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Solar Panels and Snow: What You Need to Know

by | February 22, 2024

Winter in the Illinois or Wisconsin elicits thoughts of cold, wind, snow, and very little sun.  Solar panels rely on sunlight to operate, which begs the question: does solar work in the winter? And what about when the solar panels are covered in snow?

It’s true that solar systems generate more energy in the summer months, but it’s also true that solar can be productive in the winter, even if it snows. In fact, the impact of snow on solar panels is less than you might think.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the impact of winter weather on a solar system:

1. Do solar panels work in the winter?

Yes! While solar panels rely on the sun’s energy to operate, they do not require heat. In fact, solar panels are more efficient when it’s cold out!

2. Do solar panels work in snow?

A small dusting of snow won’t have a big impact on your system since the wind will just blow it off. If a solar panel is covered in snow, it will not be able to access the sun, and thus won’t produce energy. However, since there is a much lower amount of sunlight in the winter anyway, the production loss will be minimal.

3. Why doesn’t my solar system produce as much in the winter?

The position of the sun in the sky changes significantly throughout the year.  The hours of sunlight and the sun’s direction change month to month.  The annual estimate of energy production calculated in our proposals includes that seasonal variation. Month-to-month production can vary significantly.  On average, January accounts for just 4% of a system’s annual energy production, while July accounts for about 12%. Variation in production is typical and expected.


Graph depicting monthly solar energy production over the course of a year.

4. Should I clear the snow off my panels?

Do not attempt to remove snow from your solar panels as you risk injuring yourself and/or the solar panels. Since the winter months typically have low production anyway, the risk greatly outweighs any benefit. You also risk voiding your warranty if you do damage your solar panels during the attempt to remove the snow.

Snow does not inherently damage the panels, so you can just let it be. The snow will melt off the panels at a faster rate than the roof or other surfaces. The melting snow can actually help clean your solar panels!

5. Will the weight of the snow damage my solar panels?

Solar panels are incredibly durable. Our M-Series solar panels, for example, are built to hold 187lbs of snow per square foot! Given that a foot of snow weights about 4lbs per square foot, your panels will be absolutely fine under the snow.

6. Once installed, will my system generate low-production alerts after a snow storm?

We typically have periods when solar panels are snow covered for days or weeks during the winter months. This is normal and expected! When we determine the production of your system, we consider weather conditions in your area, so we fully account for the fact that there will be periods when the panels are covered in snow.

While there’s snow covering or partially covering your solar system, you may receive alerts that the panels are malfunctioning. But don’t worry! The alerts should clear themselves within 24-48 hours of the snow having completely melted off the entire system.

This post was written by Marni Berliner.
Marni is Certasun's Director of Sales.

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