Winter means shorter days, and because of the reduced sunlight hours, many people assume that solar panels also have reduced efficiency. This is a misconception.
Even in the dreary, short days of the winter months, photovoltaic (PV) panels will still harvest the sun’s light and convert it into electricity. Solar panels transform light — not heat — into electrical energy to power your home.
Although short winter days mean a significant decrease in exposure time to sunlight, solar panels efficiently uptake whatever sunlight is available and convert it to usable electricity.
PV solar panels work in winter, but optimizing energy generation requires knowing how they react to cold temperatures and snow.
The Link Between Solar Panels and Temperature
Like many other electrical devices, solar panels become less efficient in higher temperatures. The reduced performance is due to the accelerated excitement of the electrons at rest. Higher temperatures lead to a smaller energy difference between the resting and excited energies of the electrons, causing a decrease in voltage.
Photovoltaics tend to decrease in efficiency when the ambient temperature reaches 77ºF—each subsequent increase in temperature results in a further decrease in efficiency.
However, the link between photovoltaic panels and high temperatures doesn’t mean you can disregard cold weather. Winter weather also means more power outages, making whole home backup power solutions an effective safeguard against blackouts that allow you to continue reaping the benefits of solar energy.
Do Solar Panels Work in Cold Weather?
Because photovoltaic panels rely on light rather than heat, they will continue to perform even in freezing or sub-freezing temperatures. As long as they have adequate sun exposure, they can continue to generate electricity. Solar panels actually improve their efficiency in colder temperatures since lower temperatures prevent overheating.
Do Solar Panels Work in Snow?
Unless you experience a major blizzard, solar panel performance is only marginally affected by snow—if at all. However, to maximize energy generation, you need to know how to take care of your solar panels.
Installing the panels at the correct angle will allow them to optimize the intake of the sun’s rays. A tilt also lets snow slide off once it starts to melt from the heat generated by the dark glass absorbing the rays of the sun.
Additionally, snow melt can serve as a cleaning aid, keeping your panels operating with maximum efficiency. A thin dusting of snow is rarely problematic since it won’t completely obscure the panel and will usually blow away in the wind or melt.
There are exceptions. If a heavy winter storm results in a thick layer of snow covering your solar array, your system may become compromised. Snow coverage can prevent the array from receiving sunlight, which prevents them from generating electricity.
If snow blocks the array, you can always hop on the roof and brush off your rigid solar panels. Maintenance is even easier with portable solar panels since you can bring them indoors during intense winter storms.
What Are the Benefits of Using Solar Panels During Winter?
Solar panel producers account for seasonality and ensure that there are accessible methods to maintain electricity production year-round. It allows homeowners to take advantage of solar power systems’ benefits, even in winter.
Solar panels reduce your carbon footprint and utilize a clean, renewable energy source. Although there is a common misconception that solar systems are ineffective during the winter months, they can be a significant complement or substitute for the fossil fuel-burning electricity that your home may otherwise be using.
Less Reliance on Grid Power
Because photovoltaic panels rely on light from the sun rather than electricity delivered via power lines, they are a more reliable source of electricity during storms, particularly if they are separate from the standard utility grid. Ice accumulation in winter leads to more frequent blackouts.
If there is a power outage, your solar system can provide off-grid electricity to supplement or replace the home’s electrical source. Whole home systems like the EcoFlow Smart Home Ecosystem reduce reliance on grid power.
Lower Electrical Bills
Colder temperatures and more time spent indoors increase utility bills in winter. Using solar energy not only reduces your reliance on the grid but also reduces electrical bills. You can harvest free, renewable solar energy rather than paying a utility provider for your household electricity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
Yes, solar panels work in the winter as they capture energy from light, not heat. Solar panels thrive in the winter sun and produce more electricity than at temperatures above 77°F (25°F) — when photovoltaic module efficiency starts to decrease. Many large-scale PV arrays employ cooling systems to lower solar panel temperature and increase electricity generation efficiency.
Consider Going Solar This Winter
In summary, photovoltaic panels function anytime there is sunlight—even ambient sunlight on overcast days—regardless of temperature and most precipitation.
Solar panels are the best option for reducing your carbon footprint and electrical bill. They’re an excellent investment. Regardless of whether or not they are operating at maximum efficiency, they still contribute to an overall reduction in energy usage, even in the cold winter months.
You can also enjoy the benefits of solar power without installing a whole home system. EcoFlow DELTA Solar Generators can provide home backup power in a winter storm — and there’s no need to install a rooftop system with portable solar panel options!