Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter? How Cold Weather and Snow Affect Solar Power

Jamie McInerney
Written by Jamie McInerney
Updated April 15, 2022
Solar panels on a snowy roof
Photo: Max Labeille/iStock/Getty Images

Highlights

  • Solar panels transfer sunlight into sustainable home energy.

  • Solar roof design prevents snow from piling in the winter. 

  • Cold temperatures are not an issue for solar fixtures.

  • There are major financial benefits to using solar panels.

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Given that solar panels work best under a sunny sky, it’s easy to assume that they work best in the summertime. However, their efficiency isn’t limited to one season. Solar-powered structures can provide your home with green energy year-round, even in the coldest weather. Discover how solar panels work in the winter below.

Solar Panel Resilience: Why Solar Panels Still Work in Winter

A solar roof’s main function is to turn sunlight into energy. Each panel of a solar roof contains its own internal electric field, which creates an electric current when exposed to sunlight. This electricity is then converted to a different type of electricity known as alternating current electricity, which we use to power our homes.

To understand how solar roofs still work in the winter, read on.

The Roof’s Design

Most home and building owners install their solar roofs at an angle, forcing the majority of snow to slide off after a winter flurry. If their design wasn’t enough to keep snow from sticking around, solar panels’ material definitely assists in keeping them clear. 

The Panels’ Finish

Panels are finished with a glossy film that prompts snow to glide off of your roof rather than accumulate. Snow sliding off of your solar structure regularly can actually help keep it clean, exposing it to more light and creating a greater solar energy output. 

Snow’s Sunny Reflection

In some instances, snow can actually boost your solar panels’ effectiveness. If you’ve ever walked around on a sunny, snowy day, you’ve likely winced at the bright reflection that snow produces. A solar roof can benefit from this reflection by absorbing the sunlight that bounces off surrounding snow. 

Though solar panels work just as effortlessly in the winter as they do in the summer, it’s important to note that winter days are shorter. Shorter days mean less exposure to sunlight, meaning your solar roof may produce less energy overall, but not to a degree that would impact your day-to-day.

Do Solar Panels Work If Covered in Snow?

Snow covers solar panels on a house
Photo: Oleksii Nykonchuk/Adobe Stock

If your area receives an abnormally large amount of snowfall, you’re probably curious how your solar fixture will fare. If snow does happen to accumulate on your solar roof, don’t fret. If you have a professional solar power company near you install panels, they should be able to withstand great amounts of precipitation and weight without fail. 

Even if your roof is entirely covered in snow, panels can still produce solar power in the winter. Plus, they’re designed to absorb the sun’s heat, so they’ll melt snow off faster than the rest of your roof and be back to producing energy at full capacity in no time.

Can Extreme Cold Impact Your Solar Panels?

So, we know that winter’s precipitation won’t interfere with solar panels, but what about temperature? Solar-powered structures produce the most energy between 59 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but they still produce adequate energy under extreme temperatures. This is because they rely on sunlight, not heat, to function properly.  

Additional Maintenance for Solar Roofs

For the most part, solar roofs are self-sustainable. However, if you’re able to access your roof safely and easily, you can clear the panels’ surrounding areas. This will prevent snow from building upon other sections of the roof.

The Perks of Using Solar Structures

There are many benefits of using solar panels year-round. Read why many homeowners have made the switch to green energy.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Using solar power in the winter is a major way to reduce your environmental impact. Solar energy decreases your home’s need for fossil fuel energy and greenhouse gas emissions. On top of the environmental perks, you’ll also be pleased to find out that solar energy can curb your energy bills.

Cut Down on Energy Bills

Another huge financial factor for homeowners to install solar panels is how they can decrease energy bill costs. As it gets colder, you’re more likely to crank up the heat. A self-sustaining solar roof that works year-round can help minimize energy costs by up to $30,000, allowing you to rearrange your home budget. 

Solar Fixtures Add Home Value

In addition to cutting energy costs, solar-powered additions increase home value by roughly 4%. Incorporating green fixtures into your home will make it a viable option on the market when it comes time to resell.

Green Energy’s Prominence in Home Architecture

Another positive of going solar is that green energy is only getting more and more integrated into architecture—it’s here to stay! Your options are expansive, too. Homeowners have many different types of solar panels to choose from. Consider the pros and cons of each to ensure you get the most out of your eco-friendly addition.

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