Increasing Efficiency of Panels

Adrienne SorensenOctober 2, 20188000

Increasing Efficiency of Panels

Panel efficiency is the measurement to receive the available electricity solar panels can absorb from a ray of sunlight. To better understand this, I’ll first how solar panels operate.



The sun creates radiation that travels that we see as light. These waves travel in several wavelengths ranging in size. Solar panels absorb waves between 380 and 750 nanometres, in the spectrum of red to violet light. That totals to about 7% of total light. When the light hits your solar panels, the electric field scatters electrons from with the radiation.


These electrons are trapped between the layers in the solar cell and placed into the conductors that make electric current. This process when there’s light on cells. Panels are rated with an efficiency rating between 11 and 21%. It measures how much of the 7% of total light that the solar cell can change into electricity.


For example, a 21% efficiency panel gets almost twice the renewable energy over its lifetime than an 11% efficiency panel. Most are rated by their optimal output. A high efficiency solar panel makes more energy in a smaller or same-size package.


Evaluating Panels

Temperature: Solar panels lose efficiency at high temperatures since the heat affects the conductors and wiring. You can estimate the inside of your solar panels is twice the temperature of the air since the glass over the silicon works to increase the heat.


Most solar panels compensate for this, because they’ve usually been tested in conditions that don’t expose them to the maximum amount of sunlight. So, if it’s 30 degrees and very sunny, you could be harvesting more wattage than the maximum listed output.


Condition: Dirty, shaded, or broken panels are less efficient than clean ones. Even a thin layer of dust buildup can reduce the efficiency by preventing light from reaching the silicon. Regular cleaning is needed to maintain panels.


Construction: Many solar panel manufacturers note the efficiency rating of the cell. The entire panel might have a lower efficiency rating, due to the conductors and wiring. This doesn’t change how much energy your panels will make.


Direction: The direction of your solar panels will expose the panels to more or less light. Most solar installers will point your panels where they will be most efficient at noon, when you can collect the most power.


If you want to get an accurate account of what your panels are capable of, find the Performance Testing Conditions (PTC) or System Performance Testing Conditions (STPC). If you want to find out what solar panels are right for you, go to and try our price checker tool.


You can see how much you can save over the next 20 years by going solar, and we can help find local solar installers who can help. For more information relating to going solar, don't forget to visit our solar blog section for more handy guides and articles.

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