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Last updated: 28 March 2024

Do Solar Panels Work in UK Winter?

Do Solar Panels Work in UK Winter?

As a power source that is fairly dependent on the weather, people can have a lot of questions about the seasonal functionality of solar panels. One of the top questions many ask is “Do solar panels work in the winter?”. The short answer is “yes, but they also experience a loss in performance”. Let’s dive into what wintertime factors you should keep an eye on and how to prepare for the weather conditions that sometimes come with the winter tide.

But first, if you’re interested in getting your own solar panels, the most important thing is to find a trusted installer. Luckily, with our handy service, you can do away with all the hassle of vetting installers individually and then laboriously fielding their offers. Just complete our 30-second form and we’ll find the right ones for you. Click the button below to obtain 4 free, non-binding quotes from trusted MCS-certified experts in your area.

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Do solar panels work in the winter?

While solar panels work best in summer due to the higher amount of sunlight hours, they are fully capable of running all year round. The winter time mainly decreases their output because of the shorter days. The temperature changes do not affect solar panel efficiency negatively.

One of the misconceptions about solar panels is that they do not work in low temperatures. This is false because they use sunlight as a power source as opposed to heat. As long as there is sun they will have a source of energy to draw from. Solar panels can even function in below-zero temperatures.

One way you can optimise solar panel efficiency during winter (and all other seasons) is by picking the right type of panel. Hybrid, followed by monocrystalline systems, are the most efficient solar panels per square foot so they can be a better option than polycrystalline.

Can solar panels work in the cold?

While it is important to stop your solar setup from accruing an abundance of snow if it ends up blocking the light, small amounts of snow do not inhibit solar panels from doing their job. Light is able to penetrate through 5 to 8-centimetre layers (2 to 3 inches).

In fact, in some cases, colder temperatures like snowy ones can positively affect the output of a solar panel system via the albedo effect. This is because the snow, when at the right angle and when it is not obscuring the panel itself, reflects sunlight up to solar cells from the ground. This can allow panels a bit more sunlight.

Should you pack your solar panels?

Solar panels can still generate electricity in harsher climates, so packing them away might be unnecessary. If your main concern is a snow pile-up, you may not have to worry too much about it. Snow often slides off due to the angle at which panels are usually set up. Moreover, as mentioned before, a light layer of snow does not drastically reduce efficiency.

Most panels are built to last and can survive harsh weather conditions but if you do need to clear snow, use the right tools. When dealing with snow on your panels, you should use a light brush rather than something like a rake.

Snow and rain do little damage but since ice will melt eventually, it’s best to avoid it getting into crevices or cracks in your panel system. Most solar panels are designed to be waterproof, so this is not a major issue unless they are damaged.

However, this does not mean that they are impervious to all weather conditions.

Can solar panels be damaged in the winter due to hail or rain?

Most solar panels are designed to withstand the average storm and even hail. Despite this, hail or similar-sized objects exceeding 50mph can be hazardous and powerful hailstorms can potentially cause chips or other damage. Thankfully, this can be repaired, but it’s best to cover your panels if you fear harsh downpours.

It’s best to avoid rain or hail damage altogether, so here are a few things you can do:

  • Opt for flexible solar panels or panels rated UL 61730, UIC 61730, or IP68 as they can withstand far more pressure from such extreme weather events.
  • Follow weather forecasts to predict when you may need to cover the panels.
  • Adjust their angle so they are more resilient to a hailstorm. This will depend on your setup.
  • A protective cover or wire mesh can protect them while allowing the panels to still absorb sunlight as needed. Opt for such protective measures if necessary.
  • Apply a layer of methacrylate to increase their durability. It is important to avoid putting this on the metal segments of your panel setup since that can dampen their efficiency.

Another aspect that helps keep solar panels well-protected is proper installation. If you’re looking to install solar panels, you’ll need an installer you can trust. With our handy service, you can easily obtain up to 4 free, non-binding quotes from trusted experts in your area. Click the button below to get the best offers in your area.

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How cloudiness affects solar panels

While clouds can be detrimental to energy production, they are not always a net negative. Cloudy weather that blocks the sun can be a hindrance to solar panels as they will produce about 10% to 20% of their ordinary capacity. Low clouds can block out the sun more than higher clouds up in the air.

However, there are certain types of cloud cover that increase the level of sunlight. Higher clouds can actually cause cloud lensing due to the water they contain. This improves sunlight absorption for a small amount of time. This can trigger right as the cloud passes over the solar array.

Can frost damage solar panels?

As mentioned above, freezing is not generally harmful (unless the panel is damaged and water enters). A light amount of snow can be negligible for solar panel performance. However, cleaning frost off your panels can be tricky. It’s best to do this with a light brush rather than a metal implement to prevent damage.

If you are installing solar panels for apartments, make sure they are in an accessible location in case you do need to inspect or clean them.

How efficient are solar panels during the winter?

Overall, the main issue that affects solar panel efficiency is the lack of sunlight hours. Cloud cover can also influence the power output. Weather conditions are only an issue if they prevent the panel from accessing sunlight i.e., being completely blocked by a thick layer of snow.

Solar panels work best during the summer but they lose between 25% to 50% efficiency during the peak winter months (December and January). If you’re interested in getting your own solar panels, the most important thing is to find a trusted installer.

Luckily, with our handy service, you can do away with all the hassle of vetting installers individually and then laboriously fielding their offers. Just complete our 30-second form and we’ll find the right ones for you. Click the button below to obtain 4 free, non-binding quotes from trusted MCS-certified experts in your area.

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