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Winter-Weather Solar, Explained
Memories of cold, snowy winters past can be discouraging even for the hardiest homeowner. If you’re considering going solar, you might wonder whether solar panels can produce electricity in wintry conditions. After all, if you look at solar as an investment, then it should be able to generate returns throughout the year as other investments do. Luckily, plenty of people have both solar panels and snow, and some of the most popular regions in the U.S. for solar have snowy winters. Don’t let winter weather discourage you from going solar!
'Winter-Weather Solar' Isn’t an Oxymoron
You don’t have to live in Phoenix or Los Angeles to achieve strong solar panel performance. As you consider solar panels for your home, remember that even if you live in the northern parts of the U.S., the worst of winter only lasts three months, so your days of low sunlight and heavy snow are limited. And the further from the equator you are, the longer your days are when the summer comes around—so while you may generate slightly less power in the winter months, you can make up for it with more sunshine in the summer.
What Happens to My Solar Panel Performance in Snow?
Solar panel snow problems are usually minimal. However, there are a few things that you should know about the implications of winter weather as you consider installing a solar energy system on your home:
1. All solar panels are designed to bear a certain amount of weight – and snow will usually not be heavy enough to cause issues. All solar panels undergo pressure tests to assess durability and quality. Ratings vary by panel, with higher pressure ratings indicating that your panels are better at withstanding the weight of heavy snow.
2. If snow covers your panels, they can’t produce power – but it’s easy to clean them off. Solar panels need sunlight to produce power, so if your solar panels are covered in snow, they will not generate electricity. Most panels are tilted at an angle, so snow will slide off on its own accord, but that can take time. You can take control of the situation by getting a solar panel snow rake or similar tool made for solar panel snow removal that won’t damage the panels.
3. Cold, sunny weather is actually good for panels. Winter months are actually good for solar energy production, as long as your panels aren’t covered by snow. Like most electronics, solar panels function more efficiently in cold conditions than in hot. This means that your panels will produce more power for each precious hour of sunshine during the short days of winter.
Popularity of solar in cold climates proves winter-weather solar works
Sunny states (like California, Arizona and Florida) are not the only places where solar makes sense. In fact, the top 10 cities for solar in the U.S. aren’t the sunniest ones. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York in the top 10 for states with the highest amount of installed solar in 2014. This is largely due to the fact that electricity prices are one of the biggest drivers of solar savings – the higher your electricity rates, the more money you will save by going solar.
Need further proof? Consider Germany, whose sunshine levels are similar to Alaska’s. For over a decade, this northern European country has led the world in solar panel installations, and solar makes a significant contribution to their national energy mix. Although other countries, including the U.S. and China, are starting to catch up, Germany’s success is a shining example of how winter weather solar can work in countries across the globe.
Now that you know that your solar panels can produce electricity in the winter, consider this: winter is also the best time to shop for solar if you’re a homeowner looking for the best value possible. With the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can compare equipment options and financing products from multiple installers to find the right solar panel system for your needs. Get an instant estimate or register your property today to get started.
Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.
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