How do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?

During the summer, solar panel production can produce significant energy thanks to the long sunny days. But during the winter months, daylight hours are shorter, and it can be considerably cloudy and cold in many states across the U.S.A.

If you’re considering solar panels, you may wonder if you can produce enough energy during winter months. Understanding the technology behind a rooftop solar system helps demonstrate how solar panels perform well even in winter.

Solar Panels – Heat vs. Daylight

Solar energy works by harnessing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity. Solar cells (or photovoltaic PV cells), convert the sunlight directly into electricity, creating direct current (DC) electricity, which then travels to an inverter and converts this energy into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used in your home.

In general, your solar system production will be lower in winter months than in summer months. However, the difference in production may not be as extreme as you think!

Solar panels do not rely on heat from a sunny day to produce electricity. In actuality, colder temperatures can help improve the performance of solar cells production (PV Performance). Solar panels only need daylight to produce electricity, therefore, unless your solar system is blocked by shade from trees or snow, it will continue to absorb energy during the day – even in the winter.

Cold Weather is Good for Solar Panels!

The reflection from snow on the ground coupled with a good, gusty wind can actually help improve solar system performance. When the sunlight bounces from the snow below to the top of your solar panels, the traveling light helps improve solar system performance.

In addition, the angle of your solar system production is important to ensure proper surrounding air and ventilation conditions. For example, a free-standing solar panel offers prime ventilation compared to a rooftop panel, that’s why it is important to speak to the installer about how your home solar system will be mounted and angled for the best performance.

Winter is a great time to shop for solar panels!

How Does Snow Affect Solar Panels?

A quality solar system is built to last over 25 years. When choosing a rooftop solar system, remember that premium-grade panels are fully tested to operate year-round, and withstand extreme weather conditions. For instance, snowfall should not damage solar panels because they are tested to endure freezing temperatures and bear the weight of heavy amounts of snow or debris.

If mounted correctly and installed by certified technicians, solar panels are designed to handle a certain amount of snow, rain, and hail. Your solar panels should resist corrosion, impact, and extreme shifts in the weather. Considering that people drive on solar panels, the weight of the snow will not be an issue!

While most solar panels are installed at an angle, it will take time for snow to slide off. When solar panels gather snow, it’s best to let the snow melt or slide off the panels naturally. We recommend you move cars, patio furniture, and other items that may get damaged away from your roof. The snow may slide off in large sheets, and it’s important to be very careful.

Sunnova’s Production Monitoring and 25-Year Warranty

When investing in a solar system, it’s important for homeowners to understand their home solar warranty and maintenance agreement terms. Sunnova offers a best-in-class, comprehensive protection plan that covers repairs, maintenance and a production guarantee* for your solar system. Homeowners benefit from a production guarantee because it ensures that your panels will produce the promised amount of energy outlined in the 25-year service agreement, or Sunnova will credit you the difference.

If you live in a part of the country like New York or New Jersey that contends with snow storms and/or extreme weather conditions during winter months, having a full-service warranty comes in handy. Having the peace of mind that your solar system performance is being monitored 24/7 to detect insufficient solar generation, helps makes sure that your solar panels will perform, rain or shine.

*In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer production guarantee or 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.