Solar panels are very strong and durable products They hardly need maintenance. In addition, they have a useful life of 25 years or more, depending on the use and maintenance that is given to them. Solar panels are the order of the day and are increasingly used. Now, despite the fact that they do not usually generate any type of problem, sometimes a small break due to the fall of a branch, as well as a bad installation can make the solar panels not work properly —and they are not generating how much power they should.
How to know if a solar panel is working correctly
For this reason, in this article we explain some tips thanks to which you will be able to quickly know if the operation of your solar panels is correct or not. Keep reading this article to learn how a photovoltaic solar panel works correctly.
How does a photovoltaic solar panel work?
Before fully explaining whether the solar panels work properly, it is important that we are clear about how they work on a regular basis. Without going into too much detail, you should know that solar panels work by allowing light particles —also known as photons— to hit the free electrons of atoms of the materials with which they have been made —usually with two cells, or layers, silicon doped with positive and negative charges—. These generate an electric field thanks to phosphorus —in the upper layer— and boron —in the lower layer—. In this way the components of the cell and the different charges cause usable energy to be generated when photons of light collide with them.
Check the operation of solar panels
To check how a photovoltaic solar panel works, there are two simple steps that can help you find out. It is recommended that you do it before carrying out the photovoltaic solar installation. These are:
- Read the specifications of solar panel manufacturers: Look at the output power, single voltage and optimal current.
- Use a multimeter to take measurements: These devices are used to measure voltage and current values. They can be used both in direct current and alternating current, also to measure resistance. The values we obtain must be very similar to the manufacturer’s specifications. Otherwise, the module may be faulty.
How to take measurements with the multimeter
When making measurements with the multimeter to verify that the values of the solar panel are the same as those specified by the manufacturer, it is convenient that you take into account some aspects:
- Orient the plate towards the sun: Make sure the solar panel has been properly oriented towards the sun so that it can produce usable energy. In general, the orientation is usually towards the geographic south. You can use a compass to do it. The inclination usually varies depending on the region and the season of the year —summer or winter—. In general, this is usually from 20 to 40 degrees in Spain.
- Connect the leads of the multimeter to the terminals of the solar panel: The leads must be connected to the terminals. The red lead of the multimeter is placed on the positive (+) terminal and the black lead of the multimeter is placed on the negative (-) terminal.
- Plug the wires into the multimeter: Of course, the multimeter leads must also be connected properly. To do this, connect the red wire to the terminal with the VΩ symbol and the black wire to the terminal with the COM symbol. In this way we can measure the voltage.
- Set the selector to DC: To measure the direct current, the one generated in the solar panels, you will have to place the selector on the direct current symbol (this is shaped like a “V” and above it there are two symbols in ascending order “- – -” Y “-“).
- View the results: Finally, view the results on the multimeter screen to verify that the results are similar to those that appear in the specifications of this device.
You must bear in mind that the characteristics shown in the technical sheets of the panels are calculated under laboratory conditions, so when taking the measurements at home it is possible that these are slightly lower, which does not mean that the operation of solar panels is not suitable. The radiation they are receiving can influence, as well as the dirt they have, the angle of inclination…
Components of a photovoltaic solar installation
We have just seen how a photovoltaic solar panel works, however, you must bear in mind that this is only one part of the whole. A solar installation has other elements that are just as important and that can also interfere with the final operation —in case we detect some faults—. These are: solar panels, batteries, charge controllers and solar inverters. If after verifying that the operation of the solar panel does not present any problem, it is advisable to check the solar regulator, as well as use an inverter tester to rule out faults. You will also have to measure the battery values and check that the installation is done properly and that all the cables are well connected to each other.