Winter and Solar Panels
You finally got your solar panels and you’ve enjoyed a few months of excellent production from your system. The winter rolls in, bringing snow, ice, and cloudy days along with it, and your panel productivity has plummeted. Matter of fact, some days, your solar panels aren’t producing energy at all! If you are feeling frustrated with the rate of your panel productivity, you are not alone. But this is a friendly reminder that winter is the slow time for energy productivity. Inevitable snow storms and other natural occurrences this time of year means a significant slowdown for your system. But fear not! Warmer days are coming! In the meantime, here are a few reminders about what to expect from your solar panels during these winter months.
Snow stops panel production. Only melting can fix that.
After a major snow storm, your panel system will be covered with snow. Snowcover prevents sunlight from reaching your panels, so your panels will stop converting energy. This is absolutely natural and expected. However, your panel system might report to you that it is experiencing a major malfunction or system failure. This can be alarming for sure, but it is likely a false alarm. In all likelihood, your panel system is functioning normally.
Keep in mind that your panels are likely the first thing on your roof that will melt after a snow storm. However, when snow storms are followed by extreme cold (like the storms we’ve experienced here in New England lately), melting is significantly delayed. That means your panels will take longer to get back up to normal operation. Over time, as snow melts off of your panels, you will see your system go from no production, to partial production, and finally to full production as everything clears away.
Some panels will get back to normal faster than others.
We have found that panels on low-pitched roofs (roofs with a slope of less than a 45-degree angle) have a harder time getting the snow to melt off. Also remember that some panels may be partially in shadow during the day, slowing their melt and delaying their return to full production. Having some panels fully cleared while others are obscured by snow will make a difference in overall system performance. Again, during the winter, this is normal.
The best tools for clearing your panels after a storm are patience, sunlight and warmer air temperatures.
We know that it can be frustrating to receive error messages from your system. Worse, the winter months often mean an increase in utility bills because of the weather, resulting in Bill Shock. Though it may be tempting to take a roof rake to the snow that’s on your panels, tools for raking away snow can scratch and damage your panels, causing irreparable harm. We strongly advise against raking your panels as this will void your warranty.
Remember: due to the low sun angle and shorter days, these are the lowest performing months for your system anyway. As longer days and warmer weather return in the spring, you will see your system return to peak performance.
There is plenty to enjoy about the winter and the weather that comes with it. There are drawbacks, too, and having lower performance from your panels is certainly one of them. If your solar panel system is experiencing lower performance this winter, or if your panel system is showing error messages after a storm, remember to pack your patience. Part of what makes New England special is that we get to enjoy all 4 of nature’s seasons. When spring returns (it gets closer every day!), all systems will be go!
1/18/2019 – Edited to Add: As we mentioned in our Bill Shock post, seeing some real numbers can put it into perspective. Here is a typical graph of a New England solar system. This customer is located in Carver, MA. Have a look at the difference between January and July. Production in January 2018 was just 213 kWhs. Production in July 2018 was a whopping 2091 kWhs.
If you have questions about your panel’s performance or about the error messages your system is sending you after a storm, please call us directly. We’re always happy to help. Give us a call today!
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