Does Solar Work in The Winter?

When you live in Utah you are used to being in winter for half of the year.  As more and more solar is starting to get installed in Park City and the surrounding areas, we have been getting asked about how solar panels perform in the winter.

Do they still produce power, will they get damaged by the snow load, will I pay more in the winter, do I need to get snow removal? These are all great questions to ask when you are thinking about getting solar in a mountain town.

Will my panels produce power in the winter?

The short answer is yes, but not as much. During the winter the sun is lower in the sky and doesn’t shine for as long as it does in the summer. The reduction in sun hours during the winter causes your production to be reduced. While this may seem concerning, it really isn’t.  

A good solar array is designed with the drop in production during the winter already accounted for.  Your system is meant to overproduce in the summer to build up credits that can be used during the winter months. So the fact that you will be producing less has already been accounted for.

Typically, a solar bid will be prepared by looking at your historical electricity usage and your system will be designed to offset as much of your power as you have roof space for.

Using software that tracks the sun relative to your house’s roof, an optimal system can be built that will save you year round.

Will Snow Load Hurt My Panels.

Solar panels are meant to withstand extreme conditions, and are engineered to endure almost any climate. Most quality panels are tested to withstand one inch diameter hail falling at 155 miles per hour. In almost all situations, snow will not affect the integrity of your solar panels.  

There was a situation last year where a homeowner in Park City had an ice dam damage one of his panels(not one of our installs). Ice dams are the result of an improper roofing or insulation system though, so as long as you don’t heavily ice dam you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

If your home does ice dam in an area that is determined to be ideal for solar, let your installer know so that your ice dam problem can be fixed before solar is installed.

Will I pay more during the winter?

If your system has been properly engineered and designed, you won’t see a difference during the winter, unless you use an abnormal amount of power.

If for some reason you do use an abnormal amount of power during a month, it could cause your credits to run out quicker which would increase your bill once you exhausted your credits.

Most homeowners maintain their bill at their historical rate so it doesn’t come up much unless the homeowners habits change.

Do I need to get snow removal?

Getting snow removal can be a good idea after big storms or if you have a low pitch roof.  Even though you don’t get as many sun hours during the winter, you still want your panels to be uncovered and producing electricity.  

If your roof has a steep pitch, most of the snow on your panels will sheet off after one or two sunny days. In general, our advice is to plan on having the snow on your panels removed a couple of times during the winter.