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Can Solar Panels Work in the Winter?

Project Planning
January 29, 2019
Solar energy is here to stay, and homeowners across the country are learning first-hand the benefits of this innovative technology. However, in the dead of winter, solar panels might not be at the top of your home improvement list. Chilly temperatures and snowstorms may have you asking, “Are solar panels able to produce enough power during the winter?”

As you’ll see within this article, solar panels may be a great option for your home—even in colder climates. From decreasing utility bills to reducing your environmental impact, there are plenty of reasons to consider adopting solar energy in your home.

Can solar panels produce electricity during cold winter months?

Snow and colder temperatures might leave you wondering if solar panels can work in winter months. The answer is, “Yes!” Even if you live in a colder climate, solar photovoltaic panels can still successfully generate electricity throughout the year. Because solar panels are powered by light rather than heat, outdoor temperature typically doesn’t affect their efficiency. In fact, according to SunPower, solar panels may perform better in cooler temperatures than very hot temperatures.

That said, there are a few things to consider when it comes to using solar panels in the winter. Because there are less hours of daylight during winter months than during the summer season, total output of your solar panels will be less; however, your solar panels may continue to produce power as long as it’s light outside. 

It’s important to keep in mind that significant changes in temperature throughout the day or night may affect your solar panels. Extreme fluctuations in temperature can cause some types of solar panels to crack. Be sure to chat with your contractor about the best solar panel system for your area’s environment before installation gets started. 

Can solar panels produce electricity in the snow?

So, we’ve covered the chill, but what about snowy areas? If you have white winters, solar panels may still be a good option. Because snow can reflect light, sometimes a snowy environment can actually help solar panels can generate more electricity. 

For snow on the panel itself, light layers of snow are usually removed by wind. When it comes to heavy snowstorms, you may need a bit of extra care. Some snow may typically slide off on its own, and the panels will continue to generate power if part of the panel is exposed. However you may want to enlist a professional to remove heavy snow from your solar setup so that the weight of the snow doesn’t damage the panels’ support structure. 

Will a solar system work well in my area during the winter?

While a solar panel system can generally work well in any climate, the efficiency of your solar panel setup is dependent on a few different factors. 
  1. Weather: Solar is a good idea in most areas, regardless of climate. However, if you do happen to live in a location that sees drastic temperature fluctuations throughout the day or night, you may want to connect with a local contractor to confirm the levels of efficiency you can expect — and how to protect your solar panel system from cracking.

  2. Panel placement: Solar contractors can help you choose the most advantageous spot of your home (read: the area that gets the most sunlight throughout the day). Typically, solar systems are installed facing south, west or southwest.
To learn more about how solar panels work, and whether or not this home improvement project is right for you, check out our Guide to Solar.

What you should know if you decide to install solar

If you’ve decided to install solar and begin generating your own electricity, you have a few decisions to make. First, you may need to choose between leasing and buying your solar panels. Each method has its benefits:
  • Leasing: If you lease your solar panels, you’ll typically have no upfront costs and just pay your solar panel leasing company to use the system. In addition, the solar leasing company may handle all maintenance and repair issues that arise. However, as with any other lease, this will be an ongoing cost on a regular basis.

  • Buying: While purchasing solar panels may be a larger upfront cost, you may be eligible for certain government credits and rebates. Additionally, solar panels may help you save on your energy bills. That said, maintenance and repair will be on your dollar. 
Learn more about the differences between leasing and buying solar panels here.

Final food for thought

Investing in solar energy may help you power your home all year long, from the sunniest of summer days to those chilly winter months. Talk to your contractor about the possibility of adding solar panels to your home, and make the most of your sunlight year-round.