Once again, the British weather is top of the UK news agenda. January 2023 is seeing plummeting temperatures, as well as plenty of frost, ice and snow across many parts of the country. So, talking about solar panels in winter of year may not seem like the most obvious course of action. However, when the cold weather descends, it is important to think about how it might affect solar panels exposed on rooftops in sub-zero temperatures. Also, solar panels don’t stop working in the winter. There are still many ways in which the electricity generated can power people’s homes and businesses, as well as reduce fuel bills and contribute to sustainable living goals.
Solar power in winter weather
It is a common misconception that solar panels need strong rays from the sun to operate. In fact, they can still generate electricity when the sun is weaker or partially obscured by clouds. They also carry on working even when temperatures drop below zero. The only thing that could affect their efficacy in a big way would be if heavy snowfalls on the roof completely cover the panels, blocking their contact with the sun. In that case, efforts to remove the snow – but only if it is safe to do so – could help them return to normal service. When installing solar panels in winter, bear in mind that snow can melt and slide off those placed at an angle far quicker than from totally flat layouts.
The good news, however, is that solar panels can work well in wintry conditions. They can even be more efficient in colder temperatures than at the height of summer. This is because overly hot conditions can prevent them from working and affect the electronics they contain. Also, the photovoltaic cells rely on direct contact from sunlight – the stronger the better. The heat that comes from the sun does not come into the equation. Dull, overcast days with less sunlight breaking through the clouds, therefore, are less helpful than those crisp, frozen winter days when the sun is shining brightly, with its rays reflecting back onto the panels from the frosty, white rooftops around them.
Caring for photovoltaic panel systems
As with any investment of this nature in your home or business, taking care of solar panels in winter correctly will help prolong their working life. It will also improve their efficacy in producing electricity at a time of year when additional light and heat is usually required. As well as adjusting the angle of your solar panels to allow snow to slide off more quickly, this action can also help capture more sunlight as it sits lower in the sky on shorter winter days. Placing the panels at a steeper incline could help compensate for this change in the sun’s position.
Other tips around caring for solar panels in winter include using the right tools to clear snow, ice or frost from their surfaces. Always take great care when attempting maintenance of this nature, as frosty surfaces can make outdoor work like this more treacherous. If you do decide to tackle it, use a soft-bristled snow brush, rather than a rake or hard-bristled broom. This helps avoid scratching and damaging the panels. If the snow is stubborn and will not come off easily, don’t scrub too hard – it will melt eventually and the panels can then resume their service.
Don’t forget to protect your batteries as well during winter. They can be affected by cold weather just as much as other parts of the solar power system. Insulate them against plunging temperatures by wrapping them well if they are outdoors or, if possible, repositioning them inside the property. Watch their discharge levels closely, as you will, most likely, need more electricity than usual on colder, gloomier days.
Finally, book your solar panel and battery servicing appointment now. It is easy to forget in the frenzy of a busy working or domestic life. There may be more appointments available during the winter, so you won’t have to wait quite so long for an engineer to arrive. Likewise, if you don’t have solar panels installed, or are interested in an upgrade or replacement system, take advantage of the quieter winter months to book an initial consultation.
Contact UPS to find out more or get support with getting the most out of your solar panels in winter.