Solar power is on the rise. With more homeowners than ever hoping to take control of their own electricity—and help the environment at the same time—experts predict that the number of Americans using solar energy will triple by 2030.
That popularity brings plenty of questions. For homeowners living in harsher climates it’s not uncommon to worry about how this modern system can hold up to what Mother Nature delivers in the cold seasons. After all, what good are solar panels in the snow or during an overcast winter day? If you’re wondering if winter means hibernation for your panels, we’re here to chat about how solar panels perform when it’s snowy.
Can Solar Panels Produce Energy in the Winter?
Let’s bust a myth about solar in the snow. The first thing to remember is that solar panels require light to work, not heat!
While temperature fluctuations have only a mild effect on solar panels, it’s interesting to note that solar panel output is more efficient in cold weather. Think about how electronic devices such as computers and phones thrive in a cooler climate. Your solar panels are the same way! Believe it or not, they actually produce more energy during a sunny hour in the winter than a sunny hour in the summer.
Of course, it’s worth remembering one other factor that impacts solar panels in the winter: cloudy weather. Most areas of the country tend to have more sun-filled days during the summer months, while winter brings grey, overcast days.
Remember when your mom had to beg you to wear sunscreen at the beach, but you refused because it was overcast? Mothers are always right, and there’s a reason why she (and the CDC) recommends wearing sunscreen even on cloudy days: light and UV rays are present even when the sun isn’t visible.
Thanks to this penetrating light, your solar panels will continue to produce solar energy even on overcast days. It’s true that their efficiency will drop by about 10 to 25 percent depending on cloud coverage, but modern solar panel technology can actually combat this issue.
Do Solar Panels Work With Snow on Them?
Cold winter temperatures are one thing, but what happens when your solar panels get snow on them? Will it keep them from working or damage them? The truth is, solar panels have very few issues related to snow, and for several reasons.
First, solar panels are designed and installed to encourage as much snow as possible to slide off of them, and wind tends to carry away much of the accumulation as well. This means that most snowstorms will make little difference in terms of the amount of shade on your solar panels. Even in snow-heavy areas, snow rarely sits on solar panels for long.
Second, your solar panels will continue to generate power as long as part of the panel is exposed. This means you won’t have to worry about a lack of solar power as long as you can see parts of your solar panels peeking out from beneath the snow.
In addition, solar panels undergo pressure tests to ensure that they can withstand the weight of heavy snow. You’ll have to check the details of your specific model for more information, but you can generally count on the fact that your solar panels will stand up to winter snow.
In terms of overall efficiency, research shows that snow can help your panel generate more electricity than it might otherwise. This is due to the albedo effect, or the tendency of white colors to reflect light like a mirror.
Last, if you’re still worried about your panels, it’s easy to protect them from the effects of heavy snow, as we’ll discuss below.
How to Combat Snow on Solar Panels
Your solar panels are low maintenance and self-sufficient. Sit back and relax as mother nature’s many wonders work in unison with your new power source. Rain and wind tend to carry away lingering dust and debris, allowing your panels to continue working as efficiently as possible.
The same is often true of snow. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that snow can actually help clean your solar panels as it melts, much in the same way it can help clean your car’s windshield. In other words, the best and safest strategy for removing snow is to let it disappear on its own!
However, if you’ve endured a heavy buildup, you can get rid of snow by hand. It’s always a safer choice to reach out to a professional for assistance, as rooftop conditions can be hazardous in heavy ice and snow. If you prefer to tackle the job on your own, you’ll want to grab a roof rake or squeegee with a rubberized head to pull off the snow, and you should make sure to put safety first as you work.
Don’t Worry About Solar Panels in the Snow
The key takeaway is this: solar panels are designed to withstand a range of standard weather conditions, including snowfall! Winter weather is nothing your solar panels can’t handle—and in fact, in cold temperatures with sunlight bouncing off the snow, your system will produce more efficient energy than it would in the heat of summer.
If you’re ready to take advantage of lowered energy costs all year round, Primitive Power is standing by to help. Our experts will work with you to design a system that maximizes your home’s energy in every season, producing power even in the cold months! For more information, contact us to request a free quote and design today. We’re excited to create the perfect system for your home!