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Dealing with Snow on Solar Panels: What You Need to Know

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The winter can be a wonderful time in colder climates. You can cozy up with your loved ones, spending quality time together as temperatures drop. But as the snow piles up, some homeowners might worry about the impact of snow on their solar panels. 

If you rely on solar panels for a portion of your power, just how worried should you be when winter weather arrives? Bundle up, and we’ll take a closer look.

Snow on top of solar panels

Does Snow Cover Damage Your Solar Panels?

In most cases, snow on solar panels will not damage them. We can’t say “never,” but unless there’s an extremely significant snow event or someone improperly installed it, you shouldn’t see damaged panels from snow cover. 

After all, these panels are supposed to be outside, and they can withstand most common weather situations. They’ll come out the other side of your next blizzard, ready to produce just as much clean, renewable, free energy as ever. 

You Don’t Need to Worry About Cleaning Snow Off Your Panels

Now that you know you don’t have to worry that snow on solar panels will damage your precious system, let’s take a look at the main reasons this is true. Trust us: You’ll rest easier knowing exactly why your panels are safe this winter.

The Snow Will Fall Right Off

If you’ve correctly installed your solar panels, the angle of your panels or roof should help the snow naturally slide off. Your panels are smooth and dark, and even a little melting will lead entire sheets of snow to fall right off their slick surfaces. 

Most home-based panels are also mounted on the side of the home that receives the maximum amount of sun, speeding up the melting process. This means that even a significant snow cover won’t damage your panels because it simply won’t be there long enough!

snow on residential solar panel system
If the angle is steep enough, the snow will slide right off solar panels.

Snow Provides a Free Cleaning Service

Dirty solar panels are inefficient solar panels, and inefficient solar panels mean less energy for you. While you could always scrub them down yourself (and may need to on occasion, if you face an extended dry spell,) why not let nature’s cleaning service do its work? 

Melting snow will carry away much of the grit, grime, and dirt that decreases performance and can damage your panels over time. It’s completely natural with no soaps or chemicals and provides a better final product than nearly any human washing. 

Doesn’t Affect Energy Production in the Bigger Picture

It’s true that your panels won’t generate much or any energy with significant snow cover. But as we’ve noted, snow tends to come off panels reasonably quickly, and the time lost will be minor in the grand scheme of things. 

A few hours of limited or no power production is usually a worthwhile tradeoff for avoiding the hassle and risk of clearing them yourself. Well-designed solar systems should typically include enough battery storage to keep your power running through all but the most extended interruptions.

→ Your battery bank is important for holding you over when you have cloudy days or snow on your panels. Here’s why LiFePO4 batteries make the best solar batteries.

Cleaning Your Panels Can Be Unsafe

Whether your solar panels are located on the roof of a “stick and bricks” home, the top of an RV, or a difficult-to-access portion of a boat or other vehicle, simply getting in position to clean them can be dangerous. Thousands of people get hurt or killed falling off roofs every year, and with some bad luck or negligence, you could be among them. 

There’s little reason to take the risk knowing everything we’ve just discussed about snow on solar panels. 

brushing snow off solar panels

Do Solar Panels Still Work with Snow on Them?

To be clear, the answer is generally no. Any portion of the panel covered heavily by snow won’t receive enough sunlight to generate power. However, the flip side of this is that any part of the panel not covered by snow (thanks to melting or other clearing) can function as usual. Even panels covered with a light dusting will generate some amount of power in the time before the snow melts or falls off. 

How Much Snow Weight Can Solar Panels Hold?

This answer will vary based on the specifics of the model of panel and frame you have. In many cases, frames will fail before the panels due to improper construction or poor design. 

Typical home solar panels can hold several hundred pounds each, though you should check your panel to find your specific number. Be aware that snow can be pretty heavy–up to nearly 40 pounds per cubic foot in some cases! Although, it’s usually less, as little as only a few pounds per cubic foot. And in most cases, you’ll only be dealing with a few inches before gravity helps the heavy snow slide off a slanted panel. 

Should You Remove Snow from Solar Panels?

If you have portable panels or panels mounted on the ground or other easily accessible places, it may be worth the minute or two it takes to carefully brush off the snow. But in most cases, for all of the reasons above, don’t try to remove snow from solar panels unless absolutely necessary. You could hurt yourself and your panels likely won’t sustain damage anyway. And in most cases, you’ll be back to generating power before you know it. 

Snow on solar panels may be a nuisance, but it’s a minor one considering the many benefits of this fantastic technology. 

hail on RV roof
Snow melts quickly on solar panels

Want To Learn More About Electrical Systems and Lithium Batteries?

We know that building or upgrading an electrical system can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help. Our Reno, Nevada-based sales and customer service team is standing by at (855) 292-2831 to take your questions!

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