Can You Use Solar Power in Winter?

Solar power

Snow tends to slide easily off tilted solar panels.

Solar power is being used more commonly by homeowners across the country. Tax credits and other incentives as well as advances in technology have helped bring the cost of going solar down to a level that allows this home improvement to pay off within a few years’ time for many homeowners. Solar panels also increase a home’s value, which helps to further offset their cost.

In the Northeast, however, some homeowners fear that cold weather and snow will keep solar panels from being effective at capturing energy to power their homes. While there are some weather conditions that may impact effectiveness to some extent, solar panels can still be a viable energy solution for winter months in the Northeast.

Solar Panel Performance in Winter

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels can function even better in the cold than they do in extremely hot weather. Weather that is hotter than 77 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) actually impairs the functioning of the solar panels by .46% per degree. On the hottest days of summer, this impairment can be quite significant compared to an average or cold weather day.

There are some aspects of winter weather that can impair a solar panel’s functioning, however. Cloudy days and the shorter length of daylight in winter can both limit the amount of energy solar panels can capture, which can mean less solar-generated power during some winter days.

Snow is another possible problem if it snows enough to build up on the panels. If light can’t get to the panels, they won’t generate power, and there’s really not a safe way to scrape off snow and ice without risking damage. Fortunately, snow usually melts quickly and slides off the panels. The reflective qualities of snow, especially on a snowy day, actually amplify a solar panel’s functioning (once the snow melts off the panel) to far beyond its functioning at any other time.

Solar power
Keeping snow off solar panels can help them function well in winter.

Maximizing Winter Solar Panel Performance

Before homeowners give up on solar panels in winter, however, they should know that there are several ways to maximize solar panel performance for winter in the Northeast. First, angling the panel more steeply may cause snow to slide off more quickly. Homeowners are usually given a degree range for tilting, such as 30 to 40 degrees. Choosing the steepest angle offered will give the fastest snow melt and the least chance of snow building up on the panel.

Another suggestion given by Accu-Weather is to bounce a tennis ball off the snow-covered panel. The vibration may shake snow off the panel, and even small indentations created by the ball will allow light to penetrate and start the panel working again.

Finally, homeowners should install their panels so that snow can’t get trapped at the bottom of the panel. If snow can’t slide off freely and completely, it can build up and block light from getting to the panel, even if it does begin to melt.

Moonworks offers Dow Powerhouse solar roofing to its customers in the Northeast. If your roof needs replacing, solar roofing can give you a durable, long-lasting alternative to shingles that will save you up to 100% of your electric bill each month. Contact us online or by phone at 1-800-975-6666 to find out how we can meet your home improvement needs.

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