FAQ: Effects of Snow on SunPower Solar Panels

We all know how brutal New York winters can be. Thankfully, your SunPower solar system was designed to brave extreme climate conditions, so you don’t have to worry about their performance when the snow starts to fall. Over the last 30 years, SunPower panels have found home in roofs all around the world, from Antarctica to New York.

Since solar panels work with light, not heat, it doesn’t matter how cold it gets outside. In fact, solar panels perform better in cooler temperatures than very hot temperatures. Here are answers to some questions about solar panel performance and maintenance during New York winters:

Will my solar panels produce electricity when it’s cloudy?

Yes. Even when it’s cloudy outside, your solar panels will still produce electricity. As long as there is light, your system will convert it into clean energy. Since the days are a bit shorter during winter, you won’t produce energy for as long as you would during long summer days. But if you choose SunPower solar panels over other conventional panels, you’ll have a system that is proven to hold efficiency much better in low-light conditions. On cloudy days, light is diffused and scattered in all directions. We use high-quality anti-reflective glass that traps incoming light from all angles, capturing more sun than conventional panels.

What happens to my panels when it snows?

We will ensure that your panels are in the best position to get the maximum amount of sunlight possible. Generally, your system will be installed facing south, west or southwest. Since the panels are smooth, snow doesn’t stick to them like it would to rough roof shingles, so it typically melts or slides away quickly and easily on its own.

And what if it snows A LOT?

There are times when the snow may pile up on your roof and solar panels during blizzards. Usually, the dark surface of your panels will capture the heat from the sun and actually help melt the snow and slide off the panels. We do not recommend you raking the snow off, because of potential damage to the panels. However, if you are concerned about the weight and the time it takes to melt, we highly recommend hiring a professional. Let them know where your panels are located and they can gently remove the bulk of the snow from your panels and your roof.

What about big shifts in temperature between night and day?

Extreme shifts in temperature can wreak havoc on conventional solar cells and panels. A good analogy for what can happen to a solar panel when the temperature shifts is what happens to our roads. When the temperature is above freezing, rain can seep down into the asphalt. When the temperature drops below freezing, the water that seeped into the asphalt freezes and expands, causing cracks and potholes. Conventional panels commonly fail from hot/cold temperature cycles that crack solar cells, solder joints and copper ribbons over time.

SunPower cells and panels are engineered differently. Our solar cells are designed with no metal on the front. The entire back surface is covered with a thick copper foundation plated with tin. Not only is there much less corrosion happening to the tin-plated copper compared with silver paste used on conventional panels, but it’s also far less likely that the cell will break due to swings in temperature. Where conventional cells crack and fail, SunPower cells keep going. That’s why we offer the best combined solar power and product warranty in the industry.