Solar powers being provided by a solar panel on people's homes

Six Unusual Ways To Use Solar Power For Your Home Or Business

Whether you have already got photovoltaic solar panels installed at your home or commercial premises, or are thinking about taking the plunge to convert to solar power, a key consideration is making sure that you get the most value out of your investment. Using solar energy to light and power a building is fairly commonplace. However, such is the versatility of this renewable energy technology that there are many other ways to take advantage of your solar panel system, once it is up and running.

As well as saving energy and reducing fuel bills, solar panels can also help power a range of applications and sustainable living initiatives. From smaller appliances to property-wide power requirements, here are some unusual ways to use solar power at home or work.

Solar Powered Garden Lighting

We tend to think about using solar panels to power indoor lighting, but the technology can also work well for outdoor lights. From strings of fairy lights to full-on landscape lighting set-ups and greenhouse lamps, outdoor lighting can be powered by solar panels charging batteries during the day, or by having the lights connected directly to the building’s main electrical system. Other garden electrical applications include electric mowers, hedge cutters, strimmers etc. All of which can be powered using energy generated by photovoltaic panels.

Immersion Heating

Immersion heaters can be connected to solar power too via an immersion diverter. This piece of technology keeps track of how much solar power is being generated and used. It then diverts any surplus towards powering your immersion heater and providing the building with hot water. This can all be done automatically, so you can set it up and then leave it to work on its own. This is a great way to ensure that you can use more of the electricity generated, should you not wish, or are unable, to store it over a longer time period.

Electric Vehicle Charging

As more and more people switch to electric cars and vehicles, the need for charging points also becomes more pressing. This is an increasingly important factor in town planning, which can also be replicated in homes and businesses. If you are keen to live a more sustainable life with less reliance on fossil fuels, consider combining an electric vehicle with using solar energy to power a charging point outside your home or business premises. You could even use a solar battery to store electricity just for the purposes of charging electric vehicles of occupants of – and visitors to – the building.

woman using solar power to charge her electric vehicle

Security Systems

Using solar-powered energy for home and commercial security systems is another way to make good use of the electricity generated by your photovoltaic panels. You can connect all kinds of security devices and equipment to the system, from lights and motion sensors to burglar alarms and CCTV cameras. Adding a solar power battery to the system that stores surplus energy will help keep the security systems running at night, when the need for uninterrupted surveillance is often greater, or when the weather is cloudy and dull.

Charging Devices

We all rely on being able to charge up devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets etc. As the world becomes increasingly digital, we need to stay in touch with the online world more than ever before. Solar power helps us do that by providing electricity in general for a residential home or business premises via electric sockets and USB ports. Many solar panel systems can also incorporate connections that convert the DC to allow users to plug devices in for direct charging. Another useful way to stay connected while taking advantage of renewable, greener power.

Farming And Animal Care

Solar panels can also help power lighting and heating for any animals or pets that may live partly or wholly outside, or in an outhouse of some kind. For example, lighting inside a chicken coop alarmed security systems or heating for lambing barns on a smallholding. Energy costs can often be higher for farmers and those who keep larger numbers of animals – using solar energy to power essential lighting and heating systems can help keep animals warm, healthy and safe without having to shoulder huge bills or continue to rely heavily on the National Grid.

solar panels in winter that have snow on them

Solar Panels In Winter: Coping With A Cold Snap

Once again, the British weather is top of the UK news agenda. January 2023 is seeing plummeting temperatures, as well as plenty of frost, ice and snow across many parts of the country. So, talking about solar panels in winter of year may not seem like the most obvious course of action. However, when the cold weather descends, it is important to think about how it might affect solar panels exposed on rooftops in sub-zero temperatures. Also, solar panels don’t stop working in the winter. There are still many ways in which the electricity generated can power people’s homes and businesses, as well as reduce fuel bills and contribute to sustainable living goals.

Solar power in winter weather

It is a common misconception that solar panels need strong rays from the sun to operate. In fact, they can still generate electricity when the sun is weaker or partially obscured by clouds. They also carry on working even when temperatures drop below zero. The only thing that could affect their efficacy in a big way would be if heavy snowfalls on the roof completely cover the panels, blocking their contact with the sun. In that case, efforts to remove the snow – but only if it is safe to do so – could help them return to normal service. When installing solar panels in winter, bear in mind that snow can melt and slide off those placed at an angle far quicker than from totally flat layouts.

