Solar panels are one of the best investments for your property. They are designed to absorb the solar rays and convert them into energy to generate electricity and heat. During winter, solar panels can be your best friend and a comforter. Snow outside and the soothing heat inside with a cup of warm coffee are the best combinations.
Let us come back to reality. There is no doubt that we all love snow. But have you wondered what happens to the solar panel when there is too much snow? What happens when the solar panel gets buried beneath the snow?
Solar panels are believed to work better during winter because of the albedo effect. Though being surrounded by snow helps the solar panels to generate more energy, being covered under a heap of snow certainly affects your solar panels.
Let us discuss more how the snow affects the solar panels and how to remove the snow from the solar panels.
How Solar Panels Work?
The solar panels function using Solar Photovoltaic (PV) technology that helps convert the sunlight into electricity with the help of semiconductors. It is surprising for many to learn that PV technology allows solar panels to work more efficiently during the winter.
When the snow covers the solar panels, energy generation is not possible. The solar arrays tend to melt the snow pretty well, and the panels begin to absorb the sunlight independently. Further, during the winter, the solar panels use the Albedo effect to produce energy effectively.
The Albedo effect works on a phenomenon in which the solar panels reflect a portion of the sunlight into the atmosphere while absorbing the solar rays. Due to this, the solar panels can absorb up to two times the sunlight when surrounded by snow. This eventually increases the energy output of your solar panels.
Why Should We Remove Snow From Solar Panels?
Solar Panels require direct sunlight to absorb and create energy. So, it is always better to keep them clear and unobstructed. During the winter, their absorption rate will be lower because of the less sunlight.
If your solar panels are covered with snow, they will further slow down the process and reduce the effectiveness. The snow can further damage the surface of the solar panels. It is better to always keep them clear and clean for better performance.
Removing Snow Is A Part Of Maintenance
Just like you always have a regular cleaning plan on your rooftop for any debris or dirt, planning to clean your solar panels and keep them away from any obstruction helps ineffective performance.
Especially if you live in a place where there is heavy snow, beware; your solar panels could be deteriorating if you don’t plan your maintenance activity properly.
How To Remove Snow From Solar Panels?
If you face continuous snowfall in your country, you need to know the various techniques to remove the snow from your solar panels. Let us discuss them in detail.
1. Use A Roof Rake
Roof Rakes are exclusively designed to remove snow, debris, dirt, or any other particles from the rooftops. It has a telescopic handle that makes sure you are safe on the ground while you can still use the rake to clean the roof and remove the snow from the solar panels.
2. Foam-Headed Snow Broom
The Foam-headed snow brooms are used by many for cleaning the vehicles. But, it is worthy to note that it has a robust market for clearing many delicate surfaces, including solar panels. The traditional Rakes might seem hard on the surface of the solar panels and damage them. Using a Foam-headed Snow broom does not damage the surface of the solar panels.
If you are using a rake or a snow broom, you would be using the telescopic handle from the ground. There is always a risk of heavy snow or ice falling upon you, and you need to stay cautious and stand a few steps away from the roof.
3. Use A Leaf Blower
Leaf Blower is the best choice in case of light and fluffy snow. It is a gardening tool that blows out air to remove debris or leaves, and it works well for light snow. Nevertheless, it would be best if you were very careful while using the leaf blower. It would help if you used a ladder to climb up the roof and maintain a balance while standing with the leaf blower. You must also ensure that the wiring does not get clumsy with the water puddles.
4. Use A Soft Ball
If you notice some soft snow covering up the solar panel, you can use a softball over the surface of the solar panel to remove them. But, make sure the snow is not hard, and the ball may get stuck amidst the heavy snow.
5. Trim Back Tree Branches
The tree branches may be hopping and jumping over the surface of the solar panels, which may hinder the flow of sunlight to the surface of the solar panels. During winters, the tree branches may have a few layers of snow, which might fall on the surface of the solar panels. If you find the tree branches bending towards the panel, it is time to plan for trimming them down.
6. Ensure that the Panels are angled Properly
In general, the rooftop inclines downwards. This ensures that any dirt, debris, snow, or ice may flow down easily. The solar panels are also structured, inclining downwards for such rooftops. Sometimes this inclination may be steeper enough to push the snow down. Or your roof might be a flat surface rather than being inclined downwards. In such instances, you may prefer to call the solar panel installer to adjust the angles so that the snow is automatically pushed downwards.
7. Use A Pulley-Operated Tarp
A Pulley-operated tarp would be one of the best choices to remove the snow from the rooftop. You can cover your solar panels with the tarp while it snows and removes them when it stops. The snow falls along with the tarp, and the tarp uses a pulley to cover and remove the solar panels.
If you prefer using the pulley-operated tarp, be cautious while you pull over the tarp, and you might damage the roof or the panel surface if you are so harsh. It is also recommended to use rust-resistant or plastic tarps rather than cloth tarps, and this is to ensure that the snow falls off quickly.
8. Use A Heating System
The heating systems are specifically designed for solar panels. They work through small hoses and pipes along the surface of the solar panels. The warm water flows through the surface of the panels and removes the accumulated snow. The heating system might also use specific electrical wires and coils attached to the surface of the panels, which warms up and helps in melting the snow.
Will the weight of heavy snow affect the solar panels?
Not really. Except in extreme situations, the weight of heavy snow does not affect the solar panels. The solar panels come with a pressure rating, which indicates the pressure until the manufacturers are willing to guarantee that won’t hurt the panel.
Many panels are rated for at least 5000 or more PA (Pascals), i.e., two to four feet of snow.
Should I Clean the Snow off the panel for production?
Well, that depends on the intensity of the snowfall. Indeed, they cannot produce electricity when the snow covers the panel. But should you proceed to clean the snow? Is it that simple as said?
- Experts recommend not to take a deliberate attempt to clean the panels and end up damaging the panels and surface of the panels.
- The panels work on the PV technology where the sun on its own can melt the snow off the solar panels – more effectively on the roof than the ground. The warmth stays longer on the panels and melts the snow.
- You may undertake a maintenance clean-up rather than a corrective clean to avoid unnecessary risks.
- Many manufacturers offer production guarantees wherein they promise to cover the difference in the production of the panels that fail to produce the maximum energy they were designed for.
Does the snow affect the productivity of the Solar Panels?
Certainly yes. If your solar panel is covered with snow, it cannot produce electricity. But, the risk of no production cannot be set off by the risk of your safety and quality of the panel.
Just like many electronics, Solar panels also have a negative temperature coefficient. This enables the panels to work better while it’s cold more than when it is warm. This ensures less resistance and produces more electricity even in cold weather. The main reason the production might be affected on a winter day is that the days are shorter.
Should you remove the snow or not from the solar panel? The major takeaway is, it is better to hire a professional to clear the snow from the panels. But, cleaning them often on a snowy day would cost you more than the panels could save.
You can follow any of the techniques discussed above but with utmost caution. Even more, it is leaving them untouched, and staying calm is a better option.