Do Solar Panels Work In The Winter Or Cold Weather?

As electricity became more expensive, more people started thinking about getting solar panels. However, solar panels and their installation are also pretty costly. When weighing whether or not they’ll make the investment, people often wonder, do solar panels work in the winter or cold weather?

Solar panels don’t use heat, they use sunlight. As long as there is sunlight during the winter, your solar panels will be efficient. There will be less daylight hours during the winter in the United States. But the solar panels will still generate up to 90% of the energy in the winter that they can generate in the summer. The cold weather does not impact a solar panel’s ability to generate electricity.

There are more nuances depending on where you live. For example, snow can bring your electricity generation to zero. Read on to learn more about how your solar generation is impacted in the winter and cold weather.

How Do Solar Panels Work In Winter Or Cold Weather?

Solar panels are a great renewable energy source. They’ve come down in cost tremendously over the past several decades. And now they are one of the most promising sources for energy for the future. But how do solar panels work? And how were they invented? Do solar panels work in the winter or in cold weather?

History Of Photovoltaic Panels

A bit less than 400 years ago, Edmond Becquerel, a French scientist, made a discovery that some materials give off sparks of electricity when they are struck with sunlight. This property is called the photoelectric effect. And researchers found out that it can be harnessed. In the late 1800s, the first-ever photovoltaic cells were created. They were made out of selenium. Scientists working at Bell Labs made photovoltaic cells out of silicone in the 1950s. These photovoltaic cells were able to convert 4% of the energy from sunlight to electricity.

Makeup Of A Solar Panel

The photovoltaic cell has two layers of semiconductor material, which are its most important components. These components are made out of crystalized silicon, which isn’t a good electricity conductor on its own. However, when you add impurities to it in a process called doping, it becomes a much better electricity conductor. 

Boron is added to the top layer of the photovoltaic cell because it bonds with the silicone and aids a positive charge. Phosphorus is added to the top layer because it aids the negative charge. 

The P-N junction is the name for the surface between the conductors of the positive charge and the negative charge. When electrons move at the P-N junction, an electric field is produced. This electric field lets the electrons move from the layer with the positive charge to the layer with the negative charge.

How Solar Panels Generate Electricity

Once the sunlight gets into the cell, its energy releases electrons in both of these layers. Since the layers have opposite charges, the electrons will try to move from the layer with the negative charge to the layer with the positive charge. However, the P-N junction doesn’t let them. 

Since the external circuit is present, the electrons can get from the layer with the negative charge to the layer with the positive charge. When these electrons move through the external circuit, the owner of the solar panels gets electricity. 

Solar cells come in 3 different types. The first one is a single-crystal cell. These cells are the highest-efficiency ones, and it takes a lot of energy to make them. In some laboratory tests, it has been shown that modules made out of this type of cells have efficiencies of up to 23%.

The second type of cell is a polycrystalline cell. These cells are made out of silicone. The production of these cells is cheaper than that of single-crystal cells, however, they are less effective. Their top module efficiency is a bit lower than 20%. 

The last type of cell is a thin-film cell. These cells are made by spraying amorphous silicon or cadmium-telluride onto glass or metal in thin layers. This makes the whole module at once, which means that it doesn’t have to be assembled from individual cells. 

Benefits Of Solar Energy

There are many benefits that come with switching to an electricity system that uses a lot of solar power. Once you install the solar panels, the electricity that they produce will first be used for on-site needs. When those needs are met, and the panels produce more electricity than the property needs, the electricity goes back to the grid. 

If you have a rooftop solar system, the electricity will mostly be produced when it’s most needed. For example, if you live in a hot area, the biggest amount of electricity will be produced in the afternoon, and you will be using air conditioning to keep your home cool during that time. This will save you quite a lot of money on your utilities. This system also takes the pressure off when it comes to electricity distribution. Using the power that is produced on your property is more efficient than transporting electricity long-distance.

How Cold Can Solar Panels Get?

Do solar panels work in the winter or in cold weather? Solar panels are more efficient when it’s cooler. However, they get less sunlight exposure because the days are shorter.

