FAQ: Solar Water Heater Efficiency: Will it Work During Winter Season?

November 12, 2018

There’s less ambient heat in the Winter, so solar water heating systems must work less efficiently, right? The answer to that question isn’t quite as clearcut as you’d expect. To clarify the issue, this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions list) will address the matter. Starting with solar panel efficiency, let’s open up this Q&A session.

Are Solar Panels Less Efficient? 

Right from the off, you’re wondering if your roof-mounted solar panels are going to work well during the cooler months. Since the cold temperature does not affect the radiated sun’s rays, solar water heater efficiency does not drop significantly when the ambient temperature cools.

Does Winter Weather Impact Solar Water Heating? 

Contingent upon where you reside, cold air can leech thermal energy right out of the panel tubing. If the system utilizes a poorly installed insulation coating, this effect increases significantly. Always employ externally mounted components that are coated in advanced insulation solutions.

Is The Water Going To Freeze? 

Icy build-ups are a worry. The pipes freeze, they rupture, and an obligatory emergency repair service is imperative. To counteract this seasonal blockage, Propylene Glycol is added to the water. The fluid compound functions as an antifreeze, an additive that’ll keep the solar water heater functioning at its efficient best.

Maybe You Should Clear Roof Snow?

Don’t take the chance. Working at height, on an inclined roof, this slippery work is best left to the experts. Let your backup heater take over until the snow melts. Do NOT climb on the roof. Happily, many low-profile solar panel types easily shed light-obscuring snow blankets.

What Are Cautionary Measures? 

Although the water will keep right on heating up as long as the sun shines, that sunny winter sky isn’t going to last forever. When a crisp winter morning clouds over, a blizzard is probably about to move in and darken the sky. Precautionary measures are necessary at this point, with backup batteries and conventional water heater systems taking over from the suddenly darkened sun.

Granted, there are fewer hours of daylight available, even when the day is crisp and bright. The sun rides low on the horizon, and it’ll set before dinnertime arrives. Far from the equator, solar water heating efficiency is maintained by pulling off a carefully executed balancing act. When the snow falls and obscures the panels, specially designed low-profile units melt and shed the icy blanket. If the snow doesn’t slide, antifreeze stops the water from freezing while the backup water heater takes over. Incidentally, solar water heater efficiency can actually increase when a thick blanket of snow lays on the ground because snow acts as a radiant light reflection mechanism.

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