One of the major concerns that many homeowners have about the use of solar panels for home energy is that they won’t work in the winter. This thought can be especially concerning for residents of northern states like Michigan that tend to have especially long, cold winter seasons.
Put simply, this concern is a myth. Solar panels in winter continue to generate plenty of power for residential customers. You can reap the benefits of this renewable energy source no matter how cold it gets or how much snow and ice is on the ground.
In fact, the Native Village of Hughes in Alaska are starting to employ solar panels to cut their reliance on diesel fuel. The plan is for the village to receive a significant amount of their energy from their solar panels over the next few years. Even with Alaska’s long winters and dramatic weather patterns, the village can obtain significant savings over time.
If solar panels can deliver quality results in Alaska, they have the opportunity to make a major impact for Michigan residents as well. Here’s what you should know about solar panels in winter.
How Much Power Can Be Generated
Solar panels work by collecting sunlight – not heat. So low temperatures have absolutely no bearing on their ability to power your home. Some homeowners may worry about the impact of snow on their panels. But panels are generally slanted, which allows snow and ice to easily slide off. You may want to have them cleared off by a professional if you experience particularly heavy snowfall, as this can potentially block sunlight from reaching your panels. But light to moderate snow shouldn’t impact their ability to generate energy.
Additionally, a light layer of snow on the ground can actually help your solar panels work more efficiently. The white reflects sunlight very effectively. So the panels are able to access even more rays on a sunny winter day than they would on a sunny summer day. And solar panels are actually able to work more effectively in cold conditions than in very hot conditions, since they use electronic components.
The exact amount of energy that your solar panels are able to collect through the winter depends on the wattage that you opt for. However, when you take all of the factors into account, from slightly shorter days to the snow’s reflection of sunlight, it’s safe to say that you can generate a comparable amount of energy during the winter and summer months. It may be slightly less if you experience heavy snowfall or particularly dark days, but not enough to make a solar powered system ineffective. In fact, research has shown that solar panels can still successfully generate electricity in winter weather and harsh conditions.
What Savings Can Look Like on Your Bill
Michigan residents pay about 15 cents per Kilowatt hour for electricity, which is one of the higher rates across the country. Solar power in general can help to reduce electric bills significantly or even cut them out completely, depending on the type of system you choose. Short days or excessive snow can potentially slow production a bit. But Michigan has a net metering policy that allows you to take advantage of the times when your solar panels collect more energy than you use. So basically, if you experience a particularly sunny month in the summer, it may be able to help to cover the cost of a dreary, overcast month in the winter.
Your actual bill may vary from month to month, just as any energy bill would. However, solar savings are all about the long term. Over time, the amount that you save by having solar panels installed will outweigh your initial investment, even when you take harsh winter conditions into account.
Are Solar Panels Safe in Winter?
Some homeowners are also concerned about damage or safety issues related to solar panels and harsh weather conditions. However, most, if not all, of these concerns are also unfounded. For example, some believe that solar panels cannot handle heavy snow. While it’s true that snow can block light from reaching the panels, rendering them ineffective, it should not weigh them down enough to cause damage or create safety concerns. Solar panels are designed to bear a significant amount of weight, much more than the average winter snowfall. They are also usually installed at an angle, making it difficult for a ton of snow to even accumulate on the surface.
Wind is another concern. However, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has performed tests to ensure the durability of solar panels. And they’ve found that the vast majority of installed systems have been able to hold up in even the most extreme conditions, including hail and hurricanes. If they can make it through those conditions, they should be able to last through a few Michigan winters.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Most solar panels have a useful lifespan of about 25 years. Over that time period, they should more than make up for their initial purchase and installation costs with energy savings. If something were to happen to them during that time period, though issues are fairly rare, most come with warranties that last between 10 and 20 years. So most issues would be covered for a long period of time without an extra cost to you.
If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of solar power in Michigan, even through the winter months, contact The Green Panel today. Our team has been providing expert solar installation services across the state for more than a decade. We understand the challenges that Michigan homeowners face and only work with quality manufacturers to ensure that your solar panels will deliver the power you need throughout the entire year. We even offer free solar evaluations so you can get the scoop on what solutions will work best for your specific property. Request one on our website or contact us to go over your options.