do solar panels work during winter graphic

Do solar panels work in the winter? Solar snow performance explained

Memories of cold, snowy winters past can be discouraging even for the hardiest homeowner. If you’re considering going solar, you might be wondering whether solar panels and snow are a bad combination. On the contrary, EnergySage marketplace data has indicated that solar shoppers can often find the lowest quotes during winter months when competition is reduced. After all, if you look at solar as an investment, then it should be able to generate returns throughout the year as other investments do. Luckily, plenty of people have both solar panels and snow, and some of the most popular regions in the U.S. for solar have snowy winters. Don’t let winter weather discourage you from going solar!

Key takeaways

  • Solar panels continue to work well in the winter, as long as they don’t stay covered in snow
  • Snow will naturally melt off of panels or slide off over time, as they are installed at an angle
  • Solar is economical everywhere – join the EnergySage Marketplace to start comparing quotes for free today

Do solar panels work in the winter?

A common myth is that solar panels do not work during winter. Interestingly, the cold temperature will typically improve solar panel output. The white snow can also reflect light and help improve PV performance. Winter will only hurt solar production if the panels are covered with snow.

What happens to my solar panel performance in snow?

You don’t have to live in Phoenix or Los Angeles to achieve strong solar panel performance. As you consider solar panels for your home, remember that even if you live in the northern parts of the U.S., the worst of winter only lasts three months, so your days of low sunlight and heavy snow are limited. And the further from the equator you are, the longer your days are when the summer comes around—so while you may generate slightly less power in the winter months, you can make up for it with more sunshine in the summer.

Solar panel snow problems are usually minimal. However, there are a few things that you should know about the implications of winter weather as you consider installing a solar energy system on your home:

  1. All solar panels are designed to bear a certain amount of weight – and snow will usually not be heavy enough to cause issues. All solar panels undergo pressure tests to assess . Ratings vary by panel, with higher pressure ratings indicating that your panels are better at withstanding the weight of heavy snow.
  2. If snow covers your panels, they can’t produce power – but it’s easy to clean them off with the right equipment. Solar panels need sunlight to produce power, so if your solar panels are covered in snow, they will not generate electricity. Most panels are tilted at an angle, so snow will slide off on its own accord, but that can take time. You can take control of the situation by getting a solar panel snow rake or similar tool made for solar panel snow removal that won’t damage the panels.
  3. Cold, sunny weather is actually good for panels. Winter months are actually good for solar energy production, as long as your panels aren’t covered by snow. Like most electronics, solar panels function more efficiently in cold conditions than in hot. This means that your panels will produce more power for each precious hour of sunshine during the short days of winter.

Solar panels in the winter: the popularity of PV in cold climates

Sunny states (like California, Arizona and Florida) are not the only places where solar makes sense. In fact, the top cities for solar in the U.S. aren’t the sunniest ones. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York in the top 10 for states with the highest amount of installed solar in 2019, with large percentages of solar installations coming during winter weather months. This is largely due to the fact that electricity prices are one of the biggest drivers of solar savings ­– the higher your electricity rates, the more money you will save by going solar.

Need further proof? Consider Germany, whose sunshine levels are similar to Alaska’s. For over a decade, this northern European country has led the world in solar panel installations, and solar makes a significant contribution to their national energy mix. Although other countries, including the U.S. and China, are starting to catch up, Germany’s success is a shining example of how winter weather solar can work in countries across the globe. On an international level, solar panels and snow certainly do go together.

Solar performance in winter for US, Spain, Germany

Now that you know that your solar panels can produce electricity in the winter, consider this: winter is also the best time to shop for solar if you’re a homeowner looking for the best value possible. With the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can compare equipment options and financing products from multiple installers to find the right solar panel system for your needs. Get an instant estimate or register your property today to get started.

14 thoughts on “Do solar panels work in the winter? Solar snow performance explained

  1. Daniel Zajic

    Wow, Corey, that’s a fantastic study you linked to, thank you SO much!! I was reconsidering my roof installation, which is at a shallow angle, because I thought that ANY snow at all would completely negate all energy production. I guess I should try it, and see for myself, for at least one winter, since my panels are already up on the roof, just not wired up yet.

  2. Corey Wood

    “Solar panels need sunlight to produce power, so if your solar panels are covered in snow, they will not generate electricity”
    This statement is not actually true. In 2015, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) completed a 3-year long side-by-side study comparing snow-covered panel performance with snow-cleared panel performance. The study found that although there is a decrease in power production, it was only as high as a ~15% reduction at its worst.
    Each location will present its own challenges of course, but generally speaking the above statement should be replaced or adjusted to reflect this new knowledge.
    Hooray for solar!!
    The NAIT study can be found here:

  3. Ice

    I think you just have to expect to lose some plants every decade or so if you don’t pick plants that evolved to cope with the odd arctic blast.


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