Snow On Solar Panels (Dangers + Solutions)

While it snows in winter, fall, and even spring, the sun still shines which powers our solar panels. As we know, solar panels absorb sunlight to produce energy, although this is not possible with snow-covered solar panels.

So, how do we go about removing snow from the solar panels? That’s what we’ll cover here today and these other key points;

  • Dangers of snow on solar panels
  • What happens when snow is on solar panels
  • Preventing snow on solar panels
  • Best solar panels for snow
  • How to clear snow from solar panels

By preventing the build-up of snow on your solar panels you will make them more effective for longer – let’s see how.

Snow on solar panels Half covered

Is Snow Accumulating on Solar Panels Dangerous?

While it is true that solar panels can be damaged by a large amount of snow and ice, there is no reason to panic. Your panels were tested using every weather condition that exists.

As long as the panels were installed by a certified professional, your grid will be fine. Snow accumulates on solar panels just like it accumulates on almost anything else.

If the angle is incorrect or they were not properly installed, snow could be a real problem. But, there are a couple of things that you can do to try and reduce the amount of snow that collects on them.

What Happens If Snow Gets on Solar Panels?

There are two different ways to think about the effect of snow on a solar panel array. The first is whether or not it causes any physical damage to the panels. The second is how the energy output will be affected.

Will Snow Damage Solar Panels?

A well-fitted solar array that has been installed by professionals can withstand plenty of harsh weather. 

You do not have to worry about damage very often because they are designed to last. However, significant snowfall or an ice event could produce enough snow and ice to become a problem. If you live in an area that has harsh winter weather, your installer will take that into account.

The things you have to worry about are the weight of the snow and the ice. It could get heavy enough to cause small fractures to appear on the panels. It would have to be a lot, though. And snow melts from the surface faster than you probably think it will. 

Most industry professionals will tell you not to try to clear it. It will melt quickly enough on its own. You should check your warranty that sweeping your panels will not void it.

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Solar Panel FAQ Video

Can Solar Panels Freeze?

The panels themselves do not usually freeze. However, melting ice and snow can accumulate under or around them. If the temperature drops again and the water freezes, it can expand. That can damage the panels with small cracks.

It is important to note that the manufacturers of solar panels test them by putting them into temperatures as low as -4 degrees. They also test their ability to withstand the weight. Your installer can tell you just how up to the task your solar array is.

How Does Snow Effect Your Energy Output?

A light dusting of snow will not affect your panels’ ability to collect energy. If the snow is thick, then it will block the sun. But you have to remember that the goal of your system is to help your power bill reach net zero over a year. 

In the summer, your panels will collect more than enough sunlight. As a matter of fact, in the summer months, your solar array is likely to create more energy each day than you can use. That should make up for a few days each winter that the snow blocks the light.

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Solar Panels Covered in Snow

How Do I Keep My Panels Snow Free?

You can do some things to be proactive and reduce the amount of snow that accumulates on your solar panels. In addition, there are many things that you can do to clear snow that does fall if you feel that it is needed:

  • Snow guards
  • Angling the panels
  • Sweeping
  • Heat Tape
  • Raking
  • Heated Solar Panels

Snow Guards

You could install snow guards on your solar panels. Snow guards do not always keep snow from building up. They keep the snow and ice from falling off them and your roof in large chunks so that no one in your family gets knocked out or seriously injured.

However, they may offer some resistance to the snow accumulation.

Get the Angle Right

Before winter begins, be sure that your solar panels are at a 35-degree angle. If the panels are too flat then the snow will just sit there until it completely melts. When the angle is correct, the snow will melt a little and then slide right off.

Should You Sweep The Snow

Sweeping the snow off your solar panels is an option. A broom is an inexpensive tool that you can get and keep in your winterizing kit. But do not use a regular wooden broom, as the hard straw bristles are likely to scratch the surface of the panels. 

Use an outdoor push broom that has soft bristles. It should have a telescoping handle to reach the highest, hardest-to-reach corners. Once you decide to do this method, this broom should be used for nothing else. 

You do not want to risk getting debris from something else on your solar panels.

Be very careful if this is the method that you choose. Snow and ice are heavy. You could get seriously injured if you pull a large piece of it onto yourself. You could also damage your property if disturbing the snow causes a large piece to slide off onto something.

