Pumpkin spice season is officially upon us. And with it comes decreasing temperatures and fewer sunny days. Naturally, you might wonder if rooftop solar panels can perform during the cold winter weather. And if they can, how well?
Yes, there are some differences between seasons. These differences can affect solar panels during the winter. But to what extent? Is it significant or too minor to matter?
Get settled in with your pumpkin spice coffee — or hot chocolate, if that’s what you prefer — as we answer your most pressing questions about solar panel efficiency in cold weather.
Do solar panels work in the winter?
Yes, they do! Since solar energy is powered by the sun, the term might suggest images of sunny summer days. But you’ll be happy to know that solar panels can perform well in the cold, too! The amount of light, not heat, they get from the sun has the biggest effect on their performance.
And while daylight hours get shorter in the winter, solar panels are more efficient in cold temperatures than they are in warm temperatures.(1) This improvement in efficiency offsets the drop in sunny hours. Studies back this up, with researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Regional Test Centers demonstrating that solar panels work in the cold.(2) Researchers conduct tests with panels that are attached to monitoring equipment.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tests solar panels in environmental chambers. Using these chambers, researchers subject panels to different weather conditions including temperature. NREL also incorporates hardware into its testing practices that has the capability to apply about 40 suns of ultraviolet (UV) intensity in a controlled setting and about 1,000 suns of UV in an uncontrolled setting.(3)
Solar panels are more effective in winter
Are solar panels efficient in winter? Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells. When photon particles in the sun’s rays hit the photovoltaic cells, it sets the electrons in motion and creates an electrical current. Electrons are in a state of low energy in cold temperatures. When the sunlight activates them, it sends them into a state of high energy. This process causes a greater difference in voltage, allowing the panels to create more energy.(4) So, if you’re wondering, are solar panels effective in winter? The answer is “yes.”
And you don’t have to worry about your solar energy system in the summer heat, either. Although efficiency starts to decrease around 77 degrees, longer daylight hours offset this effect.
Do solar panels work when covered with snow?
Do solar panels work with snow on them? Solar panels can still produce energy when covered in a thin layer of snow. However, heavy snowfall can be a different story. Significant accumulation has the potential to disrupt a solar energy system’s production entirely.
There’s a bit of good news in this situation, though, as the panels can resume generating power once the snow melts or slides off them. In the best-case scenario, snow can even clean the panels. Snow has special properties that make it stick to dirt. Consequently, when the snow slides or melts off the panels, the dirt goes with it.(2)
Should I worry about snow on solar panels?
If you’re worried about a thick layer of snow on your solar panels interrupting their production, consider this. Most panels are installed on the slope of the roof. When the snow melts, gravity will remove the snow from them.(2)
If you’re bothered that they can’t, you might be tempted to climb onto the roof and remove the snow yourself. For the sake of your safety, it’s better to wait for the snow to melt. Otherwise, you risk injuring yourself.
Can the weight of snow damage solar panels?
In most cases, snowfall shouldn’t weigh enough to damage solar panels. Manufacturers design the panels to withstand a certain amount of pressure. And once the panels are produced, manufacturers subject them to pressure tests.
From here, solar panels are assigned a rating. The higher the pressure rating, the more weight they can bear without cracking. Quality makes a big difference in how much pressure solar panels can take. This is one of the reasons why ADT solar uses only high quality solar panels in the installations we perform.
Get solar panels for all seasons
Well, there you have it. Now you know the answer to the question, do solar panels work in the cold? And all your other pressing questions about how winter affects solar energy systems. The good news is, solar power systems can perform well in cold weather just as they can in warm temperatures. And thinking about how going solar could help you save money on your heating bills might give you even more peace of mind.
So, get cozy and have a chat with a Solar Energy Specialist. They’ll fill you in on all the ways that solar energy can make you feel warm and fuzzy this winter.