Being in Central California, solar panels are often a great way to reduce your energy costs and carbon footprint by utilizing advantageous temperatures and abundant sunlight. In the winter, it gets colder and, in some mountainous regions, you have to deal with snow that piles up on your panels. Follow our guide to learn what you need to know about how solar works in the winter.
Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
Solar panels absolutely work in the winter! How efficiently they work is another story.
Two major factors affect solar panel energy production: sunlight and temperature.
Sunlight’s Effect on Solar Panels in the Winter
In the winter, the amount and intensity of natural sunlight is lessened. This happens because sunlight has to go through more layers of the atmosphere as it enters and hits the surface at a greater angle than during the summer when the northern hemisphere is more directed toward the sun.
The tilt of the Earth isn’t the only thing to consider when it comes to sunlight’s effect on solar power production. Winter usually brings more clouds, rain, and snow. This means more solar shading and less voltage generated.
Solar panels can still operate through cloud cover and even light layers of snow—ultraviolet sunlight still reaches the solar panels. However, they aren’t as efficient as the same conditions on a day with clear skies.
Temperature’s Effect on Solar Panels in the Winter
Contrary to what one may think, solar panels in hot climates like the Central Valley operate less efficiently as temperatures rise into triple-digits Fahrenheit. This is because higher temperatures allow light (as photons) to transfer electrons with less energy, so solar panels capture less energy.
The ideal temperature for peak solar panel efficiency is about 25 degrees Celsius, which translates to about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature range for peak solar panel efficiency is between 60 degrees and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the Central Coast, the temperate climate ensures that temperatures rarely stray outside this range, making temperature a minimal factor when considering whether solar power works in the winter.
In Central Valley areas, such as Bakersfield and Fresno, temperatures consistently rise above peak range in the summer, and fall below peak range in the winter.
How To Increase Solar Efficiency in the Winter
Follow these tips to increase your solar power efficiency in the winter.
- Change the angle of your solar panels to be steeper in the winter. Call your local Bland Company representative to see how this may be possible for you.
- Ensure that solar batteries are stored in a place where it will be within the appropriate listed temperature range.
- Clean off any snow, dust, or other debris that may be on top of your solar panels.
- Limit your electricity use and find sources of energy leaks, including appliances that are not on but still plugged in and draining electricity.