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Your solar panels will undoubtedly struggle to produce optimal energy during winter because of heavy snowfall. However, you can take certain actions to care for your panels and improve their efficiency even with limited sunlight during winter.
Many people wonder how to maintain solar panels with snow? The best way to maintain solar panels with snow is to keep your solar panels away from snow and ice, as many experts suggest not attempting to remove snow from solar panels. Solar panels generally get warm enough from the sun’s rays to melt a layer of snow.
In this article, we will consider some winter-related issues that could affect your solar panels and how you can solve them stress-free.
If you wonder whether you need to turn off your solar panels to clean them, I wrote a whole article that I encourage you to read.
How Does Snow Affect Your Solar Panels?
Solar photovoltaic panels can generate electricity throughout the four seasons because the sun is always out. But snowfall can further reduce the limited solar energy you harness from the panels. Snow reduces the light penetrating the solar panel cells, hence less energy.
Of course, your solar system will produce more electricity in the summer than in the winter because the sun shines longer and with high intensity in the summer. However, this does not mean you will not produce any power in the winter.
Heavy snow can also add weight to the panels, causing stress on the support structure of the PV system. Most PV solar panel systems have frames that could hold more snow, thus creating stress at the mounting points.
Snow buildup on the panels can cause micro-cracks from non-uniform load distribution on the delicate PV system. Fortunately, modern solar panel PV systems are frameless, allowing snow to slide to the ground instead of building on the panels.
Frameless solar panel technology can make solar energy an ideal power generation option in the northern climate characterized by snow.
Snowfall does not always have negative effects on solar panels. They can help clean your system when the snow melts and slide off with dirt from the roof.
The surface dirt on the panel bonds with the snow, and when it melts from the sun’s heat, it washes the dirt away. And clean solar panels equal higher efficiency.
How To Maintain Solar Panels When It Snows?
Solar panel productivity is significantly low in the winter, and here is what reduces the energy output.
- Cloudy and rainy weather.
- Snow accumulation on the panels.
- The suns lower angle.
- Shorter days.
However, you can take some practical steps to help your solar system perform better, even during snow.
1- Ensure The Angles Of Your Solar Panels Are Optimal
Since the sun is at a lower angle during winter, your panels may not receive adequate sunlight if you don’t adjust them accordingly. You can use an adjustable rack to fix the panels at a 15-degree angle.
If you have dual or single-axis solar panels that automatically change direction and angle with the change of the sun’s position, you may not need an adjustable rack.
Your goal is to get the most of the available sunlight.
2- Install The Frameless Solar Panels
Since solar panels are always installed at a tilted or slanted position, it is easy for the snow building on the slippery glass to slide off to the ground. However, if your solar panel system has frames, the snow may not slide but build up.
So, installing frameless panels help increase the efficiency and durability of the panels. No excess weight on the panels, and the snow melts faster.
3- Scrape Off The Excess Snow
Sometimes your region may experience heavy snowfall that gathers on the panels. If it is a ground-mounted solar panel, you can remove the excess through ways we will discuss next.
However, if the snow build-up is on the rooftop, you could hire a professional to remove it. It is not worth risking your life trying to scrap off the snow on your panels.
The sun will hit the dark surface of your panels, and the snow with melt off. If the panels are steeper, the ice on them will melt faster, so just wait.
4- Other Things You Can Do Include:
- Spraying your solar panels with a room-temperature water
- Sweep the panels, but be mindful not to scratch or damage them.
- Connect warm air via a long plastic air hose to the snow on the panels to melt them.
How To Conserve Energy With Solar Panels?
Conserving energy will help you when snow rains and the sun shines less. Here is how you conserve energy:
- Turn off lights at home when they are not in use.
- Insulate your home to prevent heat from escaping, thus reducing the load on your panels.
- Correct any air duct leaks before turning on the heater.
- If you are not using the fireplace, close the damper
- Replace energy-consuming bulbs with energy-efficient CFL bulbs that could save up to 75% of your solar-generated energy.
- Invest in thermal curtains to insulate your windows and converse heat in the house.
1- Have a Solar Power Battery
Solar battery power banks come in handy during winter when the sun lasts for a short duration, and the clouds fill the sky. Here are some things you can do to maintain your deep-cycle batteries:
- Install your batteries indoors, but if you have them outdoors, ensure there are properly insulated to prevent the lead-acid batteries from freezing below zero degrees.
- If you have an off-grid system, ensure you have anti-free distilled water to keep your batteries safe.
- Keep an eye on the water levels during winter.
Check out the best Solar battery power banks:
2- Track Your Energy Capture
Regularly tracking your solar energy capture during winter months will help you identify any problems limiting the power you harness from the system.
If you notice a sudden reduction in solar energy during winter months, uncommon to the previous winters, you could consult your solar company to address the issue. Professionals can identify if something extraordinary is happening to your solar panels and help you with maintenance tips.
But How Do You Track Or Monitor Your Solar Panels’ Energy Output?
You can do so via apps, and if you lower than normal energy output, you could check if dirt or debris is blocking the panels. Integrating your solar panel monitoring system into the monitoring setup lets you know the amount of energy the panels produce daily. This way, you can see how external factors affect your solar system’s performance.
The monitoring system can also alert you if one or more of your solar panels have broken down or malfunctioned, allowing you to repair and replace them.
Impact Of Extreme Weather On Your Panels
Top solar panel manufacturers and installers produce durable panels. These top-notch solar panels mean your PV systems can endure all types of weather, from rain, storm, wind, and snow.
Solar panels can even survive hail storms. We have seen solar panels that withstand hurricanes!
I am not saying that solar panels are 100% indestructible. In some instances, they can be damaged by tornadoes, hail, lightning, and hurricanes. But with a good warranty, you may have the damaged panels replaced.
Unlike snow, solar panels’ efficiency is highly affected by extreme heat. When the temperature hits over 25°C, your solar panels start losing around 1% of energy per degree rise.
How Do You Improve The Temperature?
Elevate them a few inches above the ground for ground-mounted panels, allowing air to circulate and cool down the panels. But you don’t need to stress about hot temperatures because your installer will likely consider the local climate when installing panels.
Fortunately, your solar system improves its sunlight absorption efficiency during cold temperatures than in hot weather. So, after the snow melts and the sun shines bright, you can expect your solar panels to generate more electricity.
What Is The Maintenance Difference Between Ground-Mounted Panels And Rooftop Panels?
Ground-mounted solar panels are closer to the ground and are easier to clean than rooftop solar systems. You will need a tall ladder to clean or remove snow buildup on the rooftop panels, which could be risky.
On the other hand, you need a shorter footstep ladder or none to remove any snow buildup on the ground-mounted panels. With ground-mounted panels, you can easily remove dirt or debris because no climbing is required.
What to read next:
- Why Are Solar Panels so Expensive? (And tips to reduce your costs!)
- Can You Charge a Power Bank With a Solar Panel?
- How to Get Solar Panels from Government for Free?
Snow buildup on your solar panels can reduce their efficiency and cause damage, especially if the panels have structural frames. However, you can maintain your solar panels by installing them slanted to allow snow to slide off quickly.
You could also choose frameless solar panels to avoid snow buildup during harsh winters. If you have a snow rake or soft brush, you can manually remove the snow off your solar panels to increase their efficiency.
Additionally, you can invest in an indoor solar battery power bank to store energy for winter. The storage system also reduces the pressure on the solar system during extreme weather conditions. So, keep a close eye on your solar panel productivity during winter to ensure they perform optimally.