Pumpkin spice season is officially upon us. And with it comes decreasing temperatures and fewer sunny days. Naturally, you might wonder if a rooftop solar system can do its job in these conditions. And if it can, how well?

Yes, there are some differences between seasons. These differences can affect solar arrays. But to what extent? Is it significant or too minor to matter?

Get settled in with your pumpkin spice coffee — or hot chocolate, if that’s what you prefer — as we answer your most pressing questions about solar in the fall and winter.

1. Do solar panels work in cold weather?

Since solar energy is powered by the sun, the term might suggest images of sunny summer days. But you’ll be happy to know that solar panels can perform well in the cold, too! Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)” Regional Test Centers have demonstrated that solar systems can still generate power in cold, snowy conditions.

2. How does snow affect solar panels?

A small amount of snow powder shouldn’t obstruct solar panels. Sunlight can still penetrate a thin layer of snow. Heavier snowfall, however, can be a different story. Significant accumulation has the potential to disrupt the solar energy system’s production entirely. There’s a bit of good news in this situation, though, as the panels can resume generating power as the snow melts or slides off them.

In the best-case scenario, snow can even clean the panels. Snow has some special properties that make it stick to dirt.So, when the snow slides or melts off the panels, the dirt goes with it.

snow on solar panels

3. Can the weight of snow damage solar panels?

In most cases, snowfall shouldn’t weigh enough to damage solar panels. Manufacturers design the panels to withstand a certain amount of pressure. And once the panels are produced, manufacturers subject them to pressure tests.

From here, solar panels are assigned a rating. The higher the pressure rating, the more weight they can bear without cracking. Quality makes a big difference in how much pressure solar panels can take. This is one of the reasons why ADT solar uses only high quality solar panels in the installations we perform.

solar panels on a house overcast sky

4. How do overcast days affect solar panels?

Do solar panels work in cold weather? That might be the first question that comes to mind. A question that’slikely to follow is whether solar panels perform on overcast days. Winter and fall tend to bring us more of those.

Yes, solar panels perform best when they receive direct sunlight. That said, your solar array will still work on cloudy days. In fact, it could perform better than you might assume it would!

As long as there’s a little sunlight, your system can produce solar energy. That said, its production rate will be compromised. For example, on a day with heavy cloud coverage, your panels might only generate 10%-25% of their highest output capacity. Considering this is the worst-case scenario, this rate isn’t bad.

In fact, rooftop solar arrays have become popular in some places, like Seattle and Portland, that have the most overcast days in the U.S.

solar panels on a house in the fall

5. How do shorter fall and winter days affect solar energy production?

The amount of solar energy produced varies according to the season. Several factors are at play, including:

  • How high the sun is in the sky, which makes the days shorter or longer
  • Average temperatures during the season, which can affect productivity
  • Whether the sky is frequently sunny, partly cloudy, mostly cloudy or overcast

The first bullet point is the one we’re addressing here. Since the sun sits lower in the sky during the winter season than it does during summer, solar power generation will be a bit lower comparatively. Production in the fall will be a bit better than in the winter, however.

The reduced solar energy output could still provide enough power to achieve your home energy goals. It’s important to discuss your goals with a Solar Energy Specialist, to help ensure that you get the maximum return on investment from your system year-round.

home at night with lights on

6. How many solar panels does your house need in the fall and winter?

We understand that it’s natural to wonder, do solar panels work in cold weather? The truth is, several different factors determine how many solar panels will adequately power your home — and they’re the same year-round, believe it or not.

One of these factors is the amount of energy consumed in your home. Factors that contribute to energy consumption differ from one household to another and include:

  • How many people live in your home
  • Your family’s usage of appliances
  • Your family’s usage of electronics
  • The size of your home

Coming up with numbers for the factors above will give you an estimate of your household’s annual energy usage. Why is this important? Annual energy usage is one of the details used to determine how many solar panels your home needs to meet your family’s energy needs.

Breaking it down in simple terms:

  • Annual energy usage refers to the amount of kilowatt hours your home consumes on a yearly basis.
  • A kilowatt hour (kW) is a unit of measurement that specifies how much energy your home uses in a one-hour period of time.
  • One kW is equal to 1,000 watts.

To make it a bit simpler, you can use a handy formula: number of panels = annual energy usage / production ratio / panel wattage. Or, better yet, speak with a Solar Energy Specialist, who can crunch the numbers for you!

Snuggle up with solar energy this fall and winter

Well, there you have it. Now you know the answer to the question, do solar panels work in cold weather? And all your other pressing questions about how fall and winter affect solar energy systems. The good news is, solar power systems can perform well in cold weather just as they can in warmer temperatures. And thinking about how solar could help you save money on your heating bills might give you even more peace of mind.

So, get cozy and have a chat with a Solar Energy Specialist. They can fill you in on all the ways that solar energy can make you feel warm and fuzzy this fall and winter.

SCHEDULE YOUR FREE SOLAR CONSULTATION

Sources
  1. https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/let-it-snow-how-solar-panels-can-thrive-winter-weather
  2. https://news.energysage.com/solar-panels-in-winter-weather-snow-affect-power-production/
  3. https://www.ecowatch.com/solar/do-solar-panels-work-cloudy-days
  4. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/emily-folk/effectiveness-of-solar-panels-during-the-winter-20201223
  5. https://www.energysage.com/solar/how-to-go-solar/choosing-solar-equipment/