When planning for our new off-grid construction, there was quite a bit of thought put into where the solar panels should be mounted. It is quite common for homeowners to put them on their roof, as this is up and out of the way. But our home was to be two-story and I was concerned that the lack of access to the panels might be problematic.
A number of solar installers that we spoke to suggested that snow would not be a problem as, ‘the sun will penetrate the snow and warm the panels where the snow will then just slide right off’.
We have been off-grid since 2015 and to that I say, ‘Thank God I didn’t listen to those clowns!’
As nice as they were, that advice was waaay off.
For the record, solar panels will absolutely get covered with snow… just like everything else snow falls on.
Admittedly, there is a grain of truth to the concept of sunlight penetrating snow – providing the snow fall is light enough. And with solar panels being dark in color, the surface can and often will warm, melting the snow and causing the accumulated snow to slide off of the panels.
If you live in area that generally sees light snow falls followed by sunny skies, then you may never find the need to clear snow from your panels.
However, if you live in an area such as I do, in Great Lakes Region, where anything less than two inches is considered a ‘light dusting’, then it is most likely that you will never get enough sunshine to clear your panels… at least not until spring.
Snow And Cold Temperatures
One of the most ironic things about snow and solar panels is that it is not necessarily the region with the lowest temperatures that cause havoc on generating power.
Incredibly, areas with sustained temps of well below freezing can greatly reduce the amount of humidity that is in the air. When this happens, what you end up with is snow made of small granular-like crystals which are easily moved by wind. This type of situation can actually be advantageous as solar panels, with their large and slippery surface, provide very little for the snow to stick to and will, quite often, will clear themselves.
By comparison, snow fall in the Great Lakes Region is often wet and heavy. This is because the Great Lakes have spent the summer absorbing heat only to expel large amounts of moisture back into the atmosphere during the winter months.
Precipitation of this kind, tends to stick to everything. A single heavy snowfall can see large tree branches snap as the snow will not slide off and continual accumulation pushes things to a breaking point.
There really is no evidence to support the theory that solar panels are somehow immune to snow. Snow falls with impunity and unless an object is somehow provided with adequate heat, snow will cover whatever it falls on.
As to how long a solar panels stays covered with snow, depends on the environment the solar panel is located in.
In dry sunny areas, where snowfall is light, then you might be able to expect the panels to clear themselves without any input from you.
In extremely cold areas with very little cloud cover, you may need to clear the panels only a few times a winter.
If, however, you live in an area where cloudy skies are the norm, and snow is wet and continuous, then it is very likely that you will need to clear the panels regularly.
## Tools To Help ##
For a better understanding on solar panels and snow, check out, ‘Do Solar Panels Work In The Winter?’