Solar panels operate best when they’re placed in direct sunlight, but what happens if direct sunlight isn’t available? This is a common problem, and people have come up with some interesting ideas for solutions.
That leads us to today’s question, can mirrors be used to cause sunlight to hit a solar panel? Let’s explore why this might or might not work and what other options are out there.
What You’ll Learn In This Article
Here are some of the questions we’ll be answering about mirrors and solar panels in this article.
- Can you use a mirror to redirect sunlight to a solar panel?
- What kind of mirrors should you use?
- Are there any dangers you should be aware of before trying this?
- Does using mirrors with your solar panels increase your overall energy output?
- Can using mirrors harm your solar panel?
Now that you know what to expect, let’s start answering some of your burning questions. You may be surprised at what you learn.
Can You Use Mirrors To Redirect Sunlight To Your Solar Panels?
In short, yes. Many solar panel owners have found that they can place mirrors around their property to direct sunlight towards the panels. It can be a handy trick if there isn’t a spot that receives consistent sunlight throughout the day to place your panel.
To do this, you’ll need to track the pattern of the sun throughout the day. Pay attention to where the sun naturally falls and place mirrors there. Then, experiment with aiming the mirrors toward the panel until you find an angle that works.
Once the mirrors are redirecting the sunlight onto your panels, you should see the amount of energy your panel is outputting increase. If not, try moving the mirrors around until you find a better angle.
Why Does The Use Of Mirrors With Solar Panels Work?
So, why does this work? When a light is shined on a mirror it will “bounce” off the surface of the mirror. The light will then land on whatever solid surface is in front of the mirror.
A simple way to explain this concept is to shine a flashlight into a mirror and move it around. Pay attention to the surfaces across from the mirror and you’ll see how the light is redirected by the mirror.
When you repeat the process using a mirror and solar panel you’ll get the same outcome, just on a larger scale.
What Kind Of Mirror Should You Use When Redirecting Sunlight To Your Solar Panels?
Before you go shopping for your new mirrors, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- For the best outcome, the mirrors you choose should be large. This gives you more surface area to bounce the light off of.
- It’s best to buy at least two mirrors, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use just one to track the sun through its whole path.
- Be careful not to place the mirrors where they’ll cause a shadow to fall on the panel.
- Some people have also had success using polished metal instead of mirrors. This is handy if you’re worried that the mirrors might be in danger of breaking.
Think carefully about the size of your panel and how many mirrors you actually need for your project. There’s no need to buy too many, in fact, that could actually defeat the purpose. We’ll talk more about that a little later, in the “can a mirror harm a panel” section.
Is It Dangerous To Use Mirrors To Redirect Sunlight To A Solar Panel?
The answer is yes, but only if you don’t take the proper precautions. Let’s go over the common dangers, and how to safely use your mirrors.
Common Dangers Of Using Mirrors With Solar Panels
There are three main dangers you should be concerned about when using mirrors with your solar panels.
- The threat of causing a fire.
- The potential for your panel to be harmed.
- The possibility that your mirror could break.
Now that you know what the dangers are, here’s how you can lower the risk.
How To Safely Use Mirrors With Solar Panels
The biggest safety concern your mirrors will pose is that they could cause a fire. It’s not uncommon for the sunlight that has been reflected in a mirror to start a blaze, especially in the hot and dry months.
To prevent this, pay careful attention to exactly where the light your mirror is reflecting goes throughout the day. You want it to fall only on the solar panel, not on your house or any grass that could catch fire. Keep in mind that you need to check throughout the day to ensure the sun isn’t being reflected in any unexpected areas.
The second concern is that the mirrors could cause damage to your panels. We’ll go over this in detail shortly but for now, just keep in mind that if you reflect too much light onto your panels they could become overheated.
The final common problem is that mirrors can break. A falling branch, storm, or wayward baseball can easily break a mirror, leaving shards of glass behind. This can be dangerous for humans and pets, so check your mirrors for any signs of damage regularly.
You can also use polished metal, which is less likely to break or be damaged.
Does Using Mirrors Increase A Solar Panels Efficiency?
Yes, using mirrors alongside your solar panels have been shown to increase efficiency by up to 75% in some cases. Even if your personal numbers aren’t quite that high, you’re sure to generate more power by directing more light to your panels.
Can Using Mirrors Cause Damage To Your Solar Panel?
Yes, which is why it’s important to make a plan before you begin. Too much light can lead to too much heat, which isn’t good for your panels. Here’s what you can do to ensure your panels remain in fine working order.
How To Properly Maintain Your Solar Panels While Using Mirrors
The biggest problem that mirrors can pose to your panels is that in addition to reflecting light they can also reflect heat.
In hot climates, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your panel. You want it to get enough light to put out energy, but not enough light to generate heat that could reduce the output of your panel.
Too much heat could also damage the solar cells inside your panel, which can be costly to fix. Check your user manual or contact your solar provider to find out how hot your solar panel can safely get and make sure that your mirrors don’t cause it to go above that temperature.
Other Options You Can Try If Mirrors Won’t Work For You
If you’re not a fan of placing mirrors around your property, there are some other options that might help your solar panel’s output.
- Move the panel around to see if it does better in different areas.
- Make sure no shade is being cast on the panel by trees or other obstacles.
- Consider getting an additional solar panel to better suit your needs.
- Have your panel checked by a professional to make sure its operating at maximum efficiency.
- Clean off the panel, sunlight can be blocked by pollen and other natural debris.
If none of these options work for you, it may be time to contact a solar installer or provider for advice.
If you keep what you’ve learned today in mind, there’s no reason you can’t safely use mirrors to increase the efficiency of your solar panel.