Do Solar PV Panels Work In Cold Weather Conditions?

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Solar panels will help you generate energy for your home all year round. You will save money on you bill and earn money with the feed-in tariff.

Solar panels convert sunlight, not heat, into electricity. Therefore, they do not lose efficiency in cold weather but may produce less electricity in overcast conditions.

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Solar panels and cold weather

There is a common misconception that solar panels need hot, mediterranean style weather in order to work efficiently. This is not true! Solar panels work by absorbing the light from the sun, not the heat, and turning it into usable electricity.

Therefore, solar panels will work just as well in cold weather, providing there is still some sunlight. Solar panels do not work as efficiently in very overcast weather as there is not as much sunlight for them to absorb.

Solar panel efficiency in winter

Solar panels can work effectively throughout the entire winter in the UK. Solar panels only need daylight to produce electricity. In the UK there is on average at least 8 hours of daylight, even in the darkest months. Solar panels do produce more energy over the summer months when there are more hours of daylight. However, even on the least sunny days, solar panels can still produce around a third of their maximum output; enough to power your household appliances throughout the day.

Winter rain and winds do not affect the output of solar panels and can actually help to keep them clean and free of debris. Snow is also not as limiting a factor for solar panels as one might think. When snow is actually falling it is usually quite cloudy which could somewhat reduce solar output. However, once the snow has settled it provides very few problems for solar panels. As the panels are often mounted at an angle and retain some warmth, any snow that settles on them should melt and slide off quickly.

If there is a lot of snow and a very thick layer covers the panels, they may shut off completely as they will not have any access to sunlight. If it is safe to do so you may want to brush the snow from the panels. If not, the snow will likely fall off relatively quickly by itself and your panels will resume their normal output. Interestingly, if there is a lot of snow on the ground it may actually help your solar panels be more efficient as the added reflection coming from the snow on the ground can cause more light to fall on the panels.

Is the UK the right climate for solar panels?

The UK climate is great for solar panels. Solar panels need sunlight to work efficiently but they do not need heat. In the UK there is, on average, at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. This increases to around 16 hours of light in the summer months. Solar panels are well suited to the British climate as it is temperate, meaning that there is very little extreme weather. Solar panel efficiency can suffer if the temperature goes well above 30°, as the panels can overheat. Luckily we rarely see temperatures above 30° in the UK!

The sporadic to frequent rainfall in the UK can also be a positive factor in the efficiency of solar panels. Rain does not limit the output of solar panels and it can actually make them more efficient by keeping them clean of dust and debris.

The only weather condition fairly frequent in the UK which could negatively affect solar panel output is overcast and cloudy. When there are a lot of clouds in the sky it is harder for the sunlight to reach the surface of your solar panels. However, even on overcast days, solar panels can still produce around a third of their usual output using the daylight that does reach them.

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