Usage Tips For Your Solar Panels

Solar panels are a significant investment and that is why you want them to last a long time. Read why cleaning solar panels is important. And is a battery for solar panels actually a good idea?

Cleaning solar panels

When solar panels get dirty, they yield less. In some Asian regions this can lead to 30% less power after just 2 months! Luckily, therefore, it usually rains our country. In this way, most of the dirt washes off solar panels by itself. Especially if they are slanted.

If you can easily reach it, it is a good idea to clean your solar panels once every few years with a sponge and lukewarm water.

Please note : in any case, do not use cleaning agents or an abrasive brush! This can damage the dirt-repellent coating of the solar panels, which will actually reduce the yield.

Sometimes more frequent cleaning may be necessary. For example if: the angle of inclination of the panels is rather small, so that dirt is not washed away as well by the rain; you live near a busy road, canal or flight path and there is a lot of soot in the air.

Industry or neighboring wood stoves can also provide this; particularly stubborn bird droppings remain on your panels; a dirty edge becomes visible at the very bottom of your panels (panels without a frame are not affected),

which means that some of the solar cells will not work as well; you can see through your monitoring system that the annual yield is clearly decreasing, while all panels are working and it was not a less sunny year.

Option: Maintenance contract

Of course you may not be able to reach the panels properly. Then don’t take any breakneck tasks: there are also companies that can do the cleaning for you. That costs a few bucks. You can also conclude a maintenance contract so that someone comes by every year to clean the panels. But in many cases this will not be necessary.

Please note that the cleaners work carefully and certainly do not lean or even walk on the panels. This can lead to invisible damage to the panels (micro-cracks) and in that case the remedy is much worse than the disease!

Insure solar panels

You do not have to insure your solar panels separately. Solar panels are covered by home insurance . It is a good idea to notify your insurer when you add solar panels to your house: after all, the rebuilding value will increase.

There are also special solar panel insurance policies.

It may be slightly different for tenants: home insurance does not cover solar panels. We advise tenants to check whether a (good) home insurance has been taken out for the home. Check this with the home owner when you ask for permission to install solar panels. If necessary, you can take out your own separate home insurance for your solar panels and any other expensive things that you have connected to the house.

Battery for solar panels

More and more home batteries are coming onto the market, with which you can store too much generated solar power to use at a later time.

Does it pay to purchase such a home battery with the solar panels? As long as the netting scheme applies, it is not financially profitable for consumers in the Netherlands to link battery storage to your solar panels. The costs of such a system currently start from a few thousand euros.

A home battery fits very well in a ‘smart home’ system. Certainly with dynamic energy tariffs, it will become increasingly attractive to feed back electricity when it is worth a lot and to get it from the grid when it is cheap. This is possible with a home battery.

You can connect a home battery  to your solar panels. That is a large battery that stores generated power that you do not need at that time. Handy, but is it also beneficial?

What is a home battery?

More and more home batteries are coming onto the market, with which you can store too much generated solar power to use at a later time. You hang such a battery on the wall or get a permanent place in a cellar or shed, for example. The format is often comparable to that of a central heating boiler. The weight too, but much heavier is possible.

The Tesla Powerwall may be the best known, but there are many other providers, such as Samsung, Enphase, SolarWatt, Varta, SMA, Iron Edison, JLM and Mercedes.

Some home batteries come with an integrated inverter, so it is best to purchase it immediately when you install solar panels. Others are connected to the existing inverter.

Does it pay to purchase such a home battery with the solar panels? As long as the netting scheme applies, it is not financially profitable for consumers in the Netherlands to link battery storage to your solar panels. The costs of such a system currently start from a few thousand euros, but don’t be surprised at € 7,000.

Change the battery

The battery is expected to last less than the solar panels themselves, so you will also have to buy a new one. The quality and degree of ‘smartness’ of the home battery (see ‘considerations’ below) do determine whether the battery will continue to function properly for 5 years or perhaps 20 years.

The prices of batteries will go down in the coming years, but as long as you can feed your generated power to the grid reasonably well, that will remain a cheaper option.

Moreover, batteries are certainly not without environmental impact, although they can be recycled well. In places where the electricity grid does not reach, such as a boat or an allotment, a small solar system with battery is useful. You can then, for example, connect a refrigerator in the summer. Keep in mind that these must be special devices that work on direct current.

Sell ​​access to your battery to an aggregator

Even if the government is phasing out the netting scheme from 2023 , the financial usefulness of a home battery is probably still questionable.

Although that could change if so-called ‘aggregators’ are introduced for consumers. An aggregator can control smart (grid-connected) devices in your home, so that power consumption, feed-in and storage relieve the electricity grid as much as possible. This is also called Demand Response Management.

The Aggregator makes money by selling this service in a ‘flexibility market’. That money can then (partly) go to consumers in exchange for their permission to, among other things, charge and discharge the home battery remotely, or to switch off the freezer or heat pump from time to time.

We observe these developments with interest, and ensure that the terms and conditions of aggregators are consumer-friendly.

Use electricity yourself

In the future, using the generated electricity directly yourself will be more preferred and financially more attractive than feeding it back to the grid. For devices that you use in the evening or at night, for example, batteries can offer a solution. For motorists, a link with an electric car and a ‘smart home’ system can become attractive.

Home batteries only help to correct the imbalance between day and night or between a sunny and a cloudy day. They are not suitable for storing large quantities of electricity generated in spring, summer or autumn in order to survive the dark winter months. The capacity of current home batteries is sufficient for at most one or a few days of electricity consumption in a household.

For really large-scale storage, to bridge the seasons, you have reservoirs, for example. But they do not fit in an average Dutch garden.

Smaller batteries can become important for balancing the electricity grid. They then help to absorb changes in the supply of sun and wind, so that fewer fossil power plants are needed. Trials are already underway whereby consumers can have a home battery at their disposal free of charge, on the condition that the network operator can remotely control the charging and discharging of the battery.

Considerations when purchasing a home battery

Would you like to buy a home battery? A few points to keep in mind when choosing:

Is the battery system modular? That is to say: can you easily expand it to a larger capacity?

How heavy (in kilos) is a battery? Several small modules offer more flexibility, are easier to move and relocate and if one breaks, you don’t have to replace your entire system.

Is the battery ‘smart’? This means that, based on, for example, weather forecasts, the current (dynamic) energy rates and the household’s user pattern, he determines when he will store electricity and when not. A ‘dumb’ battery that always starts charging immediately when more power is generated than used is more likely to break down.

Can the battery ‘retrofit’ communicate with existing inverters? Or should you buy a new inverter that best suits that specific battery?

Can the battery communicate with a ‘smart home’ system?

How about the warranty?

Does the battery offer the possibility to operate it remotely? If so, what about the security of this data connection?

Ask the supplier for the (safety) certification of the battery.