causing shading on the panels from one day to the next.

5. If There’s Been a Change, Is It Wise to Relocate the Panels?

If there’s now an obstruction to the clear line of sight to the sky your solar installation had prior it will be necessary to address it in order to restore the installation to its maximum capacity. If it’s a simple obstruction – like cutting down a branch on the aforementioned tree – then there will not be a need to relocate the solar panels. But if the obstruction will be ongoing – such as the new storeys on your neighbour’s home – then relocating the affected panels to another part of your roof should be considered. Acknowledging that taking this step may feel a little frustrating (if the cause of the obstruction is out of your hands), the good news is relocation jobs like this are usually pretty straightforward (provided relocating panels on another part of the roof is doable).

6. Am I Getting the Best Feed-in Tariff?

Not all energy providers are made equal. Across Australia, some offer better rates for a feed-in tariff than others. It’s important to check your local market – you may ultimately find there isn’t that much difference (if any at all) between the best value rate on the market and your current one – but certainly, it’s worth checking out. Not only once but regularly, in case prices change.

7. How else can I reduce my reliance on the Grid?

Every solar installation is different. So too, is every solar owner’s personal circumstances. Ultimately the question of how, what, where I can reduce my grid reliance depends on your use of power, when you use it etc. That said, consideration can be given to reduce your reliance on the grid by looking at a home battery. For a high energy user particularly at night when solar production is down, investment in a battery will certainly provide positive outcomes. Battery technology continues to improve and provides peace-of-mind (with back-up) when black-outs occur. Secondly, yet just as important as the former, is consideration of an investment in heat pump technology for your hot water system. The difference with hot water is that every home has the need for and use of hot water. Benefits will ultimately be determined by how and when you use your hot water (and how many occupants) although, most homeowners can attest to hot water use being 30-40% of their electricity bill (if electrical hot water) and the economical benefits of heat pump technology can literally save you thousands – with a far lesser investment than a battery. Depending on how and when you consume electricity consideration and your personal situation and circumstances, both of these options will change and improve your reliance on the Grid.

Regular Maintenance Will Provide Optimum Solar Performance

A rooftop solar system can help you cut down energy bills today, and insulate you against any rising cost of energy in the future. Rooftop solar installations are also fascinating and fantastic pieces of tech, and each one helps contribute to a cleaner and greener future. In order to be at their best, we have to be at our best when it comes to doing regular checks on them. Regularly reviewing these questions here will help you to get the most out of a well-maintained solar installation from one year to the next.

If you have any questions about solar panel efficiency, please contact Soltek Energy today.