Do solar panels still work in winter?
A common question we at Rawson Solar get asked is whether solar panels still work during winter. And honestly, it’s a great question. The last thing you want to do is spend a fortune to find out you’re not getting your money’s worth. But fear not solar panels work during summer and winter months. Although during the winter months, as there are fewer daylight hours you won’t be generating as much power as you would in the peak of summer. There are also more grey days during winter which reduces solar output. We’ll go into more detail in our article below.
We’ll answer all your questions about solar panels in winter in this article, covering whether they work in winter, how reduced daylight hours affect solar panel performance, and what steps you can take to optimise performance during this season.
How do solar panels work?
You’re looking at getting solar panels for your home or business but how do they work?
A solar panel is made up of lots of photovoltaic cells this is why you may have heard of solar being referred to as solar PV. When the sun shines on a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells within the panels. The energy then creates electrical charges that move, which causes electricity to flow.
Do solar panels work throughout the year?
Yes, they certainly do! As we discussed previously in this article solar panels do not require direct sunlight to generate electricity. Because only daylight is required it makes solar panels perfect for countries like the UK, where we have an abundance of daylight.
So what are the main components required for solar generation we hear you ask? Well contrary to belief there are only two important factors:
You will be forgiven for thinking that the hotter is it the more electricity your solar panels will be generating. In fact, colder conditions are much more efficient. Cooler conditions help your solar panels function more efficiently, allowing them to produce more solar power for each hour of daylight. This is because the electrons inside the panel move better in cooler conditions. Even though electrons have less energy in colder temperatures, sunlight activates them giving them a boost in voltage. This creates much more energy and a more efficient panel.
A common misconception about solar panels is that they work with heat and not light. Because their source of energy is sunlight, so long as the sun remains in the sky your solar panels will be generating electricity.
Solar panels will inevitably be more productive in direct sunlight, but even on them cloud-covered grey days your solar panels are still capable of generating electricity albeit at lower productivity levels.
Do solar panels work in snow?
Just like rainy conditions or even when it’s cloudy, you’ll be glad to know that your solar panels will still work in the snow.
The amount of snow can affect the amount of electricity solar panels generate. But luckily we don’t experience heavy snowfall all that often here in the UK. If we experience very heavy snowfall this could stop the solar panels from generating power altogether as the light will be unable to get through to the cells. But this is very much a rarity in the UK.
Light snow which is more common here in the UK, won’t affect your solar panels generation as it won’t be thick enough to prevent light from reaching the panel.
The dark black colour of our panels will also help with melting the snow before it can become an issue for solar generation. Also, the usual tilt at which solar panels are installed helps limit any snow build up.
How to optimise winter solar panel performance
Let’s take a look and see if there is anything you can do to optimise solar panel performance during the winter months.
There are a few things we can suggest but some of them won’t be possible for everyone as solar panels are fixed on metal structures when installed.
- First when you get your solar panels installed southward is always the best direction if it is possible to have them installed on a roof that is south facing. Having them south facing in winter allows them to benefit from the most sunlight.
- Having your solar panels tilted at an angle of 60 degrees in winter would be perfect as the sun is low in the sky for longer, but as we mentioned not possible if your panels are fixed in place.
- If any snow, leaves or debris gets on your solar panels clearing this off quickly will help them generate more power.
Being home more during daylight hours usually between 8am-4pm. If you are home during daylight hours and can use the energy you’re generating. Or you could set a schedule on appliances like the washing machine during daylight hours to make full use of the energy.
- Investing in solar storage batteries to store the excess electricity you produce for use at night when you are in your home.
Lastly, if you can’t use the electricity or get storage batteries, don’t worry there is the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This is where you will get paid for each kW of electricity that you send back to the grid.