How to keep snow off solar panels
Although the idea of cleaning snow off your solar panel seems tedious, the benefits of doing so are remarkable.
High amounts of snow cover negatively affect the energy production of a solar panel.
While a solar panel can produce energy when covered by snow, you can optimize your energy production by cleaning it off.
There are many ways to clean snow off your solar panel and we will discuss the safest and most efficient methods.
Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Snow off Solar Panels
Use a Broom or Roof Rake
It may seem basic but in this instance, and when done correctly, simplicity is genius the best way forward.
To remove snow from your solar panel, simply brush the snow off with a soft-bristled broom or a roof rake.
This method is effective but can be a tiring task, especially during long periods of heavy snowfall.
It’s also possible to brush a small rock across the panel and scratch so this method has its risks.
Any scratch on the surface of a solar panel can negatively affect the amount of energy it produces. A scratch will also reduce the resale value of the solar panel. To avoid scratching of this kind simply inspect the bristles on the broom for any small rocks or wash the broom of any sand that might be stuck to it.
It is not recommended to climb a tall ladder in wet and icy conditions.
Throw a Softball
A less effective but certainly more amusing method is to simply throw a softball onto the panel.
Best suited for light, fluffy snow, the soft vibrations caused by the ball landing on the panel can force the snow to softly slide off.
Avoid this trick when faced with thick snow as the ball is likely to get stuck.
Spray the Panels with a Garden Hose
When the weather is warm enough and the risk of snow freezing is low, you can use a standard garden hose to melt snow.
The lukewarm water from the hose will melt away the snow resting on the panel.
Using a garden hose on ice, however, could contribute to the problem so always check for ice sheets.
It has been argued that freshwater is best suited for cleaning a solar panel but water from a garden hose can be used from time to time.
On a warm day, the heat from the sun can melt the bottom layer of snow and cause it to slide off the panel.
This method relies upon the weather and angle of the solar panel but requires no work on your part.
The snow will slide off if the panel is tilted at an angle at least greater than 35 degrees.
Waiting for the snow to melt and slide off is a widely used way of keeping snow off solar panels.
While energy production can decrease under high amounts of snow cover, many solar panel owners prefer to embrace the decrease in energy.
An advantage of accepting the decrease in energy is that you run no risk of damaging your solar panel in any major way. A disadvantage however is that you might not be able to power all your appliances needed for the winter months, depending on how many panels you use of course.
It comes down to a simple decision. Either take a slight loss in energy production by not cleaning off the snow, or make the effort, as taxing as it may be, and clean off the snow for optimal energy production.
Use a Leaf Blower
When the snow is light and fluffy enough, usually just after it has fallen, you can blow it off with a leaf blower.
This only works during periods of light snowfall and when no ice has formed on the panel.
Trim Encroaching Tree Branches
Any tree branches or tall plants which cast shadows and obstruct the solar panel must be cut away.
Long branches can collect snow and funnel it onto the solar panel like a conveyor belt.
It’s highly recommended that a professional be called to cut high lying tree branches to ensure safety for yourself and your panels.
Are They Even Worth Cleaning?
There is much debate online as to whether its worth the effort to clean snow off a panel.
Many solar panel owners argue that the amount of energy lost to snow cover is not high enough to justify the effort of cleaning and risk to personal safety.
Many professionals recommend that you wait for the snow to melt instead of risking injury or damage to yourself or your panels.
Waiting for the snow to melt could however not be a possible solution for an area like Wisconsin and Alaska where snowfall can occur for more than 4 months at a time.
How Does Snow Affect Solar Panels?
Whether it’s dry heat or icy snow, solar panel maintenance is vital when it comes to the longevity and performance of a solar panel kit.
One of the primary concerns, when snow is involved, is the impact of the weight of the snow on the structure of the solar panels.
The weight of the snow is only a problem in extreme cases of heavy snowfall as a standard solar panel is strong enough to withstand over 40 pounds of pressure per square foot.
Apart from the slight risk of the weight of snow, prolonged snowfall will not have a significant impact on the general maintenance of the solar panel.
Using Detergents and Other Liquids to Clean Solar Panels
Using household detergents and natural cleaners for solar panels is greatly debated.
