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Solar Panels in the Winter: Do They Work?

February 8, 2024 | Reading Time: 9 minutes

A common question about solar panels, especially in New England, is whether the system can still produce electricity in the winter.

Solar Panels Work in the Winter

Solar panels can still work in the winter despite shorter days and snow accumulation. Your system may have reduced output in the winter months but overall, your system will continue to produce energy.

The best way to think about your solar production is to account for the amount of sun your panels will be exposed to for the entire year, rather than one single day or season. 

Isaksen Solar Insight: Our team considers a full-year of energy production in each system design so your system will produce enough energy to sustain any inclement weather or lack of daylight in the winter. 

Is there a benefit of having solar in the winter? 

Your solar panels will operate more efficiently in colder temperatures. Just like other electronic devices, solar panels work most efficiently in cooler climates

Additionally, snow on the ground can actually increase panels’ efficiency as the reflection of sunlight maximizes their light exposure.

Solar Panels and Snow

Solar panels are well-suited to withstand snowstorms and heavy snow accumulation. The most significant effect that a layer of snow could have on solar panels is on their energy production rate.

Can my panels produce power when they are covered in snow? 

Your solar panels will not be able to produce energy when they are covered in a thick layer of snow. If your panels have been covered for more than a few days, consider brushing them off while standing on the ground using an extendable tool.

Isaksen Solar Insight: Snow accumulation is one of the many reasons battery storage systems are extremely valuable. When a BSS is added to a solar panel system, the home can still run off stored solar energy instead of pulling from the grid in times of low production.

Additionally, BSS’s allow homes to remain powered through grid outages which are common in New England winters. This is because the home’s power source will cut from the grid and solely rely on the batteries which get charged by the panels during the day. Hypothetically, it is possible to run your entire home off batteries and solar panels forever.

Should I clear snow off my panels?

Oftentimes, your panels will be the first part of your roof to shed the snow due to their slick glass surface, unobstructed view of direct sunlight, and steep angle so cleaning off your panels after snowfall will not be necessary.

If it has been more than a few days and you’re noticing a significant drop in energy production, it may be time to clear off your panels.

Do panels emit heat to melt snow?

Solar panels mostly absorb the sun’s light and not much of its heat. However, their angle and positioning on your roof will likely cause them to shed snow faster than other parts of your home leading to the misconception that they’re melting the snow.

Are solar panels still worth the investment if I live in a snowy area?

Despite heavy snowfall blocking solar panels from absorbing sunlight, the return on investment of your solar energy system can remain quite high.

Increased Efficiency in Cold Weather

Solar technology is more efficient in cooler temperatures, primarily because of the use of mono-crystalline silicon in solar cells. In colder environments, electrons can move more freely, enhancing the electrical current flow and boosting the panel’s overall efficiency.

Increased Light Exposure from Snow on the Ground

The intense white glare from the snow-covered ground can be challenging for our eyes to withstand, but it significantly benefits solar panel energy production. This additional reflection directs more light onto the solar panels, enhancing their sun exposure and leading to more efficient energy generation.

Steep Installation Angle and Slick, Black Surface

Work with an experienced solar installer, like Isaksen Solar, who knows the ins and outs of optimal installation including properly positioning and angling your panels so their surface can quickly shed snow.

High Traditional Electricity Costs

We see a general upward trend in electricity prices since the beginning of regional energy distribution. Although rates may fluctuate, electricity prices continue to increase overtime at unpredictable intensities. 

Making the switch to solar energy can free you from the ongoing costs and lack of control associated with traditional electricity subscriptions.

Renewable Energy Incentives: Net-Metering and ConnectedSolutions

All renewable energy incentives can increase the ROI of your solar energy system but two specifically can help sustain your system’s investment return through the winter.

