Having lived with Off-Grid solar since 2015, we are accustomed to hearing a lot of questions about solar panels. But it always amazes me how I am still being surprised by things I’ve never thought of before.
Such is the question of, ‘do solar panels get hot?’
Honestly, I hadn’t really considered the question. You would assume that they would. After all, any vehicle that is out in the summer sun can have you cranking the A/C in order to stay cool. But just how comparable is that to solar panels?
Curious, I grabbed the temperature probe out of the kitchen and performed a very unscientific experiment.
With the outdoor temperature at 77 degrees and the cloud cover being intermittent, I was shocked to see the probe quickly hit 100 degrees.
This has me thinking that solar panels can get very hot!
Why Do Solar Panels Get Hot?
Solar panels will generally be hotter than air temperature because the solar cells, (which are grouped together to make a panel), are designed to absorb light rather than allowing it to pass through.
This characteristic of capturing sunlight is inherent to the nature of how solar panels get hot.
Another contributing factor to solar panels and heat is the need to place them in a location where they can have maximum exposure to the sun.
Enduring this type of exposure day in and day out clearly presents certain engineering challenges, especially when you consider that solar panels are known to have performed for decades.
Solar Panels Are Designed For Heat
One of the things that surprised me about solar panels is just how thin they are. On ours, the aluminum frame that houses the solar cells measures 1.5 inches thick. But, this is somewhat misleading as the majority of the backside of the solar panel is actually open space.
To picture this, think of a Frisbee.
If you place a Frisbee on a table, right side up, it gives the appearance of being solid. But flip the Frisbee over and you discover that the backside is hollowed out and now you have something that looks very much like a shallow bowl.
Solar panels are basically the same – flush on the front and hollowed out on the back.
Whether this empty ‘airspace’ is designed specifically for cooling, I can not say. But it most certainly plays a role in keeping your panels cool as it allows for airflow across the back surface of your solar panels.
Solar Panels And The Winter Sun
While solar panels are designed to expel unwanted excessive heat, not all heat is bad. One of the biggest challenges we have, living in Michigan, is sun-blocking snow and ice.
For the record, snow is not so bad as a snow rake can clear the impediment allowing you to quickly get back to business. But freezing rain is nightmare. It can completely cut off any power production with no options for removal as the surface of solar panels must allows be treated with care. Any damage, including slight scratches, can diminish the amount of power your panels will produce – for life!
This makes ice especially frustrating for those of us who live wholly on Off-Grid power.
It is at times like these, that I am grateful that solar panels produce heat.
Even with temperatures below freezing, I have witnessed sunshine clear a half inch of ice from the panels – something that would be impossible if not for the light capturing characteristic of solar cells.
Solar Panel Heat And Mounting Options
One of the biggest benefits to having your solar array on a ground mount is that this type of installation allows for the highest amount of airflow.
Remember, while a roof mounted array will have the benefit of being out of the way, there is a wind-blocking surface just inches away from the back side of your panel. (Black shingled roofs only add to the heat problem).
But with your ground mount quite often, holding your panels several feet away from anything else, this allows for the maximum volume of air to move across the backside of your panels, taking any excessive heat with it.