However, studies have shown that the best way to clean a solar panel and prevent things such as rust on your solar panels is by using plain fresh water. By using plain freshwater you bear no risk of increasing rust building up.
It is fairly obvious not to use household detergents that could damage the face of the solar panel. These include detergents high in acidity and salt.
Replacing an Old Solar Panel
Knowing when to replace a solar panel kit can be a tricky decision to make, even for experts.
Standard solar panel kits vary in quality but the standard lifespan of a solar kit is usually over 20 years.
The lifespan of your solar panel isn’t significantly decreased by snowfall over time so long as basic maintenance is done.
Keeping snow off your solar panel boils down to what you are ultimately seeking to gain.
Cleaning the snow off can improve your solar panel’s performance.
If you’re trying to capture the full potential of your solar panel then cleaning the snow off of them with one of the above methods is advised.
On the other hand, if you’re using your solar panel on a less strict agenda, simply leaving the snow to melt and slide off is probably a better option for you.
The best way to decide the dilemma is to try one of the methods mentioned and see what best suits you and your needs.
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How To Remove Snow from Solar Panels Without Damaging Them
Snow building up on your solar panels can reduce the amount of energy you are able to produce. If the snow doesn’t melt on its own, your power supply can be greatly diminished. However, it is often best that you do not attempt to remove the snow from your solar panels yourself because you risk injuring yourself or damaging the panels.
Solar panels are designed to attract heat. Thankfully, this feature combined with the way they are pitched to a surface (either on the ground or on the roof), as well as the slippery glass surface, ensures that snow does not stick around for long.
Once a portion of the solar panel is exposed to the sun, it will speed up the rate at which the rest of the snow will melt off.
This is a similar phenomenon as with removing snow and ice from a windshield. Once you get it started, it speeds up the process naturally.
Can Snow Damage Solar Panels?
Many modern solar panels have a support structure with localized stress management points that provide support for the panels when dealing with the weight of snow. If you are in an area that often sees a large amount of snowfall in the winter, this is likely something that was considered during the decisions of the locations and pitch of the solar panels.
In fact, snow can sometimes be a benefit to solar panels as it helps to clean and remove any small debris (like the windscreen of a car) which could help to further improve your electricity generation once melted.
If at any point you are concerned that snow could be damaging your solar panels, it is best to contact the installation team, solar panel manufacturer, or consult with another solar panel company who may be able to provide you with information or solutions.
Can Solar Panels Produce Electricity When Covered In Snow?
When a solar panel is covered in snow, it is unable to produce electricity. However, just because you see a large amount of snowfall each year does not mean you should rule out buying solar panels as a long-term investment for saving on your electric bill.
Many of us only see snow for three months of the year. This leaves 3/4 of the year (nine months) of reasonable solar panel performance.
I found this calculator to be really useful in understanding the average sunlight for our region on an annual basis and therefore the amount of money we may save by having solar panels installed.
How To Remove Snow from Solar Panels Safely
Having your solar panels covered in snow and unable to generate electricity can be frustrating. However, most solar panel manufacturers and installation advisors recommend that you allow the snow to melt naturally from your panels and do not attempt to remove it yourself.
Solar panel systems on roofs can be both difficult and dangerous to access. While removing snow from a roof can often be easy, removing snow from solar panels requires you to be careful and delicate in order to not injure yourself or damage the panels.
Thankfully, snow panels tend to shed snow naturally very well as they are designed to absorb the sun’s heat and are placed in a direction to do so.
Solar Panel Roof Rakes are designed with soft foam to help you remove snow from on top of your solar panels. These are telescoping poles with a long reach that you can drag across the panels to remove the snow buildup.
While roof rakes can definitely help, you do need to use them carefully. Otherwise, you could damage the panels.
Ultimately the damage you could cause from attempting to remove the snow (to the panels or yourself) from the panels yourself is likely to far outweigh the money lost from the panels not producing energy for a couple of days.
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How To Prevent Snow from Building Up on Solar Panels Again in The Future
Currently there are no tried-and-true methods for preventing snow from building on snow panels.
There are a variety of ways that are suggested by others for removing the snow, but those methods can potentially damage the panels or void the warranty. These methods include:
- Using rock salt. Salt is corrosive and can cause damage and staining. (See our guide on everything you need to know about using rock salt for snow.)