Net-Metering

Through net-metering, homeowners who adopt renewable energy systems can send extra energy to the grid during times of high production and low consumption and earn credits in return. These credits are stockpiled and can be used in times of low production and high consumption. Essentially, net-metering allows homeowners to receive an equal amount of energy from the grid as was sent to the grid, for no cost. This is extremely valuable in the winter when production is lower.

The homeowner would need to pay for electricity if they use up all their credits. In contrast, the utility company may actually owe the homeowner if more energy was sent to the grid than delivered by it.

Isaksen Solar Insight: Net metering policies vary by state. Even Rhode Island and Massachusetts‘ net metering programs look a little different from each other. We encourage you to reach out to us with any questions before opting to participate in a net metering program. 

ConnectedSolutions

ConnectedSolutions is a battery storage system incentive that enables participants to earn money for allowing their utility company to access and use the energy stored in their batteries a set number of times per year. Participants are paid annually and can earn a maximum of $5,000 per battery over the course of five years. 

This program prevents utility companies from activating extra power plants during times of peak electrical demand.

Solar in the Winter: Other Frequently Asked Questions

How do I maximize solar efficiency in the winter?

There are several precautions and best practices you can follow to ensure your solar panels are working efficiently throughout the wintertime.

Work With a Professional Installer for Proper Installation

Solar panels should be installed at a steep angle when possible. This allows accumulated snow to slide off easily and limits the time snow blocks them from the sun.

Conduct Maintenance As Needed

It’s important to reach out to your solar servicer as soon as possible when you notice any signs of damage to your panels. This will prevent spikes in grid usage when panels are not producing energy properly.

Isaksen Solar Insight: We are a professional solar installer and servicer. Therefore, we’ll be with you through the entire lifespan of your panels and are able to perform maintenance whenever necessary.

Get Your Panels Inspected Regularly

Hiring a professional building or electrical inspector to take a look at your solar energy system at least once per year is one of the best ways to keep up with your system’s status. They’ll be able to gage your system’s physical state as well as its internal production and give you a good idea of its overall condition.

Monitor Your System’s Performance

Many companies will set you up with login credentials to a solar monitoring app where you’ll be able to see how much energy your system is producing and how much you’re using at any given time. This is helpful to notice performance drops that may be a result of an issue with the system.

Isaksen Solar Insight: We pair every system with our Isaksen Solar App that monitors your production and consumption 24/7. You’ll have your own login and can track your system whenever you want. Additionally, our service team will be notified of any issues with your system and they will reach out to you as soon as possible to troubleshoot or schedule a visit.

Inspect Your Roof (Outside and Inside) Regularly

Maintaining the integrity of your roof by having it professionally inspected on a regular basis is essential to preventing leaks or escaped heat. Not only will your utility bill increase, but escaped heat from your roof or attic may cause ice dams that can be damaging to your panels.

Maintain Your Gutters

Cleaning your gutters before winter begins is the best way to prevent ice build up when temperatures drop below freezing. Otherwise, the ice could become too heavy for your gutters to support and may cause them to break which could lead to solar panel damage.

Trim Overhanging Trees

Hopefully your system isn’t surrounded by too many trees, but if any branches overhang the panels, it’s important to trim them before winter begins. If not, snow may build up on the branches and cause a drop off that could be damaging to your panels. 

Can I get solar installed in the winter? 

It is possible and in fact, common to install solar panels in the wintertime. Demand is usually lower in the winter months which could lead to benefits like cheaper installation prices and a quicker installation time. Additionally, getting your panels installed in the winter will ensure they’re activated and generating energy by the time peak production season comes around in the spring.

Isaksen Solar Insight: Our crews are trained to safely install solar panels no matter the season. They’re able to go up on your roof regardless of cold temperatures as long as its not covered in ice or there are severe weather conditions.

Our Conclusion: Solar Is the Solution All Year Long

Even in through harsh New England winters, we’ve seen panels perform optimally and people save thousands of dollars in electric bills in one year. 

We’re happy to answer any questions. Reach out to us, (508) 717-3820, or get started with your free solar quote.