There are a few other ways to get rid of the snow on your solar panels. Some of them without buying any special equipment.

Can You Put Heat Tape On Solar Panels?

Not necessarily. Heat tape is a type of electric cable specifically designed to produce heat. Many people use it in the winter to keep their water pipes from freezing. It is also used to prevent ice from building up in rain gutters. 

Using heat tape to keep your solar panels from accumulating snow and ice would be costly and counterintuitive. To begin with, it would take a lot of it. Depending on how large your array is, you would have to put a good amount on every panel for it to work. 

Then you have to factor in the cost of running the electricity through the tape. And since you are using the panels to collect the energy that you are then putting into the tape, it does not make sense.

Roof Rake for Solar Panels

A roof rake is another option for removing snow from solar panels. It is a tool used to remove excess snow and debris from the roof of a house. A roof rake has a telescoping arm and acts as a squeegee to pull the snow down to be shoveled. 

Using them on solar panels is often done, but you should use a lot of caution. It can be easy to damage the panels and the roof in this way. And you also run the risk of pulling a large amount of snow and ice onto yourself.

Heated Solar Panels

In recent years, heated solar panels have been gaining popularity. They are installed in areas that get a substantial amount of snow every year as well as those areas that experience very long winters. 

They work by having a sensor installed that detects weight. When enough snow has fallen, a current will come on and heat the panels. The snow will melt until the weight reduces, keeping the snow at the desired amount without wasting energy with a constant current.

Automatic Solar Panel Snow Removal

Using the same technology as heated solar panels, the automatic snow removal system is effective with larger-scale arrays in areas with a lot of snowfall. It is not feasible for someone to sweep all of those panels. 

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The system uses the minimal amount of energy the panels can emit and warms the entire surface so that the ice can melt enough to slide off. This preserves as much energy as possible while clearing the panel. 

The amount of energy released is controlled so that it will not waste the very electricity that the system is trying to produce. 

There are a few other ways to remove snow from solar panels. Some of them can be more or less effective, depending on the consistency of the snow. For instance, if the snow is light and fluffy, you could get a large amount of it off with a leaf blower. 

Care should be taken if you are climbing a ladder with one of these heavy objects strapped to your back.

Some people have success by throwing a rubber ball at the larger chunks of ice and snow. It has enough vibration to knock it loose, but the ball is not hard enough to damage the panels. Just be sure not to use a baseball.

If the weather is supposed to stay above freezing, you might get some success from using a garden hose. The lukewarm water can melt snow quickly and wash away the debris underneath.

What Kind of Solar Panels Are Good for Snow?

When thinking of solar panels and their resistance to snow, it is good to remember that darker is better. The dark color of the panel is how it absorbs the most sunlight and holds onto it. They become warmer the more energy they absorb. 

Some of them can be up to 20 degrees warmer than the temperature around them. So, if they absorbed enough energy before the snow started, it could limit how much would stick to them.

Another thing to remember is that the shape of the panels counts as well. Horizontal panels are better and letting snow and ice slide off than vertical ones. This has to do with their construction and the direction the solar cells are constructed.

How Long Can Snow Stay on Solar Panels?

Your panels will usually be installed facing the south to get the maximum amount of sun exposure. Because of this, direct sunlight will help the panels to clear themselves of snow within a couple of days of falling. 

That is why most industry professionals will tell you not to try to remove the snow yourself. The amount of energy that is not produced while they are covered will even out in the summer.

If you are having an overproductive season as far as precipitation goes, you might think about one of these options. 

A few days of coverage might not be enough to affect your energy output. But if it seems like you are getting a few inches of snow every week, then you can clear it during the short days in between. 

Snow Sliding Off Solar Panels

Allowing the snow to take care of itself has its ups and downs. When the snow melts enough, the ice will slide right off. It is great for clearing the panels. Melting snow can also bring debris off that you had not been able to get. 

On the downside, falling ice can be dangerous. It can cause an injury, and it can damage property. You may want to consider some of the snow guards mentioned earlier.

If you have a solar panel array, then you might think that you have to be diligent about keeping it clear of snow and ice. The truth is that a little attention is more than enough for your system to make it through to spring.

Whether you decide to sweep, rake, or wash the snow away remember that solar panels are tough. They are built to last. A little TLC will help them maintain their strength and quality for years to come.

References

Solar Panel Maintenance FAQ

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