Solar panels during snow

Solar Panels in Winter: Answers to 4 Frequently Asked Questions

Rhode Island Solar Solutions Solar Education


Solar panels during snow


We’ve been hit with quite a bit of snow this season in Rhode Island. Not nearly as much as 2015 (remember that ordeal?) but the “bomb cyclone” certainly made a statement. And it’s a sure thing that we’re going to get more snow as we move toward the spring months.

After a snowstorm passes over southern New England, we get a lot of the same questions from potential (and current) customers. They all revolve around worries about solar productivity and maintenance. So let’s clear up those concerns so you have a better idea of what to expect as a solar customer in Rhode Island.

Do solar panels work during the winter months?

Your solar panels will produce energy year-round. But they produce more energy in the spring and summer months. Why?

  • Longer days and more exposure to sunlight
  • Typically sunnier days with less overcast or cloudy weather
  • More direct sunlight due to the Earth’s tilt (very simple explanation here)

But your solar panels WILL produce energy, even if it’s snowing out! So long as sunlight is reaching the panels, then you’re O.K. (and sunlight makes it through cloudy skies).

Also, when you install a solar Pv system with us, our proposal for yearly energy production levels takes into account snowy, winter weather. So you will know what to expect.

What happens when snow covers my solar panels?

Let’s say a storm hits tomorrow and your roof gets covered in snow. How long the snow stays on your panels, without any help, depends on a few factors.

  • Pitch of your roof
  • Amount of sunlight available
  • Temperature outside

Snow doesn’t stick to glass panels like it would a shingle or paneling. Even in tough weather, the snow will usually shed from your panels before the rest of your roof. And in big clumps.

If the sun is out and a small portion of your panels are exposed, they will heat up quickly and melt or loosen the snow from underneath.

What if it snows a lot during a blizzard and my panels stay covered?

Your panels will not produce electricity without exposure to sunlight. That said, it’s unlikely that your panels will stay covered for long periods. If a blizzard rolls through and the temperature is cold enough to keep the snow in place, we recommend you DO NOT go on the roof. It’s slippery and dangerous. Please do not try to clean off the snow yourself.

If the weather gets bad and the snow doesn’t slide off your panels in a reasonable time, we can come out remove the snow for you. Just visit our Repairs and Maintenance page and fill out the form at the bottom.

Should I install a snow guard on my solar panel system?

Snow guards are installed at the bottom edge of the bracket.

When snow sheds from solar panels, it tends to slide off all at once in a big clump. Depending on your roof and how it’s situated, this could be hazardous for people passing underneath or objects below.

To protect against these mini-avalanches, you can install a snow guard along the bottom edges of the panels. This will help release the snow in smaller amounts from the panels or accumulate at the edge and melt.

Is a snow guard appropriate for you? That depends on your need to protect object below your roof. Usually homeowners don’t require them because the amount snow that falls off will not cause any damage. However, if you’re interested, you can fill out the form on our Repairs and Maintenance page or call us anytime! (Link to contact form above ^^^)