- Spraying solar panels with a hose. This just replaces the snow with water, which can then freeze and become ice.
- Using a de-icer liquid. Spraying a chemical liquid on your solar panels might void your warranty or cause other issues.
- Coating panels with RainX or car wax. While you might think that this method will have the snow slide right off, it can also void your warranty and cause build-up on the panels.
- Roof Rakes. While these long, telescoping rakes can easily drag snow off of the panels, they could also cause damage, too. There are solar panel snow rakes that you can use with caution.
Honestly, as snow causes little to no damage to solar panels and often does not stick around for long, it is not something I would consider worrying a lot about. If you are worried about your solar panels’ ability to cope with large amounts of snow, then it is best to contact the manufacturer who may be able to advise you on strategies that are specifically suited to your make, model, and fitting.
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Snow Removal from Solar Arrays – What are You Gaining?
With over 10 years of experience, Donahue Sons has been committed to giving our customers the best results for a quality price. Typically during the winter months, December to late March, vegetation management companies begin to store their equipment away and wait out the Winter until the crisp 50-degree air and sunshine blossom again in the early Spring. But not Donahue Sons, two weeks ago the New England regions faced our second Nor’easter of the season capping off at 24 inches in some Massachusetts towns. The Donahue Sons team geared up ready to face the following days plowing and removing snow amongst seventy sites.
What you need to know.
The first 1.25 days after a snowstorm are crucial to gain back lost revenue immediately after a snowstorm. During these days the panels are completely immersed under the snow and cannot absorb any further energy, affecting the ROI of each nameplate. If we take into consideration the Cloud coverage of a storm the nameplate capacity should be producing at 65% and just over 9MWDC a day, based on 5.19 hours of sunlight in the month of December.
If the site has a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate of 2 or SREC 2 (meaning the solar panels were installed after 2014) it will earn 282.00 a megawatt averaging a projected total of 2,538.00 per day with a purchase power agreement estimate of 0.15 which should also generate in the ballpark of 1,350.00 per day. That being said we can estimate the total projected earning of the site running in partly cloudy conditions should generate around 3,888 per day.
Taking the above calculation into consideration you can estimate a return of investment within 1.25 days if cleared professionally. The total generation of solar panels with no snow would average to 27,216.00 with the subtraction of the cost to clear of 4,250.00 which would equal 22,966.00 of revenue after 7 days with the clearing cost already paid.
The second objective to take into consideration is what the ROI will look like if panels are left uncleared. During this equation, we must take into account the melting and refreezing of snow and ice as the temperature drops and rises each day. For this equation, we are using the same production number from paragraph 2. Over a 7 day period, the graph below shows the projected revenue and decrease of 35% already derated by clouds if panels were to be left uncleared.
Uncleared Panel Production Graph
From looking at this graph we can conclude that the overall projected revenue over the course of 7 days for uncleared panels would estimate to 11,080.
After calculating projected revenue for cleared panels, the cost of clearing, and projected revenue for uncleared panels Donahue Sons customers should expect an estimated net gain of 11,886.00 from panels that are professionally cleared. Why allow another snowstorm to cost you thousands when a quick call to Donahue Sons can increase your profits by 24-48 hours after a snowstorm.
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Why I Built Ground Mounts For My Solar Panels — SNOW REMOVAL
It’s a constant battle here in the mountains of New Hampshire. As you can see by the picture I took this morning, I’m sure glad that I have my solar panels mounted on ground mounts. For snow removal!
One of two types of weather events will prompt me to get out the broom and get to work on removing the snow from my solar panels:
I live in the mountains. Mountainous areas have their own unique weather. While a major winter storm will affect a significant part of an overall region, these mountains create pesky snow showers that accumulate over time. This frequently results in an inch here, two inches another day, half an inch the day after that… The next thing you know you’ve got another 6 inches more on the ground after a week of this (without a “snow storm”).
Anyway, it should go without saying, you’re not going to get much of any charge on your battery bank from the solar panels when they’re covered with snow. I don’t care what any sales person may tell you… Charging will be comparatively insignificant or non-existent when solar panels are covered with snow!