During the summer, the solar panels are less effective when the temperatures are higher. But they get more sunlight exposure because the days are longer. That’s why solar panels are equally efficient during winter and summer.

There are two major contributors to decreased efficiency in cold weather. The first is contributor is clouds. Cloudy weather decreases the amount of sun the solar panel receives. That reduces the electricity produced. The second is snow. Snow covering a solar panel will bring the energy production to zero very quickly.

However, most solar panels are installed at a steep enough angle that snow can fall off. They get slightly warm from capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity. That warmth is enough to melt most snow so that it can slide down the panel.

Solar panels that are used for homes are tested at 77 °F. The cells will produce maximum efficiency when the temperature of the solar panels is between 59°F and 95°F. This means that when the temperature of the solar panels drops below 59°F, their efficiency is also dropping. 

Can Solar Panels Work In The Winter Or In Cold Weather?

Solar panels use photons from sunlight to work. They don’t use the heat. This means that they can work even when it’s cold, as long as there’s sunlight.

They might be impacted when it’s below freezing, but they won’t be affected by the cold. However, if there is less sunlight when it’s cold, they will be less efficient.

During the winter, the sun sets earlier which reduces the amount of sunlight solar panels get. That being said, cold temperatures make solar panels more efficient. This is why they will produce more electricity than usual even when the days are shorter. 

The Angle Of A Solar Panel Allows Snow To Slide Off

You might have to adjust the angle of the panels so they can capture more light. You’re probably wondering how is it possible that solar panels are more efficient when it’s colder. 

Electrons don’t move when the temperature is colder. Once the sunlight activates the electrons, you get a higher difference in voltage than you would if it were warm and the electrons were active. This is why heat reduces the efficiency of solar panels, while cooler temperatures increase it. 

Even though the outside temperature doesn’t dictate how much sunlight solar panels will get, it does determine how well they will perform. You could have the same amount of sunlight.

Solar Panel Efficiency: Summer vs Winter

But solar panels that are exposed to higher temperatures will be less efficient. This difference in energy is usually balanced out because solar panels get more hours of sunlight during the summer. 

Do solar panels work in the winter or in cold weather? Solar panels are rated for peak temperature, which is the temperature at which they work most efficiently. 

During the winter, your solar panels could be less efficient because of the snow. If you live somewhere where the snow amount is extreme, it is likely that a thick layer of snow will accumulate on your solar panels. However, in most conditions, snow won’t affect the performance of the solar panels. 

Solar panels aren’t installed flat. They are always installed at an angle. This will make it easy for the snow to just slide off. If you’re worried about getting too much snow on your solar panels, you should think about investing in continuous panel tracking or seasonal panel tracking.

Both of these systems allow you to change the angle of the solar panels. You can make the angle steeper during the winter which will make it harder for the snow to accumulate on the panels. You can also find the best angle to collect as much sunlight as possible. 

The Albedo Effect In Solar Panels

Since solar panels attract sunlight, the heat from the sunlight will melt the snow. The snow that melts will collect any dirt that was on the panels. 

There is an albedo effect that can make your solar panels work more efficiently thanks to the snow. This effect causes a part of the sun’s light to reflect back into the atmosphere once it hits the earth’s surface.

When the sunlight hits the white surface of the snow, a much greater amount of it is reflected back than when it hits some other surfaces. This can sometimes lead to solar panels absorbing twice as much light which increases the efficiency of solar panels. 

Should I Clean Snow Off My Solar Panels?

It’s not a good idea to try and clean the snow off the panels on your own, because you could end up damaging them. 

If you live in a snowy climate, make sure that you turn your solar panels so that they are facing south. This way they will get a lot of sunlight. 

In case the wind is blowing in the winter, it won’t affect the productivity of your solar panels. The wind will carry the heat which will make your solar panels more effective. When the wind blows, it also carries clouds, which means they don’t linger as much. This will also improve the productivity of your solar panels. 

