olar panels are typically associated with warm countries, which makes some homeowners believe that living in a cold climate shuts them out of going solar. But in fact, cold but sunny places are suitable for installing solar panels just as much as hotter ones, because sunlight is basically the only requirement for the efficient operation of PV systems. What's more, they are even slightly more efficient in cool weather than under intense heat: most solar panels start underproducing when the temperature rises above 25°C (77 °F).
Do solar systems work in winter?
But then another question arises: do solar panels make sense in areas that are occasionally hit by heavy snow? Let's dig a little deeper to find out.
What happens to a solar system in snowy weather?
Generally, solar systems are designed to withstand snowy conditions. PV panels are typically tilted at a 30-degree or 45-degree angle, as they are most efficient when placed perpendicular to the sun rays. But the angle has another less obvious benefit: it makes the snow cover slide off the roof. Plus, if your area is often battered by heavy snowfalls, you can install solar panels without frames. Conventional modules come with thick frames around the edges, because of which snow can build up faster. Frameless design, on the other hand, allows it to slide off the roof and keep your panels open for the sun.
In addition to this, snow on solar panels melts pretty easily. This is because solar cells heat up as they produce electricity and get hotter than the air around them – about 36 °F above the ambient temperature.
Can solar panels collapse under a snowload?
If we leave out some severe weather conditions, the weight of the snowpack doesn’t pose any threat to solar panels. All PV modules sold today are assigned a load rating showing how much pressure they can withstand. Most panels can survive under a pressure of 5,400 Pascals, which means their surface can withstand a snow height of roughly 5.8 meters.
Will snowfall affect solar performance?
In most cases, snow cover will either melt or slide off the roof and your solar panels will carry on producing electricity. Heavy snowfalls can still sometimes lead to large build-ups, which can obstruct the absorption of light and lead to a slight decline in output. But generally, the performance of solar panels in snowy weather would not be seriously affected: the average energy loss caused by snowfalls is a mere 3%.
And what's more, snow can even improve solar efficiency. The thing is, solar panels often get covered with dust and dirt, which can potentially decrease the performance of a PV system by about 5%. But a snowfall can serve as a free cleaning tool for your solar modules helping get rid of the dirt.
Should I clear solar panels from the snow?
If your solar panels are buried under snowdrifts, you can simply wait a day or two for the snow to melt. The loss in performance is likely to be offset by overproduction on hot summer days anyway. But if the snow stays in place longer or you simply don’t want to sacrifice the output, you can remove it manually.
Ways to remove snowbanks from solar modules
Hose off the solar panels
This is probably the simplest way to clear away snow from solar panels, all you have to do is to spray their surface with a garden hose. But this method is not suitable for below-zero temperatures, as the water from the hose can simply turn into ice.
Sweep the snow off
Solar panels covered in snow can be easily cleaned with a soft-bristled broom. However, this method often involves climbing up on the roof under adverse weather conditions, which may be dangerous.
Clear your solar modules with a leaf blower
Another way of dealing with snow cover is blowing it off with a leaf blower. Attach a long plastic air hose to it and apply hot air to your PV panels to make the snowbanks melt faster.
Hire a professional to clean your solar panels
if you've got the money to spare and want to get rid of snow from your solar panels quickly and safely, you can contact specialized services. They will remove the snow using professional tools so that you will be sure your solar panels won’t get damaged.
To conclude: snow on solar panels is not a handicap
Generally, snowy weather has little-to-no effect on your solar energy generation. Solar panels in snow lose some of their efficiency, but snowbanks don’t stick for long: they usually slide off the roof or simply melt. But if they don’t, you can always clear your PV modules using simple instruments such as a soft brush or garden hose.
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