This is one reason why I decided NOT to mount my solar panels on the roof. Rather, I built my own ground mounts.
It’s not rocket science removing the snow. I use an ordinary floor push broom. The standard handle length is enough for me to simply pull the snow down from top to bottom.
(See below for roof mounted solar panels)
Once the dark panel surface is partially exposed, the sun will usually enhance the melting – finishing the job. However, if it’s too cold, it’s not going to happen. But eventually it will.
As you can see in the picture below, this morning I swept the panels. But there was still some frozen stuff near the bottom. Today is very overcast and cloudy. 25 degrees. It’s not going to melt. But that’s okay, I’ll still get ‘some’ bit of charge.
Removing Snow From Solar Panels Mounted On The Roof
What if your solar panels are on the roof? How do you get the snow off? Well, for the most part, you can’t. However, I will offer some advice (opinion)… something I do on my own roof when snow accumulates during the winter…
Snow Roof Rake
I use a snow rake to pull snow off the roof. I don’t do it all the time. Only if it’s getting deep and I’m concerned it’s not going to melt off or blow off (even partially) before the next snow storm.
I have not tried this on roof mounted solar panels. Just saying… However, it ‘should’ help. But be careful whenever doing this. Don’t be stupid and hurt yourself. I’m lucky in that I have a deck going the length of the house and I can reach the roof with the long pole of the snow rake. It depends on your own home and roof.
Tip: It’s a pain in the you-know-what. Just pull a little at a time – depending on the type of snow.
This is the one that I have:
There are a number of ways to mount your solar panels. Typically, the solar panels you see on the roofs of houses are simple “Grid Tie” systems. Solar energy is fed back into the grid and you get credit for it. If it snows, no big deal. You’re running off the grid anyway.
However if you’re Off Grid, or have a side-by-side Off Grid energy system with transfer switches (as I do), snow becomes a pretty big deal. Winter is difficult enough with fewer hours of sunlight and low angle sun. Snow just makes it all worse.
So my recommendation to anyone setting up Off Grid solar power, if you’re in a snow zone, consider your solar panel mounting methods with regards to snow removal.
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
Ken What material style of bracing are you using to support the panels in the photo? What size wattage is each panel?
@Antique Collector, I used 10′ Galvanized SuperStruts from Home Depot — and associated hardware to put it all together. My panels are rated 315 watts each. I have 12 total for a theoretical 3780 watts.
Any problem with the galvanized struts and the aluminum solar panel frames having galvanic corrosion between the dissimilar metal valances?
Yes, they’re fastened to concrete support piers. One day I might write up how I built the ground mounts. Good idea.
Thanks! Did you ground yours too? I built two 500w arrays from 2x4s and slotted angle iron. I can get them assembled and hooked up to my solar generator in an hour in the event of a prolonged outage. During our normal operation our grid tied panels on the roof keep things running.
Yes, the panel’s exterior frames are bonded together and grounded with a ground rod at each frame location (per code). I have 3 panels per frame. Each panel is tied in series for higher voltage (less loss). Each frame location has a junction box. The electrical (DC) is sent back to the house via conduit that I trenched underground. The rest of the system is inside the house.
Wow, that is a lot of snow and it’s beautiful! How do you continue to get a bit of charge in such cloudy weather and little sunlight?
@T, Well, it is HIGHLY dependent on how overcast it is. Actually, heavy overcast I’ll get next to nothing. But light to medium overcast I might get 250 – 500 – 800 watts all day. But if it’s partly cloudy, when the sun breaks through for those periods – it goes full-on max charge up to 3800 watts (ish). So, it really “depends”!
Ken, on your panels, what is the drop off % when a Cloud goes across them ( is there a 5%, 10%, or more drop in output)? If you can, who made them ?
I have solar lighting and one of the maintenance chores is brushing the snow off, but have a heck of a time brushing the snow off my TV dish on the roof, so I understand the difficulty for those in snowy areas NOT to have roof mounted solar panels.
Is there any benefit to applying something like Rain-X to make the panel surface more slick during the Winter months ?
bb I use rainex winter mix for windshields during the winter. I shoot it on with a bug sprayer or a worx hydroshot battery powered pressure washer to remove any snow build up without having to climb up on a ladder. It works for me.
