If you were considering going solar, but you live in an area that has snowy winters, you must be wondering: Do solar panels work in winter? And, can they produce enough energy during a cold season? These questions make sense because during winter, days are shorter and the panels can become covered in snow.
Therefore, today we will talk about these questions and help you understand how solar panels work so you can make an informed decision.
How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels harness the abundant radiation from the Sun and turn it into electricity. However, contrary to popular belief, they do not rely on heat, but light to work. Generally speaking, as long as sun rays are falling on the panels, they will work perfectly, no matter how cold or hot it is. Even temperatures that are below freezing should not stop solar panels from generating electricity.
In fact, when tested, solar panels showed they work best at 41°F (5°C). Manufacturers say this is because the panels work more efficiently in cooler temperatures, like all other electric appliances. Basically, during wintertime, panels are less likely to go above their peak temperatures. Hence they’ll be performing at their top efficiency.
That being said, we can’t deny that the days are shorter in winter and that your panels are getting less exposure to sunlight. You will probably notice that your panels generate less energy during the winter season. But that difference in production is not as drastic as it may seem, and the snow might even help, as we will see in the next paragraph.
What If Snow Covers Solar Panels?
Snowfall should not damage solar panels because they are designed to withstand freezing temperatures and a considerable amount of snow. Furthermore, they can generate electricity even if covered in snow because sunlight can still go through it.
Here are a couple of reasons why snow won’t make a big impact on your solar panels:
Solar Panels and the Tilt
Panels are usually installed at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees and have a smooth surface. The tilt makes it easier for piled snow to slide off. Furthermore, panels with continuous or seasonal tracking allow you to change the angle and make it steeper during winter.
Solar Panels and the Dark Glass
The solar panel’s dark glass attracts sun rays and traps them. That’s why panels are about 36°F (20°C) warmer than their surroundings. This feature helps speed up snow melt before it affects the panel’s performance.
Solar panels catch twice as much light during the snow season due to the albedo effect. The albedo effect explains how some sunlight is reflected back into the atmosphere after it hits the earth. This effect is increased in snowy areas because snow creates a white, reflective layer. As a result, snow can double the amount of sunlight your panels absorb.
All in all, snow will not affect your solar panels negatively during winter. On the contrary, it will even help make up for what you lose due to the shorter days.
Should You Remove the Snow From Your Panels?
Most manufacturers advise against removing the snow from your solar panels. Since it usually slides off by itself, you would only risk damaging the panel’s surface.
So, going solar is a good decision because panels work great even in a cold climate. Some of the snowiest states in the US, like New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, are all among the top 10 destinations for solar installations. Also, Germany, which has sunshine levels similar to those in Alaska, is one of the leaders in solar installations.
To sum up, do solar panels work in winter? Yes, solar panels definitely work great during wintertime, even if there’s snow.