You can still take advantage of a solar panel installation even if you live in a cold region. Some homeowners assume that solar panels are less efficient in cold weather, but this isn’t the case; solar panels are oftentimes more efficient in cold weather. Why are solar panels more efficient in cold weather exactly?
The Science Behind Cold Weather and Solar Panel Efficiency
The reason solar panels are more efficient in cold weather involves electrons. Solar panels generate electricity by releasing electrons. They are made of photovoltaic (PV) material, such as silicon, that contains electrons. When exposed to photons — energy from sunlight — the electrons will break from their atoms. This reaction creates an electric current.
The electrons in PV material are affected by the ambient temperature. In cold weather, they remain at rest. In warm weather, they are more active. This restful state allows solar panels to generate more electricity in cold weather. The electrons will become excited when exposed to photons. In cold weather, they will transition from a restful state to an excited state, which in turn generates electricity.
Maximum Peak Temperature
Studies have shown that most solar panels are less efficient in cold weather. Most manufacturers design their solar panels with a maximum peak temperature of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar panels will continue to generate electricity after reaching this peak temperature, but they’ll suffer from a loss of efficiency. In cold weather, solar panels are less likely to reach this maximum peak temperature.
Solar panels will work below their maximum peak temperature, and they will work after exceeding their maximum peak temperature. Solar panels simply become less efficient when exposed to heat greater than their maximum peak temperature.
Beware of Snow
While cold weather can have a positive impact on solar panel efficiency, the opposite is true for snow. Heavy snowfall can make solar panels less efficient.
Assuming your solar panels are only covered in a thin layer of snow, they should continue to work with little or no noticeable impact on efficiency. But thick layers of snow consisting of several inches or more or snowfall can negatively affect their efficiency.
If you discover a thick layer of snow on your solar panels, you should consider clearing it. You may be able to remove it using a leaf blower. Alternatively, you can use a foam brush to remove the snow. Just remember to avoid using any tools or equipment that may scratch your solar panels.