Skip to content
Solar panels on a snowy roof

Solar panels are a great way to reduce your electric bill while also making your home or business more energy-efficient.

But in the winter months, those living in northern regions have to contend with scant sunlight and muggy skies for months, which begs the question: is there even a benefit to having solar panels outside of warm climates? And do solar panels work in winter? After all, solar farms are typically set up in hot, sunny deserts, not the swirling, seasonal arctic of the American northeast.

But fear not, northerners–the answer is a resounding yes. Not only do solar panels work in winter, under ideal conditions, they can work even better in winter than usual. Here’s why.

Solar Panels in Winter — How Do They Work?

It might seem baffling that solar panels can still be productive in the winter, but to understand why requires understanding how they work in general.

Solar panels produce an electric current when exposed to the sun. The current is passed through a device called an inverter that conditions the power to match your utility provider. With solar panels installed, your business will now use solar power first, but your energy supplier will still be there for nighttime and additional power needs.

Solar panels installed on a residential roof

Does cold weather affect solar panels?

Despite their association with hot, dry climates, solar panels actually work better in the cold than in the heat.

Like most electronics, solar panels function better in the cold.

This is especially helpful as it can somewhat mitigate the loss in production of energy that comes with fewer daylight hours and cloudy skies. In addition, solar panels can catch light that is reflected off the snow, which can further increase the amount of light received in a day.

Angled solar panels installed on a rooftop surrounded by snow.

Does snow affect solar panels?

Falling snow will have minimal effect on a solar panel. However, snow that collects on solar panels can make it less effective.

According to Energy.gov, a small dusting of snow shouldn’t impact your panel’s performance, but a thick blanket of snow is a different story.

Piled-up snow basically shuts off solar panels. However, the energy loss is relatively minor because of the relatively small amount of energy it would generate in the winter.

In addition, it’s simple to reactivate buried solar panels just by cleaning them. If you aren’t sure how to clear snow from solar panels, here are a few ways to get them cleared without damaging the panels.

  • The easy way: Do nothing. Most solar panels are already facing the sun. As long as the snow isn’t piled so high that it threatens the support structure holding the panel, it  should melt within a day or two.
  • Keep your solar panel tilted to at least 35 degrees if possible. This will help keep snow from collecting since it will typically slide off at that angle.
  • Use a roof rake with a soft rubber end to push snow off your panels. Check with your solar panel provider before using tools to clear your device. Be safe when clearing your solar panel, as snow can make for hazardous working conditions.

Do cloudy skies make solar panels less effective?

Overcast skies in winter can also play a part. While an overcast sky does not mean a solar panel won’t be getting any sunlight, it does mean it may generate less electricity.

Still, even with an overcast sky or rain, a solar panel can generate electricity, which provides a passive source of energy for your business or home.

Close-up image of solar panel photovoltaic cells.

How to Get the Most Out of Solar Panels Year-Round

In addition to the tips above, following a few simple steps year-round can ensure you maximize your solar panel’s performance through every season:

Find the optimal tilt for the solar panel

Depending on the latitude of your business, the sun might be higher or lower in the sky? Because of this, it’s important to make sure that your solar panels are set at the proper angle for your area.

States closer to the equator (like Arizona) will want a lower tilt, as the sun is higher in the sky, while states farther from the equator (like Minnesota) will want a higher tilt, as the sun is lower in the sky. This is exacerbated in winter months when the sun is even lower in the sky, so a winter angle for solar panels could be as high as 60 degrees.

Infographic from the US Energy Information Association depicting the optimal tilt for solar panels in lower and higher latitudes.

Source: eia.gov

Use energy-efficient appliances and devices

Saving energy by using a solar panel is great, but if your appliances and devices are gobbling energy up inefficiently, your business won’t be able to see the benefits. That’s why it’s important to follow key energy saving tips:

  • Use LED lights that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours.
  • Use smart thermostats to ensure you’re not heating/cooling a room that doesn’t need it. 
  • Upgrade and maintain energy guzzlers like always-on electronics and commercial equipment.

Keep your solar panels clean

Typically, regular rainstorms will keep your solar panels clean enough to work. However, during dry seasons,  a modest cleaning to remove bird droppings, leaves, or dust every few months can help keep them working efficiently. A quick spray from a garden hose should do the trick if the panel needs a light washing. Just be careful not to use high-pressure hoses, which can cause scrapes.

If the panel needs a more serious cleaning, ask your solar panel provider about the best cleaning method. This may mean giving the panel a gentle scrub with soap. If you are unsure how to clean your solar panel or are uncomfortable doing so, it is best to hire a professional.

Ensure Your Business isn’t Overpaying for Energy

In addition to the money you save with a solar panel, having the best electric and natural gas rate available is crucial to saving on your business’s energy bill. At Integrity Energy, we specialize in helping small-to-medium size business owners find the energy plans for their needs, keeping their energy costs flat and manageable.

Our expert energy brokers offer rates  from over 30 major suppliers, allowing you to have a wide variety of plans to choose from, and we pride ourselves on providing next-level service and guidance to our customers to help them make the best energy choices for their needs. By leveraging our buying power for our clients, we’ve helped over 40,000 business owners across the contiguous U.S. save more on their energy bills. Find the best energy rates for your business today – request a quote online now.