Every year more and more people install solar panels on their property, either to power their entire household or to supplement the power used from the national grid and reduce the cost of their energy bills.
Solar panels can take energy from sunlight even throughout winter, but one challenge during these months can be dealing with snow. Snow can settle on the panels and block some sunlight, reducing the amount of energy generated.
Getting rid of a snowy buildup from your solar panels drastically improves their efficiency, but first, it’s important to be aware of the best ways of getting this done. Health and safety is paramount as solar panels tend to be high up, but they are also vulnerable to damage if snow removal isn’t tackled correctly.
The UK Weather
Reassuringly, you don’t need to worry too much about damage to your panels from the snow itself. Most solar panels are guaranteed to be able to take a load of at least 5,000 Pascals, which translates to roughly three feet of snow. Based on what we know about the typical UK winter weather, it’s quite unlikely that the weight of the snow will damage your panels.
You can also head off snow problems at the installation phase by thinking about the angle of the panels. Forty-five degrees is the most common angle used, so if you angle the panels steeper it means the snow will be more inclined to fall off by itself. Also, think about the direction the snow is coming from. South-facing solar panels will always get more heat because they get more sun, meaning the build-up of snow will naturally be less.
Options For Snow Removal
The easiest option might simply be to do nothing and wait for the snow to melt naturally. However, depending on the climate where you live, you might find the snow never melts or does so very slowly. Even if you live in an area where the weather naturally melts snowy buildups, in the time you’re waiting you’re still missing an opportunity to generate electricity and keep your energy bills down. In this case, it’s worth looking at methods for removal – while making sure whatever method you use isn’t dangerous to you or your panels.
One option is to spray warm water from your garden hose over the snow. This can work, but be sure the temperature isn’t so low that this water will freeze, as this simply swaps snow for ice which brings its own efficiency cost. You also need to be sure the water you are spraying is not so hot that it will crack the solar panels. And, of course, depending on the height of your home you may also experience trouble reaching your panels with the jet from your hose.
You can also try sweeping the snow off the panels but use a brush head made from foam rather than bristles to avoid scratching the panel surfaces. Also, be very careful about sweeping while standing on a roof. All roofs are slightly different, so make certain that it’s safe for you to be up there. If you aren’t sure then or consider purchasing a long extendable handle so you can sweep while standing on the ground. An even better idea might be to hire a professional to do the job.
Get The Family Involved
A more fun method, particularly if you have children, is to toss soft footballs at the snow until it falls off. This method might take time but should work, though be sure not to throw anything up there that might damage the panels. While this might be an enjoyable way to get the job done, it isn’t necessarily the most efficient.
Some solar panels have heating systems already installed or can be adjusted to include this useful function. They can run off the power from the panel itself or use an external power source and the electric wires within the structure heat up, melting the snow that falls on them. These heating systems are good at removing snow as it lands, but if enough snow lands the panels can still end up covered.
Take Pre-Emptive Action
You can also set up tarpaulins or cloth sheets over your panels before the snow comes and then remove them along with the snow, but be cautious of damaging the panels when you do this. Also, consider the safety implications of trying to tie tarpaulins when high up on a roof in windy or icy conditions.
It’s best to avoid using chemicals, especially solvents and salts. These might work on your driveway but the materials used in solar panels are often sensitive to these substances, and there isn’t much gained by using them over using the sweeping method. If you do want to go down this route, be sure to double and triple-check that they are suitable and if you’re in any doubt whatsoever, avoid them.
Solar panels are fast becoming one of the most popular and effective ways of reducing your energy bills. If you want to keep your kit in good condition and require professional assistance cleaning snow off your panels, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.