Contrary to popular belief, temperatures don’t dip in the winter because Earth is farther away from the sun. In fact, Earth is actually farthest from the sun in July and closest to the sun in January. So what does this mean for your solar panels once the temperatures drop? Stay with us as we answer all your questions about how a solar panel installation performs during the winter.
Do Solar Panels Work in Snow?
If you’ve found yourself asking “Will solar panels work during winter in cold climates?” you’re not alone. It’s a commonly held belief that solar panels don’t work during the snowy season — but this is a myth. As long as they don’t remain covered in snow for an extended period of time, solar panels work just as well during the winter, even in snow.
While it’s true that heavy snowfall can reduce sunlight penetration, your panels will produce more electricity than you might think throughout the winter.
On premium solar panels, the silicon is covered by anti-reflective glass that is designed to absorb maximum sunlight (thereby generating more electricity!), which means that solar panels also produce more heat from the sun than your roof surface. That heat melts snow more quickly than on your roof, keeping your solar system producing power even when heavy snow may still be on the ground.
In many cold-weather climates, there are actually relatively few days of precipitation in the winter. For example, Denver, Colorado averages between 2 and 3 days of snowfall > 0.1 inch each month between November and March. That snow tends to melt within a few days, especially on solar panels!
Plus, solar panels are designed to withhold between 20 to 40 pounds of weight per square foot, so snow is usually not heavy enough to be a risk. During manufacturing, all solar panels undergo pressure tests that assess quality and durability. And because ratings vary by panel, you can opt for higher pressure ratings if you live in an area that sees a lot of snowfall.
Do Solar Panels Need Winter Maintenance?
The great thing about solar panels is that once installed, they’re virtually maintenance-free for the majority of the year, including in the winter.
If you live in an area that receives heavy winter storms — think polar vortex level — you may want to hire a professional to clean off any wet, heavy snow if you’re worried about roof safety. Freedom Solar does take extra safety precautions by installing snow guards in areas that may have a potential for snow build-up and be susceptible to damage.
Solar battery storage is also an important thing to consider, during winter as well as throughout the year, since it allows you to store your energy regardless of day-to-day production. It works by amassing all the electricity your panels produce and saving it right there at your home, rather than sending it back to the electricity grid. As a result, you can tap back into that stored energy during the times when you need more electricity than your panels can actually produce — such as at night or on cloudy days.
How Effective Are Solar Panels in Winter?
When it comes to solar energy, there’s one important thing to remember: it’s not about warmth, it’s about sunlight. In fact, solar power generation in summer vs. winter might surprise you. Cold, sunny weather is actually an ideal time to produce energy for your home because solar panels work more efficiently in cooler temperatures. In fact, the industry-standard specifications for PV systems are made at a temperature of 77º F, but they’ve been shown to be even more efficient in colder temperatures.
Consider this: two of the top cities for going solar (places with the most solar panels installed per capita) in the US are in northern states — Burlington, Vermont, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Still not convinced? Germany, which has sunshine levels comparable to Alaska, is a global leader in solar panel installations, with an impressive 12.74 percent of their national energy credited to renewable energy.
Even in the most frigid winter temperatures, when sunlight is shining, solar panels in winter months will produce the electricity you need to become more self-sufficient by making your own power at home.
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Even wind, cold, rain, and snow can’t stop solar panels from doing what they do best — generating clean energy so you can live more sustainably. And now is a great time to take the plunge into a solar-powered home so that you can have your installation ready to go for the long, hot days of summer.