Reasons to Invest in Solar During Winter Months

Your air conditioner has been off for a few months.  Your utility bills have started to come down again from the summer highs.  So you’re not getting roasted with $200 electricity bills for the time being.   The weather report calls for snow and summer heat warnings are replaced with snow reports.   Solar may not be at the forefront of your mind.  But in actuality, this is a GREAT time to keep your solar project plans on track. Hard to fathom, but read on!

Here are our reasons why winter is actually a great time to execute your solar project plans.

Reason Number 1

[pullquote]Cooler weather is a friend of solar panels as they become more efficient in turning sunshine into electricity[/pullquote]

Believe it or not, winter is a really great time for solar electricity production. The days may be shorter, but cooler weather is a friend of solar panels as they become more efficient in turning sunshine into electricity.  Not to bore you with too much discussion of ohms, but colder weather means less resistance in your solar panels, which are, after all, semiconductors.   Bright, sunny, cold days produce the most energy per hour.  Overall, the production is less in winter months just because the days are shorter.

A big misconception is that solar works best on hot summer days. Heat is the enemy of solar production. As solar panels get hotter, they will produce less power from the same amount of sunlight. An explanation by Clean Energy Authority, “as temperature in a conduction material increases, photons are excited and move throughout the material, impeding the uniform movement of electrons. This impedance is what reduces efficiency in PVs when it gets too hot.” The longer days of summer are what make up for this impact.

Reason Number 2

Rising utility rates combined with lower equipment and installation costs makes solar a great investment for your home. A typical assumption in our return on investment calculation is an annual rate increase from the utility of 5%. Rate-paying customers who pay on average over $100 per month should be looking at solar for their home as a good investment.  If you are a higher-use customer, your annual rate of increase may be as high at 10%! See this graph which is the actual annual rate increases we analyzed from a customer who came to Affordable Solar and who was curious about what rates of increase they actually had in recent years.

Infographic discussing PNM electricity rates

So you may be wondering why the timing of the project would matter as far as the financial performance of the system.   Without getting too complicated here, this is essentially what that is:   “Net metering” is the ability for a utility customer to get credit for the energy they produce when they are not using it.  Your meter literally goes backwards when your production in a given moment exceeds your usage.  You are “loaning” the electricity to the utility who then sells the electricity to another grid user.  When your production drops (in the evening, for example), but your usage increases, your meter spins forward again allowing you to use the kilowatt hours you banked during excess production periods.  This gives each kilowatt hour the value of retail electricity rates.   Keep in mind that this will reduce your most expensive energy first.   Assuming the utility keeps getting rate increases at 6-10% a year (depending on your usage level), the value of your system will increase each year.

[pullquote]February, March, April, and May are some of the best production months of the year, so installing Solar in the winter is the best time to get started.[/pullquote]

What is important to keep in mind, however, is that the ability to “bank” energy carries over from month to month for most residential systems (below 10kw AC in size).   If you contact for a system now, it will likely be installed in January or February of 2014. February, March, April, and May are some of the best production months of the year. So this helps you build up a “bank” of stored energy in those months, which will be applied to those hot summer months when the AC comes back on and you start using the most energy of any period during the year. That’s why installing it in the winter is the best time to get started.

Reason Number 3

Solar power is on the real estate radar. New construction planning periods are 6 to 8 months, so planning for solar now will get you those energy savings in your new home starting on the very day you move in. A solar system can give your home that edge while saving you money each month.  A home with solar going onto the market will stand out from the competition because of the utility savings, and home buyers notice more energy efficient elements. And adding solar to new construction allows you to wrap the system cost into the mortgage. Including panels during construction is about 20% cheaper than after a house is built.

The bottom line is solar is a now more than ever, a great investment for your home. Solar is not just for the wealthy, flax seed consuming homeowner of the previous decade.

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