Solar panels can work even in the cold winter months. It is just that solar panels produce much less energy in winter than they do in summer.
Can snowfall impair the energy production of solar panels?
While cold weather does not negatively affect the performance of solar modules, other factors such as snowfall may affect the overall level of energy production.
In fact, solar panels are very popular in many cold weather climates. Ultimately, the total impact will come down to the amount of snow that accumulates on top of the solar modules.
A light accumulation of snow will not cause any serious damage, as the sun’s UV rays can still penetrate small amounts of snow.
Although solar modules can usually withstand the weight of larger snowfalls, if too much snow accumulates, production levels may drop.
Solar panels are built at an angle to optimize the absorption of the sun’s UV rays, which also helps to reduce snow accumulation as most of it can slide off or be easily removed.
If you live in a cold weather climate where snowfall is inevitable, it may be worthwhile to install a solar panel without a frame.
How can I optimize the production of solar panels?
Snow and ice can block sunlight from solar panels. Here are steps you can take to protect your panels and get the most out of your energy in winter.
Adjust the angle of your panels
The angle of the sun is different in winter than in summer. You may therefore need to adjust the angle of your solar panels in order to make the most of them in winter.
Most people can’t do this because solar panels are usually mounted on fixed shelves, but for those who can, adjusting the angle allows the panels to get more sunlight.
Because the sun is lower in the sky in winter than it is in summer, you will want your panels at a steeper angle during these months.
It is recommended that add 10-15 degrees to the winter angle for your latitude.
As an added benefit, a steeper angle not only helps to catch more sunlight but also helps the snow fall off the panels more easily.
Before making any adjustments, discuss your options with your solar panel supplier. You should be very careful not to tinker with your panels in a way that could void the warranty.
While an adjustable shelf may not allow for a 10 to 15-degree change, even a small change will generate more power.
Place your batteries correctly
You need to pay special attention to your solar cells during the winter months to ensure they continue to function. It is important to keep your batteries at the right temperature.
Batteries cannot operate at the extremely low temperatures experienced in some areas. You should therefore store your batteries indoors or make sure they are well insulated.
If you keep your batteries outside, monitor the temperature to ensure it is in the optimum range.
Watch your battery discharge
It is also important to observe the level of battery discharge. It is not recommended that you fully discharge your solar cells.
In fact, while some batteries may be suitable for 70% to 80% discharge levels, the recommended discharge level is actually 50%.
On high usage days, as you may experience in winter, keep an eye on your battery discharge and consider investing in a back-up generator.
Removing heavy snow from panels
While some snow on solar panels is not a problem, be aware of excessive snow accumulation. Solar modules covered in snow simply cannot capture sunlight in the same way.
In addition, heavy snow can cause the solar panels to bear too much weight and thus put pressure on the mounting points.
If you are removing snow from solar panels, make sure you use the right tools. Rough brushes or rakes can damage your solar panels.
Instead, use a soft snow brush to clean the snow without scratching the surface of the panels. Again, it is best to contact your solar panel supplier to ensure that you do not void the warranty.
Do Solar Panels Work in Winter?
The answer is yes, solar panels can still generate electricity during the winter months. However, their performance may be affected by a number of factors, including the amount of sunlight available, the temperature, and the presence of snow or ice.
Practical City Examples
Let’s take the city of Anchorage, Alaska as an example of a city that experiences long and harsh winters. Anchorage has an average temperature of around -10°C (14°F) in the winter months and receives only about 5 hours of sunlight per day. Despite these conditions, Anchorage has a growing solar industry, with many homes and businesses installing solar panel systems to generate their own electricity.
The efficiency of solar panels in Anchorage during the winter months may be lower due to the reduced amount of sunlight and cold temperatures. Solar panels are typically less efficient in colder temperatures, as the chemical reactions that occur within the panels slow down. However, this decrease in efficiency can be compensated for by installing additional solar panels, which can generate more electricity even in low-light conditions.
Another factor that can affect the performance of solar panels in winter is the presence of snow and ice. In Anchorage, snow and ice can accumulate on solar panels and reduce their efficiency. However, many solar panel installations are designed to allow snow to slide off easily, and regular snow removal can help maximize their performance in the winter.
Despite these challenges, solar panels can still generate a significant amount of electricity during the winter months in Anchorage. In fact, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power estimates that a well-designed and maintained solar panel system can generate up to 50% of its annual energy production in the winter months.
Another example of a city that experiences long and harsh winters in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. Calgary has an average temperature of around -8°C (18°F) in the winter months and receives only about 6 hours of sunlight per day. Despite these conditions, Calgary has also seen a growing interest in solar panel installations in recent years.
The efficiency of solar panels in Calgary during the winter months may be lower due to the reduced amount of sunlight and cold temperatures. However, like Anchorage, Calgary receives a significant amount of snowfall during the winter months, which can actually help improve the performance of solar panels. This is because snow can reflect sunlight back onto the panels, increasing their efficiency.
In addition, many solar panel installations in Calgary are designed to be mounted at an angle, which can help them capture more sunlight even during the shorter winter days. By installing additional solar panels and using techniques like snow removal and panel angle adjustment, solar panels can still generate a significant amount of electricity in cities like Calgary.
During the winter months, your solar panels can still capture sunlight and create energy for your home.
They may just need a little more care and maintenance before and during the winter months. If you want to install solar panels for your home, Sungold is a specialist solar panel manufacturer.