Keeping Your Solar Panels Working During the Winter

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Image by Mike Weston (via Flickr)
Image by Mike Weston (via Flickr)

Many people have taken advantage of solar technology as it is a great source of alternative energy during the summer months when the sun is high in the sky.  But what about during the winter months?  Will your solar panels work the same during the winter?  What about if the panels get covered with snow?

One good thing is that since solar panels work on light not heat, cold winters aren’t a factor in keeping your solar panels generating energy throughout the winter. However, during the winter months there are shorter daylight hours, so you’re pretty much guaranteed your panels won’t generate as much energy as they do during the summer. Additionally, snow is a factor in keeping your solar panels working. If the panels get covered by snow they might stop producing power.

Did you know “because of the way solar panels are wired together, a little bit of snow – or bird droppings or leaves – blocking just a portion of an array can dramatically cut the output“? Needless to say, your panels will work better with no snow on them.

So even though it’s not on the top of your list during the holidays, you’ll want to keep your solar panels clean and functioning as best as they can during the winter. Solar panels can still generate energy under overcast or cloudy conditions, but if your panels are covered with snow, it is less likely light will be able to get through.  Some tips I’ve heard about removing snow from your solar panels include:

1) Use a roof rake or similar tool to pull the snow off the panels.  Be careful though as you don’t want to scratch the panels.  Some people recommend adding a squeegee strip to the bottom of it, as it will be softer on your panels.

2) Clear away a small patch of snow and let the sun do the rest.  Once a small patch is removed, the solar panel attracts the sun and it can sometimes assist in getting the rest of the snow to melt on its own.

3) If it isn’t too cold, spray the snow off the roof and panels with a garden hose.

4) If you can keep your solar panels tilted, the snow will be easier to get off and sometimes will slide off on its own.

But don’t forget, even though your solar panels may not be producing as much energy as they did during the summer months, you may have accumulated excess energy during the summer that can help offset your winter usage.  (Check with your local utility.)

If you don’t already have solar panels, it’s definitely an investment worth considering…you can get federal tax credits for energy-efficient improvements too. If you do have panels and have any other great tips for keeping your solar panels working during the winter, I’d love to hear them!

7 Comments

  1. I have tried to understand installing solar panels for some time now and always enjoy finding out about information I have not seen before. The benefits of solar panels will become essential and it is hard to see a better way to go. I always want to find out more by researching online and in books but I learned something new today. Great blog I will suggest my friends come to view it

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  2. We have solar panels but they are installed on the roof of a 3 story. If a snow rake is not an option (unless on a very tall ladder, not recommended), what are other options for keeping snow off that you would recommend?

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  3. Cleaning solar panels is not really that much different than cleaning a typical window. It is not very time-consuming either. Neglecting to clean your solar panels is not much different than throwing money out of the window.Self-cleaning solar systems are available for those lazy folks out there that are willing to spend the extra buck.

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