What Happens When There’s Snow on Solar Panels?

What Happens When There’s Snow on Solar Panels?

In this guide, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • Do solar panels work if there’s snow on them?
  • What happens to your solar panels when it snows?
  • What should you do to remove snow from solar panels?
  • And more
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Snow On Solar Panels: Your Questions, Answered

Many people assume that because they need the sun to generate energy solar panels don’t work in the winter or that it’s only worth going solar in states with hot climates and mild winter months.

But did you know that Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York are three of the top 10 states for solar installations? For context, these three states get a combined annual snowfall of nearly 185 inches.

So, are these northern homeowners delusional, or is snow on solar panels not that big a deal?

We’ll be honest heavy snowfall will hinder solar production. However, cold winter weather will not harm a well-installed solar photovoltaic (PV) system. In fact, solar panels can actually benefit from some snow.1 And the headache of occasional snowfall isn’t enough to diminish the upsides of having a renewable energy system.

Seeing as you’re here, you probably have some questions about snow on solar panels and how it affects the amount of energy generation. So, let’s get to it.

Do Solar Panels Still Work If There’s Snow On Them?

Well, it depends on how much snow we’re talking about. If your solar panels are buried under heavy snow buildup, they’re not getting any direct sunlight and therefore won’t be generating any solar power.

On the other hand, if it’s just a thin layer of snow and solar rays can still get through, there will still be some solar energy production. Additionally, if there’s heavy snow on parts of the solar array but areas where the panels are still exposed, you’ll still see some energy output.

In the long run, a few days of snow on your solar panels aren’t going to have that big of an impact on your overall solar energy production. But investing in solar energy storage batteries is a good idea, especially in states with frequent inclement weather.

What Happens To Your Solar Panels When It Snows

Aside from wondering if solar panels still work in cold weather and snow, many homeowners wonder how inclement weather can impact solar panel systems.

Framed vs. frameless solar panel modules and how they fare against snowy weather

Does Snow Damage Solar Panels?

You shouldn’t have to worry too much about snow damaging your solar panels because they’re designed with frames and crannies to withstand potential damage. So long as your solar PV module is installed by a reliable solar company, you shouldn’t have to worry about snow.

That’s not to say you should start singing “Let It Snow,” either.

In cases of extreme weather, the weight of heavy snowfall can place stress on a PV system and potentially lead to cracks. Studies have shown that of all extreme weather events snow represents the biggest challenge to a solar power system’s performance.2 

The potential for solar system damage is why we always recommend choosing a solar company that offers a comprehensive warranty for your solar energy system so you’re covered in the event of snow damage.

How Snow Can Be Beneficial for Solar Panels

You probably didn’t think that snow could actually be good for solar panels. But when snow melts off your solar panels, it washes away dirt, dust and pollen with it, making your solar panels cleaner and more efficient.

Learn More About Best Solar Panels by Watt

How Do You Deal With Snow On Solar Panels?

You invested in a solar panel system and you don’t want snow to lessen its efficiency. So you might be wondering if you should remove snow from your solar panels.

In most cases, there’s really not much you can do to combat snow on your solar panels. But here are three possible options:

1. Clean Snow Off Your Solar Panels

We’re going to be honest, this is probably not your best option. Trying to clean snow off your solar panels is typically not worth the risk of injuring yourself or your solar system.

However, if you live in a state like Minnesota or Alaska where snow is abundant and daylight hours are extra short on winter days, solar panel snow removal might be necessary. In that case, you should invest in proper solar panel snow removal tools like a roof rake or a snow broom.

2. Invest In Snow Guards

If you live in a snowy state, you may want to install snow guards with your solar panel system. Snow guards are also easy to add to an existing system, so be sure to ask a local solar installer about them.

3. Wait For Nature To Do Its Thing

In our opinion, the best way to remove snow from your solar panels is to wait on gravity and sunshine to do their thing.

Solar arrays are installed at an angle, so heavier snowfall is likely to slide off on the next sunny day. Plus, dark solar panels are designed to attract and absorb heat, so snow melts faster on them compared to a standard roof shingle.

Final Thoughts: Snow On Solar Panels

Heavy snowfall can stick to your solar panels and block solar production, but it’s not a significant enough impact to lessen the benefit of going solar. And if you don’t want to take our word for it, know that the Solar Energy Technologies Office has publicly stated  that they’re confident solar panels can still thrive when the snow piles high.3

Additionally, as solar technology advances, more is being done to mitigate snow being an issue. For example, Tesla solar boasts about snow sliding right off of its roofs, and CEO Elon Musk has even discussed built-in heating elements as part of solar technology to automatically melt snow and frost.

 

So, if there’s snow in the forecast, don’t worry so much about how your solar panels will fare. Instead, think of it as a free, easy solar panel cleaning solution.

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Kristina Zagame
Article author
Kristina Zagame is a journalist and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.