Why would you mount solar panels flat on the side of your power shed? I get asked this question from time to time when someone unfamiliar with, or just getting started with their solar power project sees a picture of my solar shed (pictured above). I do explain this in my book Going Off The Grid, but with a recent snow storm the above picture will make more sense than just reading about it.
Where this technique becomes incredibly important is when you do not plan to live in your off grid property during the winter months. It is not as important when living in your off grid house all year, but I would still recommend doing this just in case you travel during the winter months or go on vacation during this time frame. Here is why – as you can see from the picture above, even though all my other solar panels are covered in snow, the ones mounted flat are still fully exposed. This is after two straight days of snow and below freezing temperatures. Sure you could get on a ladder and risk injury to clean them off, but panels are cheap these days, hospital bills are not.
Your storage batteries can actually freeze if not in a state of full charge during an extended period of time when temperature dip below freezing. Storage batteries for your solar system are pretty darn expensive, so trust me not getting full utilization of two panels mounted flat on the side of your power shed is far cheaper than having to replace damaged batteries. Matter of fact, those two side mounted solar panels were the first ones I installed well before the house was completed. My system has now been through several winters and having these two panels mounted this way keeps my batteries fully charged while I’m away.
One last piece of advice, when it comes to your solar system and being gone for long periods of time is to turn your inverter off (if you don’t have anything critical that needs power) and flip the breaker switches off on about three-quarters of your solar panels. I also turn down the charge rate in my battery charge controller. This helps assure you will not have an electrical accident, such as electrical fire in your off grid house (no power to house when inverter is turned off) and saves wear and tear on your system when you are not around.
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