Solar Panel Snow Removal

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Solar panel snow removal isn’t a job that’s reserved only for professionals. You can quickly clean your panels after a snowfall with the right tools on hand. If you prefer an automatic system, there are options for you too! Throughout the rest of this SolarSena article, I will explain the impact that snow has on your solar panels, the best ways to clean snow off your solar panels and, what you should do in case of a frost storm.File:Young girl cleaning photovoltaic solar panels from snow, Grange Farm, UK.jpg

The Impact of Snow Buildup on Solar Panels

Solar panels generate power or heat by absorbing the rays of the sun. They’re designed to produce electricity in all four seasons, not just when the sun is shining at its brightest. For example, under moonlight there’s very little power generated. Your solar panels can be efficient on cloudy or rainy days, but when a mountain of snow is converting them, they won’t work as great. This is probably obvious to most of you however, it is important that you clean the snow off of your solar panels quickly so that you can get the most energy production possible out of your solar panel array. 


Light Snowfall

A small amount of snow, just enough to cover the panel, would be harmless. The wind will typically blow it off before there’s much buildup, and sunlight will get through a thin layer. While your power generation might be affected in a small way, usually a light snowfall is not enough to seriously hamper energy production.

If you want to clean off a light snowfall you should, however if you don’t have the time it probably is not worth the effort. you will almost certainly have enough power to run your essential household appliances, and in all likelihood the snow will blow away or melt before there is too big of a build up. 


Build Up

If snow builds up on your solar panels and can’t slide off or blow away with the wind, it could prevent the solar cells from absorbing any sunlight and generating electricity. In this case, even if it is not snowing very hard it is a good idea to try and clean off the snow from your solar panel array. 


The longer that you have snow on your solar panels the less energy they are producing. Additionally, if you let the snow build up for long periods of time without cleaning it off you can run into a couple of problems. First, the more snow there is built up the more difficult it is for you to clean off. Second, if you let excessive amounts of snow build up, you could damage your solar panels. I talk about this in the next section.


Heavy Snowfall

In times of heavy snowfall or snow build up, you could potentially damage your solar panels. The heavy snow buildup on  can put pressure on the frames or structure of the solar panels, causing them to bend and get damaged. Solar panels mounted horizontally are at a bigger risk. Heavy snow also will also be more challenging to remove, so if a continuous storm is predicted, and you are expecting lots of snow it is probably smart to clean your panels once per day when it’s safe to do so. This will help reduce the stress put on your panels by the weight of the snow, make cleaning them easier for you, and allow the panels to produce at least some electricity throughout the storm 


Advantages of Letting a Little Bit of Snow Build Up

While there are not many advantages to letting snow build up on your solar panels there is one nice thing about it. If you let just a small amount of snow accumulate on your solar panels when you clean them off, the dirt and dust accumulated on your panels will slide right off with it. Your solar panels will be spotless after a quick wipe and you have saved your self the hassle of having to clean your solar panels. Contrary to the negative reputation of snow on solar panels, it can offer a quick and easy clean for you solar panel array. 


How to Remove Snow From Solar Panels

Snow that builds up often can’t slide off on its own. Additionally snow build up usually won’t be blown away, or melted during the winter. In this case, you can leave your solar panels to clean themselves via an automatic cleaning method, or manually remove the snow residue left behind after a storm.

Manual Methods

A roof rake with soft bristles will be the most effective to brush snow off without damaging the solar panels. You can also blow fluffy snow off with a leaf blower. This method can be dangerous because of the machinery you are using. Be sure to take extra precautions if using a leaf blower on your roof. If you have an outdoor hose with lukewarm water, you can spray your solar panels to melt the snow. Caution! Using a hose can potentially damage your solar panels if it is extremely cold outside. If the temperatures are well below freezing the water hitting the cold solar panels could immediately freeze which, in some cases, could damage your panels. If it is very cold outside we highly suggest that you do not use a hose to clean the snow off of your solar panels.  


Automatic Methods

If you like to minimize labor, you can install a warm water line or heater for snow removal. These will heat your solar panels up and melt all the snow covering them. Heat tape is available at many hardware stores, and if you apply them correctly, it’ll be really effective! We will be coming out with a guide soon on how to best install heat tape to properly melt snow of solar panels. 

How to Remove Ice From Solar Panels

You can remove ice from snow panels in the same way that you would snow. The only difference is that you have no other choice than to get on your roof.

If the sun is out and you are confident there won’t be another frost storm, you can use a hose. Caution! the same risks apply here as they did for cleaning off snow from your panels. If it is extremely cold outside we highly recommend using another method the get the ice off of your roof. If the water is warm or lukewarm, it will melt the ice. 

Another way to remove ice from a solar panel would be by applying heat to it. You can use a blowdryer, a portable heater, heat tape, or some other heating solution. If you are doing this manually on the roof be extra caution. The melting ice can be very slippery and you could sustain a severe injury from falling. If you are nervous about getting on your roof please use a professional cleaning service. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when doing something dangerous like getting on a roof. 

Do't put rain-x on solar panels

How to Use a Snow Rake for Snow Removal from Solar Panels

Snow rakes are designed to brush the snow from rooftops, but you can also use them on your solar panels. They have soft heads made from foam that won’t damage the glass or leave any streaks. Some rakes are made with very long, extendable handles, so you don’t need to get up on your roof, and you can control them from the ground. 

You should stand away from the area where the snow will fall because it can come down very hard and fast and cause damage to anything or anyone in its way. 

Standing far from the landing zone and sweeping the snow slowly is the best way to use your snow rake. Don’t try to pull everything down to the ground at once. This can cause all of the snow to accumulate in one spot which is potentially damaging. The weight from this  can sometimes be too much for the solar panels to handle. This can potentially cause some damage to you panels.  

If your roof is too high or your panels are in a hard-to-reach area, you should call in the help of a professional. Damaging your panels could cause you to lose your warranty if you are at fault. Confidence is key. If you are not confident in your ability too clean your solar panels safely please use a professional cleaning service.

How Often Should You Clear Snow from Solar Panels

If you live in an area with occasional light and fluffy snowfall, you can leave it on your panels. A small amount of snow will not be an issue. It is only when the snow begins to build up that you should think about cleaning your panels. 

If you live in an area with regular snowfall, you should clear the snow from your panels if it is building up. This could be as much as every day or even multiple times a day during very heavy snow fall. You should clean your solar panels as often as necessary to keep them snow free. 

Wrapping Up

Leaving snow buildup on your solar panels can damage them over time. If you’ve experienced light snowfall, you don’t have to do much. In the case of continued snowstorms or snow build up, you should clean your panels to ensure they continue functioning.

The best way to remove snow from solar panels is by installing an automatic heating/ cleaning system. If you can’t do this however, racking or hosing it off will do a good job too! As always thank you for reading! If you have a suggestion about what topic we should cover next be sure to leave a comment down below.


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