Across the country, many regions experience freezing temperatures and snowy conditions. The Midwest and New England regions may get multiple feet of snow, and the Southern regions more than expected. When it comes to solar panels, many homeowners experiencing these weather conditions or multiple cloudy days worry their systems will not produce enough energy to cover their electricity consumption.
Homeowners in snowy states have another concern – will my solar panels work if they are covered in snow?
Here’s what you need to know about winter conditions and solar panels, to maximize your savings all year round:
Solar panels work more efficiently in cold weather. Higher performance is achieved because the electrons vibrate off one another to form an electrical current, and heat makes them vibrate faster, which is more difficult for the electrons to begin a flow or be in rhythm. In cold climates, there is more room for the particles to move, resulting in a more efficient flow of energy. Ideal outside temperatures are 77° and below. For more specifics on this process, learn more about how solar panels work.
This is beneficial for states that drop in temperature but don’t receive snow, like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina. Most solar panel systems can track production on a mobile app (such as Enphase Enlighten or my SunPower), so homeowners can see for themselves if their PV panels are operating correctly and efficiently.
Rooftop solar panels covered in snow will not produce energy until they have access to sunlight again. While this may seem like a dealbreaker for homeowners in states like Minnesota, Michigan, or other northern states, snow is easily dealt with. There are a few different ways installation itself prevents interrupted sunlight.
- Panel Direction, Orientation, and Efficiency – Solar panels are often installed on south-facing, well-angled roof planes. Panels facing south will receive optimal sunlight hours, and panel efficiency is highest between 30-45°. With these details factored in, light snowfall has almost no effect on panel productivity.
- Self-Cleaning Panels – Panel surfaces are smooth; therefore, snow can easily slide off. The dark color absorbs more sunlight, and panels produce a bit of heat with their energy output, accelerating the melt. When snow slides off the panels, with it will come any dirt or buildup, resulting in extra clean arrays and the cells are ready to resume production again. Investing in snow guards could help the snow fall off gradually rather than all at once, which can damage household gutters and landscaping.
- Clearing Snow Manually – Homeowners may need to step in and manually remove snow if it continues to pile up and/or not melt. You can choose to use a roof rake and brush or hire professional solar panel cleaners to take care of it. Cleaning off your solar panels and conducting routine maintenance should be completed at least once a year regardless of snowfall.
Snow Removal and Other Options
To ensure your solar panels continue to operate efficiently in snowy conditions without interruption, you can consider purchasing:
- Heating Systems – Install heaters or snow-melting systems which monitor the weight of the snow on top of the panels. If all the system inspections are up to date to prevent safety hazards, this is an efficient way to retain panel efficiency.
- Snow-Resistant Covers – Installing translucent snow covers which fit tightly to each panel will allow sunlight to still reach the individual cells. There are several options available on the market, so research and purchase the right ones for your particular system.
- Automated Cleaning Systems – Solar owners can purchase and install an automated solar panel cleaning system that connects to an existing water supply. Installed on each panel, the system uses a low-volume spray of water and biodegradable soap concentrate and a second rinse cycle to keep panels continuously clean. These do require professional installation, but minimal maintenance once they are in place.
Does Solar Make Sense for Me and My Home?
Solar energy is a versatile and sustainable power source, but its performance can easily be influenced by weather conditions and environmental factors. So, if you are wondering, “Does solar work in snow?” The answer is yes, solar panels can generate electricity in snowy conditions, as long as the snow does not completely cover the surface.
Homeowners should be aware of the possibility of reduced efficiency and electricity generation under specific circumstances or temperature changes. There is a chance you will have to rely more heavily on the utility grid during specific months throughout the year to cover your monthly utility consumption.
However, with net metering programs, during the summer, excess production created by your system is sent to the utility grid and credited back to you, and these credits can then be used to make up for less production in the winter.
Homeowners who add home storage solutions like batteries or generators to their systems will also find they can continue to save on electricity costs. Solar power makes sense for homeowners throughout the country who experience snowy conditions or harsh winters. With Blue Raven Solar as your installation partner, you can access the power of renewable energy and receive savings all year round.