You also shouldn’t be worried about your panels being blown away. Make sure you get a professional to install your solar panels so they stay on even when the most persistent winds blow.

What Time Of Day Are Solar Panels Most Efficient?

It’s useful to know how efficient solar panels are when buying them. Their efficiency depends on how much sunlight they get. Do solar panels work in the winter or in cold weather? We’ve learned that they do, but what time of day do they work best?

Usually, solar panels are the most efficient at noon, when the sunlight is hitting them directly.

How effective your solar panels are will depend on the season. This is because the Sun sets earlier during winter, and stays out longer during the summer. Your solar panels will usually be most effective from October through to April.

Solar Panel Production In The Morning

Solar panels can start producing energy in the morning, but the level of that energy depends on the season. The level of energy can also be affected by the type of sunlight, which can be diffused or direct. The weather and your location also affect the efficiency of your solar panels. 

In the morning, solar panels usually don’t produce a lot of energy because the sunlight isn’t very intense. Throughout the day the efficiency will increase as the intensity of sunlight increases. Solar panels don’t produce any power during the night.

The angle of your solar panels also affects their productivity. You will want it to be at 20-30 degrees for optimum power production. The minimal angle is 10 degrees. If your solar panels are at a smaller degree, the leaves and other dirt won’t be able to slide off them. 

Is Getting Solar Panels Worth It?

Electricity is getting more and more expensive, so it seems that the question of whether getting solar panels is worth it is an easy one. However, you have to consider a few factors to know if they will help you save enough money, and you also have to keep in mind that their installation costs somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000.

Though you can get a loan or even lease the solar panels. In most cases, this makes solar panels more cost effective than the energy provided by your utility.

Solar panels produce their power which can help you save a lot of money on your electricity bill each month. This shows that the higher your monthly electricity bill is, the more benefits you’ll have from installing solar panels. However, you should keep in mind that electricity rates fluctuate, and so will your savings. 

Comparing Energy Rates: Solar vs. Utility

Where you live has a great impact on your electricity rates. Usually, electricity costs about $0.12 per kWh. 

How much sunlight you get is also really important. Consider which side of the world your home is facing and how exposed to the sun it is. 

The biggest expense you’ll have is buying and installing solar panels. However, since most solar panels work for 20 years, and is almost equally efficient all those 20 years, you should be able to break even fairly soon after buying them. Also, the solar panel maintenance costs are minimal once you install them. 

Think about how much energy you use each month. You can find this information on your electricity bill. It is important to know this when picking out the size of solar panels. There are some handy tools that can help you figure out how big your solar panels should be. 

Cost Of A 5kW Residential Solar System

You will pay $15,000 to $25,000 for an average 5kW size solar panel system, including the installation. 

This might seem like a lot of money to spend at once, so you can see if your government offers incentives for getting solar panels. However, you should keep in mind that you can’t get the incentives as a refund, it only means that you can lower how much tax you owe. 

Credits For Solar Panel Installation

Any other credits depend on where you live. Some places offer cashback, expedited permits, waived fees, and property tax exemption. Depending on your location, you might be able to sell any power you don’t use to the utility company. However, those kinds of incentives are being reduced as the price of solar panels is dropping.

Are you thinking about getting solar panels? Don’t wait any longer since these incentives are running out. You can get free quotes for how much the solar system will cost and how much it will save you every year.

Energy rates are high are increasing across the United States. If you can afford to buy the solar panels and your house gets a lot of sunlight, it makes sense to get solar panels. Especially since the federal government still offers a 26% tax break. 

You may not be able to afford to buy solar panels right now. If you still want to reduce your utility bill, you can lease solar panels. However, you don’t own the panels. So you won’t be able to get a tax break for them and the value of your home won’t be raised. But the upfront cost is significantly lower.

Further Reading

How to Safely And Responsibly Dispose of Solar Panels

What Can A 100 Watt Solar Panel Power At Home?

How To Install Solar Panels On Your RV


I'm trying to make the world a bit greener every day, whether that's through my day job or helping others make green choices for their homes.

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