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What you need to know about snow and solar panels

preview-full-snowman outside MA house

The solar panels on your roof are probably the last thing you want to worry about when it comes to cold weather. But, if there is a significant amount of snowfall, solar panels can be affected. You should know how their performance is impacted by snow and ice so that you don’t have any surprises come colder temperatures. Here’s what you need to know:

Solar Panels: What do they do, and how do solar panels work?

A solar panel is made up of many solar cells, which are typically wired together to produce electricity. Each solar cell produces a specific voltage and current when exposed to sunlight. When solar panels are placed facing the sun in an optimal position, they can produce power at their respective voltages simultaneously. This allows for more power generation than if you were to wire individual solar cells (mono-crystalline or poly-crystal) into separate strings of series within one larger string of series that connect solar panels.

When your solar panel system is operating correctly, any extra energy production made by your solar panels sends electricity back through inverters where it’s converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The energy output is then fed into your home’s breaker box. If there is no solar energy or the solar system isn’t operating correctly (i.e., broken equipment), electricity will come in through the utility lines like it normally does when you’re not using solar power.

Benefits of Solar Panels

Solar panels work to produce electricity to light your home. They provide a number of benefits over traditional sources of energy:

  • Solar power is renewable and green.
  • A solar system can be used as an independent source or as supplemental to your existing electricity supply.
  • Solar energy production from residential solar systems saves you money on utility bills by generating clean, reliable electricity for your home at a peak temperature.
  • Installing solar panels is a great investment and does not require any maintenance while providing long-term savings.

Why is my solar panel not producing as much solar energy during the winter months?

You may appreciate a beautiful snowfall, but your solar panels do not. When snow falls on solar panels, especially heavy wet snow that weighs down solar cells and covers them up, they can develop “snow blindness.” This causes a dramatic drop in both voltage and current, which makes normal operation impossible.

Snow with high moisture content forms an insulating layer between solar cells so that sunlight cannot reach them to generate electricity. While this doesn’t harm the individual cells, it greatly reduces their ability to produce solar energy. Solar panels work efficiently when there is sufficient direct sunlight.

Tips for Utilization of Your Solar Panels in the Winter

Cover With Protective Material

If solar panels are installed on your roof, you should consider adding some kind of protective material like a cover to stop snow from accumulating and weighing solar cells down. Solar panels work better when cleared and can generate energy from the sun’s light during daylight hours.

If you’re not able to cover your solar system with a tarp, try adding some weight on top of solar panels to keep them from being covered up.

Remove Snow Build-Up

When solar cells are covered in snow and ice, they cannot operate properly because the sun’s rays can neither reach them nor be reflected off their surfaces. The same goes for solar panels that have been stacked on top of one another because once any layer is covered by a thick layer (or layers) of snow or ice, it blocks light from reaching other solar panels below it.

This also happens if there is an overhang above your roofline that prevents sunlight from hitting the solar panel during certain times throughout the day when it’s needed most, like early morning and around sunset time at night. Solar panels should never be buried under piles of heavy snow or sheets of solid ice. Not only will this greatly reduce their ability to generate solar energy, but it also makes them vulnerable to damage.

Add an Overhang Protection

Adding overhangs to your roofline is a great way to avoid having solar panels get covered with snow or ice. This will allow you the freedom of not worrying about how much room solar cells take up and whether they’re in a direct line of sight with sunlight.

An overhang protects solar panels from heavy rainfall, which can cause solar cells to short out. It also protects solar panels from snowfall by preventing the cells from being covered with a thick layer of solid ice.

Get as Much Direct Light as Possible

It is best for solar panels to be installed in a way that they get as much direct sunlight as possible. On a day with no wind or clouds, solar cells will produce power from early morning until late afternoon hours when the sun goes down, and there’s less light available.

If you live in an area where you receive heavy snowfall during the winter months or don’t have as much sunshine daily when the cold weather sets in, solar panels should be installed in the correct place to work in the winter months. This will give solar cells the maximum amount of time possible to generate solar power and limit any disruptions caused by heavy snowfall or ice build-up on surfaces.

Who can answer my questions about solar panels?

Do solar panels work in the winter? Of course, they do! If you have solar panels installed or plan to install them on your roof in the future and need help understanding how they work in the winter, contact the professionals at Energy Monster who can answer all of your solar system questions.

We can tell you more about what homeowners should know about how snow affects solar cells solar installations and whether overhangs need to be added to rooflines.

Ready for your solar panel installation? Need to speak to someone about your solar panel performance? Just want to know how solar panels work? Call the team at Energy Monster today about how you can produce energy for your home with solar panels!

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