The good news, however, is that solar panels can work well in wintry conditions. They can even be more efficient in colder temperatures than at the height of summer. This is because overly hot conditions can prevent them from working and affect the electronics they contain. Also, the photovoltaic cells rely on direct contact from sunlight – the stronger the better. The heat that comes from the sun does not come into the equation. Dull, overcast days with less sunlight breaking through the clouds, therefore, are less helpful than those crisp, frozen winter days when the sun is shining brightly, with its rays reflecting back onto the panels from the frosty, white rooftops around them.

installing solar panels in winter

Caring for photovoltaic panel systems

As with any investment of this nature in your home or business, taking care of solar panels in winter correctly will help prolong their working life. It will also improve their efficacy in producing electricity at a time of year when additional light and heat is usually required. As well as adjusting the angle of your solar panels to allow snow to slide off more quickly, this action can also help capture more sunlight as it sits lower in the sky on shorter winter days. Placing the panels at a steeper incline could help compensate for this change in the sun’s position.

Other tips around caring for solar panels in winter include using the right tools to clear snow, ice or frost from their surfaces. Always take great care when attempting maintenance of this nature, as frosty surfaces can make outdoor work like this more treacherous. If you do decide to tackle it, use a soft-bristled snow brush, rather than a rake or hard-bristled broom. This helps avoid scratching and damaging the panels. If the snow is stubborn and will not come off easily, don’t scrub too hard – it will melt eventually and the panels can then resume their service.

Don’t forget to protect your batteries as well during winter. They can be affected by cold weather just as much as other parts of the solar power system. Insulate them against plunging temperatures by wrapping them well if they are outdoors or, if possible, repositioning them inside the property. Watch their discharge levels closely, as you will, most likely, need more electricity than usual on colder, gloomier days.

Finally, book your solar panel and battery servicing appointment now. It is easy to forget in the frenzy of a busy working or domestic life. There may be more appointments available during the winter, so you won’t have to wait quite so long for an engineer to arrive. Likewise, if you don’t have solar panels installed, or are interested in an upgrade or replacement system, take advantage of the quieter winter months to book an initial consultation.
Contact UPS to find out more or get support with getting the most out of your solar panels in winter.

Rising energy prices and solar power

It cannot have escaped many people’s attention that energy prices have been rising rapidly over the past months. Consumers everywhere are growing more and more concerned about how to pay their fuel bills. So, why is this happening? Repercussions from COVID-19, as well as other global events, such as the conflict in Ukraine and its wider political fallout, have collided to place enormous pressure on oil supplies and energy prices around the world. Energy companies going bust have also had a large impact on supply versus demand. Media headlines about the energy crisis are frequent and fuel prices are increasing very quickly.

In April 2022, Ofgem (UK government department that regulates UK gas and electricity companies) announced an increase to the energy price cap of an average of 54%. At the time of writing, this looks set to rise even further in October, although the Government has just announced measures to keep the price cap at an average of £2,500 for a typical household (SOURCE: This will go some way to help combat the escalating costs, but it will not totally solve the problem. Particularly as winter is around the corner with colder temperatures and increased demands for energy. If not enough is done to slow down the rate of energy costs, fuel bills could reach staggeringly high amounts for many energy customers in 2023 and beyond.

Solar power: surge in demand?

The prospect of much higher energy bills could spark an increase in interest for many around solar PV panel systems for domestic and commercial use. Installing solar panels will not result in immediate energy bill reductions – indeed, the system will require an initial financial outlay to buy it and have it fitted. However, in the longer term, some experts are predicting that solar panels could save householders as much as £3,000 per year (SOURCE: if conventional energy prices continue to rise at the same rate.

Interest in renewable energy, such as solar power, heat pumps etc., is high right now, not only because of the rising costs of electricity. Sustainable living and working is a major agenda item for businesses, government departments, charities and other organisations. Switching away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives could play a large part in reducing carbon footprints. It could radically change behaviours around energy production and consumption too, as people wake up to its possibilities.

What’s more, the energy produced by solar panels can be stored for use when the sun is not so strong, or at night. Excess can be sold back to the National Grid to help ease pressure on electricity supplies. This is possible through the Government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. The SEG scheme replaces a previous feed-in tariff (FIT), which was slightly more generous. However, it still helps households generating solar power to get paid for the electricity they do not use themselves.

While energy prices have soared, the costs of installing solar panels have remained far more stable. They can also be reclaimed within a family’s budget, thanks to a reduced reliance on the National Grid for power. They can also add value to a property when it comes to selling up and moving home or commercial premises. It is thought that the financial ‘break-even’ point for an installed solar panel system is around 15 years. Therefore having an existing system already in place can help add value to domestic housing or commercial premises prices.

Solar powered home

The best way to set up solar panels

The best situation for a solar panel system to be installed is on a south-facing, sloping roof that receives direct sunlight between the hours of 10am and 4pm. There should be plenty of space for the panels to be installed and the area should not be shaded by trees, other buildings etc. This is ideal for harnessing the maximum amount of solar power. The roof should be in good condition so that the panels can fix strongly to it without being able to fall or wriggle loose during heavy winds or storms.

You normally won’t need to seek planning permission for installing solar panels, but it is wise to double check if you are unsure. Always get multiple quotes for solar panels, or consult an expert advisor, such as UPS Solar to find the best match for your property and energy requirements.