If solar energy comes from the sun, it seems only logical that panel productivity would take a severe hit in winter, right?
Wrong—nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, depending on the weather in your area and your solar equipment, you could actually experience a slight increase in your home’s solar energy during winter. At the very least, it would be at least enough to offset the shorter days. Here’s how winter conditions affect your solar panels, and how you can make them as efficient as possible all year long.
Jump to content:
Solar Panels Collect Energy, Not Heat
It’s cold enough out there without worrying about your solar panels. Luckily, you don’t have to! Solar panels are still very effective in winter. But to understand why, you need to learn a little bit about how solar works.
Solar energy systems collect energy from electrons—electrically charged particles—from the sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. And that process depends on the intensity of the light, not the heat.
You may be saying, “Wait, isn’t there less light in the winter, too? And you’re right, the days are much shorter, which can definitely affect your generation numbers. That said, most panels are more efficient in winter, which we’ll explain below. So that improved performance may offset any light you lose from the shorter days.
In Some Cases, Panels May Be Even More Productive in Winter
Ultimately, solar energy systems are electrical equipment, and electrical equipment always functions better outside of the heat. But panels are also able to harvest more energy from sunlight when temperatures are lower.
Why? It has to do with the electrons themselves. Panels collect the energy that occurs as electrons move from an at-rest state to an excited state. In essence, they get excited when they’re struck by the sun. At-rest electrons are low energy, and excited electrons are high energy. The difference between those two states determines the voltage, or electricity, your system can absorb. When panel surfaces are hot, the electrons are already more excited, even when at rest. So there’s less voltage to collect—and less electricity for your home.
You Can Boost Winter Performance With a Little Maintenance
You can’t control the sun, but you can make winter conditions work in your favor. If you live in an area that’s prone to snow, choose horizontally-oriented panels so the snowfall doesn’t slide to the bottom and block them off.
You may also want to consider adjustable panels. That way, if you get a heavy snow, you can set the panels to a steeper angle to help the snow slide off. You can also change the tilt to better receive the sun as its angle changes throughout the year.
The good news is that no matter what, your solar energy system will continue to produce electricity throughout the winter. And that can help household expenses a lot—especially at a time of the year when heat costs are through the roof.