Solar Panels and Snow – Should I Be Concerned?
In the News | January 21, 2013 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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UPDATE: for a more comprehensive view of solar panels and winter weather, check out our the “Solar Works In Winter” section of our Why Go Solar guide.
With another New England winter upon us, we’ve started getting questions from customers concerned about snow accumulation on their solar panels. While it’s true that solar panels drop in production when they’re covered with snow, as a percentage of overall yearly production the loss is very small.
Solar arrays tend to shed snow pretty well (as they are mounted to face the sun, and on a slope). They also tend to be in difficult or even dangerous areas to access on the roof. Given these two facts, our general recommendation is to not manually clear snow from your solar panels.
Now, some customers have solar arrays that are easier to access and are willing to put in some effort to optimize their system for every possible ounce of performance. If you fall into this camp, there are a few tips we’ve received over the years we can share.
If you have a roof rake, use it to clear the area beneath the panels so that snow has a place to slide to when it sheds from the panels. Without being raked, the sun will hit the snow and cause it shed from the panels and onto your roof, but with a little extra help this process will speed up.
If you have flat plate solar hot water collectors, or solar photovoltaic modules, you can also attach a piece of foam pipe insulation on the edge of your roof rake and use it to gently clear snow from the actual panels (we’ve also heard that a few strips of duct tape to dull the edge of the roof rake works). But be careful! While customers report success using this technique, any damage caused to your panels will not be covered under warranty.
Absolutely do not try to clear the snow from collectors with the sharp edge of a metal roof rake (and never use any type of rake on evacuated tube collectors). Also, be mindful of your safety – a few extra hours of production in the shortest daylight times of year are not worth you injuring yourself. We think your time is better spent indoors enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and looking forward to the next sunny day!