Solar Maintenance Blog

Is Your Solar Installation Producing Less During the Pandemic? Here’s Why It Might Appear So

April 1, 2021

If you suspect your solar installation isn't working properly or that it's producing less energy since the pandemic began, you might be right. 

In many cases, your solar could be producing less energy due to the panels themselves not working or an inverter that requires repair, however it could appear to be producing less energy for other reasons. 

Since the worldwide pandemic and enforced lockdowns, people have been at home for longer periods of time than usual. People are cooking at home more and finding other sources of electronic entertainment.

If you're working from home or your family has been spending more time at home, your energy demands are heavier. 

Let's take a closer look at what could be causing your utility bills to be higher during the pandemic, and what you can do to fix it. 

How can I tell if my solar power system isn’t working properly?

If you think your system isn’t working to its full potential, take a look at your energy consumption during your last utility billing period. Then compare it to the same period as last year and the year before.

You can find this information on your electricity bill. If the bill is higher than usual, without you changing how much energy you use, then there might be an issue with your system.

This could be your solar inverter not working properly, or it could be something else entirely. 

How to tell if your solar inverter is not working 

If your inverter display or monitoring portal shows your system is generating what is predicted, then the issue you have might not be with your panels, but with the electricity rate. Your rate might have increased, and you should take this up with your electricity company. 

However, if you are generating less energy than what is predicted, then your system might be able to tell you exactly what's wrong. Most inverters have indicator lights to let you know when they're functioning well. 

  • If your solar inverter's light is green and isn't blinking, then it's in working condition. 
  • If the light is yellow, red or blinking, you may have a problem. Make sure your inverter is working correctly by calling us at (866) 737-2328 for a free diagnostic phone call.

The two reasons your solar power system might not be working to your expectations during the pandemic

1. You’re Home More

Being at home more due to the pandemic will cause you to use more power, especially if you're working from home and you have children learning remotely.

Using your computer daily can consume quite a lot of energy, and if your children are using the TV or their own computers at the same time, then you'll be consuming twice as much if not more energy. 

Since many restaurants have been closed, you've probably also been cooking more. The oven, microwave, and even the toaster’s energy demands can add up fast when used daily. 

2. Your System is Dirty or Obstructed 

If you're living in California or other areas that experienced extreme weather events, then your panels might be obstructed from more than just the shade of the trees. The ash from the last summer’s fires added a layer of soot on top of many solar panels. This soot caused performance issues and people are starting to notice that their bills jumped. Some other common obstructions include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Debris

These can all build up over time and prevent sunlight from hitting your solar panels. 

How do you wash solar modules?

Proceed at your own risk – the advice below is a guideline.  

  • Always use 3 points of contact when on the ladder  
  • Be cognizant that you will have tripping hazards – hose, pole, conduit – be extra cautious  
  • Do not step on the ridge cap (peak) of roof
  • Step cautiously, lift your feet when stepping – do not pivot as this grinds off the asphalt on the shingles  
  • Do not step on your modules, ever  
  • Wash modules with only water when the glass is cool to the touch  
  • Only use dish soap for hard to remove substances (like sap)  
  • Do not use anything abrasive as scratches on the glass will cause shading
Solar Panel Cleaning Cloth | Stable Solar

Use a soft cloth attachment on a telescoping pole; see the photo of the attachment I bought from Home Depot  

If you want to remove leaves from under the array, NEVER shoot water up the roof as the shingles are not designed to withstand water from this direction.  Pouring water from the top-down is better.  Do not use high pressure as you can dislodge electrical connectors.  I don’t recommend this action, however, if you decide to do it, be extra gentle and careful. A leaf blower would be a better tool to remove leaves, if you have access to one.

Scan your installation for obstructions under the panels too. Squirrels, birds, and other pests can damage your solar system's components. This can lead to lower energy production and could be the cause of your low-energy output. Pest guards can be installed to prevent this damage, if you think this might be an issue give us a call at (866) 737-2328 and we can tell you how to add pest guards to your solar installation.

What to do if your solar panels aren’t producing enough energy

The first thing you should do if your solar panels aren't producing enough energy is check your energy bill. You can also check your tier structure and call your energy company for more information. 

Rule out any billing changes from your electricity provider before looking into other, more complex issues. 

If you're using more power than before the pandemic, less energy is being sent back to the utility providers. Because of this, you may not be getting your usual energy rebates.

Additionally, you might even be paying more for the extra energy needed from the grid. If you're using more energy than your system is creating because you’re home more now, you'll have a higher bill. 

If you've confirmed that your panels aren’t obstructed, and being at home more isn’t causing the change in energy levels, contact us directly using our contact form or call us today at (866) 737-2328.

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