I looked into that and it was not recommended. The panels are not glass so there may be some adverse affect.
The retirement house I’m building will have two wind turbines (Air 30’s) and 8 solar panels-48 volt system in two strings of four. Only running lighting, fridge and freezer, security cameras and garage door openers on it. I’m putting the panels on the second story roof (2/12 in 12 pitch, so fairly flat) to prevent theft/vandalism in my isolated AO (It’s already happened with other items on my property). I drafted into the design for a roof access hatch from a room on the second floor. Also bolting a heavy security harness at the peak of the roof for safety, since I live alone. Then again, it only snows about three or four days a year here. But hey, stuff happens! The nice thing about the wind turbines is that during the shorter days of winter, it gets much more windy here, particularly during middle of the night… A win-win. Ken, your mounting system looks nice!
jon dowe Heads up on the wind turbines, if they do not have a cage around the blades they will take out native birds flying in the area. Neighbor placed a large one on their property, I heard the bird hit it when it was chasing a meal in flight. Thought you should know, they are nice but cause a lot of damage to the mother natures population control.
I have two 600-watt arrays, each framed with SuperStrut. One is on a low roof that we can reach with a push broom. The second is freestanding with the panel frame bracketed to a galvanized fencing pole mounted horizontally on top of a couple 4″x6″ treated lumber posts sunk in concrete. We sweep snow off when taking care of animals in the morning, typically. The idea with the horizontal pole was to be able to pivot the array down in the winter here in the higher latitudes. In practice, there’s more than enough summer sun for my needs even without sweating the angle and there’s not enough output difference at the steepest (winter) angle over the middle (equinox) angle to bother with repositioning – at least for my needs. Cold temperatures really pump up the output, too.
Those panels have the short circuit current rating (Isc). Makes you wonder what would happen if you did short circuit the solar panels and use that internal resistance to melt the snow. I^2R is power (heat) across your internal resistance.
I have a small system for limited emergency use, battery chargers, live stock water heaters, circular saws, etc. I placed a 4×4 pressure treated post in the ground and mounted a 8 ft cattle gate to it. I put a wheel on the far end to help support the weight of my panels, and so I could also swing the panels from East to West, for manual solar tracking, if I should feel the need. Than I built a wooden frame on the cattle gate to mount the 800 watts of solar panels, feeding a small battery bank in my storage shed. I also have a 5,000 watt diesel generator for the house back-up needs.
My plan is to build a wooden deck behind my garage (Southern Facing) and mount my Solar Panels on the deck. Makes it easier to access and I’ll have the ability to run the wires under the deck into the garage that will house the batteries, inverter etc. Kind of like a raised access floor. No mud, no grass to maintain and of course no roof to climb on when you have to do maintenance.
Sounds good! One very important general aspect of mounting… Make sure they are very secure because the wind will present powerful forces seeking to turn them into flying kites.
Way easier to do maintenance, over here snow isnt a problem, most remote areas its mildew, humidity and airborn contaminates are high.
Nice set-up Ken. I have only 800 watts of solar panels, on the roof. Off grid system(s). Also two small 400watt wind turbines. Grand total of 1600 watts if sun is shining and the wind is blowing. In reality it isn’t a ton of power. I use all I can gather. I’m very glad I’ve done this much at least. It certainly isn’t a cheap power source, but I’m in control of it. For now, I’ll leave things as they are. If grid down, I have plans to mount them on a small trailer and follow the sun by swiveling the trailer by hand. Tedious? absolutely. I have large trees that hinder solar collection. If moved onto the trailer, I’d likely improve power production dramatically. With no internet or cell phones or TV, I’ll need something to do anyway. Not even I can stand ham radio for too long. I researched some of the sun tracking things, not very good return on investment. Likely cheaper to just buy more panels. For anyone just starting with solar, I’d recommend buying a cheap solar kit maybe even Harbor Freight. It will give you an idea of how many watts of panels you’ll need. Even a little bit of solar is better than none. I learned a lot by playing with a small kit.
I looked at the trackers too. Way too expensive (for me). Like you said, it’s cheaper to just buy more panels and face them due South.
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