How to keep snow off solar panels
Although the idea of cleaning snow off your solar panel seems tedious, the benefits of doing so are remarkable.
High amounts of snow cover negatively affect the energy production of a solar panel.
While a solar panel can produce energy when covered by snow, you can optimize your energy production by cleaning it off.
There are many ways to clean snow off your solar panel and we will discuss the safest and most efficient methods.
Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Snow off Solar Panels
Use a Broom or Roof Rake
It may seem basic but in this instance, and when done correctly, simplicity is genius the best way forward.
To remove snow from your solar panel, simply brush the snow off with a soft-bristled broom or a roof rake.
This method is effective but can be a tiring task, especially during long periods of heavy snowfall.
It's also possible to brush a small rock across the panel and scratch so this method has its risks.
Any scratch on the surface of a solar panel can negatively affect the amount of energy it produces. A scratch will also reduce the resale value of the solar panel. To avoid scratching of this kind simply inspect the bristles on the broom for any small rocks or wash the broom of any sand that might be stuck to it.
It is not recommended to climb a tall ladder in wet and icy conditions.
Throw a Softball
A less effective but certainly more amusing method is to simply throw a softball onto the panel.
Best suited for light, fluffy snow, the soft vibrations caused by the ball landing on the panel can force the snow to softly slide off.
Avoid this trick when faced with thick snow as the ball is likely to get stuck.
Spray the Panels with a Garden Hose
When the weather is warm enough and the risk of snow freezing is low, you can use a standard garden hose to melt snow.
The lukewarm water from the hose will melt away the snow resting on the panel.
Using a garden hose on ice, however, could contribute to the problem so always check for ice sheets.
It has been argued that freshwater is best suited for cleaning a solar panel but water from a garden hose can be used from time to time.
On a warm day, the heat from the sun can melt the bottom layer of snow and cause it to slide off the panel.
This method relies upon the weather and angle of the solar panel but requires no work on your part.
The snow will slide off if the panel is tilted at an angle at least greater than 35 degrees.
Waiting for the snow to melt and slide off is a widely used way of keeping snow off solar panels.
While energy production can decrease under high amounts of snow cover, many solar panel owners prefer to embrace the decrease in energy.
An advantage of accepting the decrease in energy is that you run no risk of damaging your solar panel in any major way. A disadvantage however is that you might not be able to power all your appliances needed for the winter months, depending on how many panels you use of course.
It comes down to a simple decision. Either take a slight loss in energy production by not cleaning off the snow, or make the effort, as taxing as it may be, and clean off the snow for optimal energy production.
Use a Leaf Blower
When the snow is light and fluffy enough, usually just after it has fallen, you can blow it off with a leaf blower.
This only works during periods of light snowfall and when no ice has formed on the panel.
Trim Encroaching Tree Branches
Any tree branches or tall plants which cast shadows and obstruct the solar panel must be cut away.
Long branches can collect snow and funnel it onto the solar panel like a conveyor belt.
It's highly recommended that a professional be called to cut high lying tree branches to ensure safety for yourself and your panels.
Are They Even Worth Cleaning?
There is much debate online as to whether its worth the effort to clean snow off a panel.
Many solar panel owners argue that the amount of energy lost to snow cover is not high enough to justify the effort of cleaning and risk to personal safety.
Many professionals recommend that you wait for the snow to melt instead of risking injury or damage to yourself or your panels.
Waiting for the snow to melt could however not be a possible solution for an area like Wisconsin and Alaska where snowfall can occur for more than 4 months at a time.
How Does Snow Affect Solar Panels?
One of the primary concerns, when snow is involved, is the impact of the weight of the snow on the structure of the solar panels.
The weight of the snow is only a problem in extreme cases of heavy snowfall as a standard solar panel is strong enough to withstand over 40 pounds of pressure per square foot.
Apart from the slight risk of the weight of snow, prolonged snowfall will not have a significant impact on the general maintenance of the solar panel.
Using Detergents and Other Liquids to Clean Solar Panels
Using household detergents and natural cleaners for solar panels is greatly debated.
Some owners use vinegar to clean their solar panels.
However, studies have shown that the best way to clean a solar panel and prevent things such as rust on your solar panels is by using plain fresh water. By using plain freshwater you bear no risk of increasing rust building up.
It is fairly obvious not to use household detergents that could damage the face of the solar panel. These include detergents high in acidity and salt.
Replacing an Old Solar Panel
Knowing when to replace a solar panel kit can be a tricky decision to make, even for experts.
Standard solar panel kits vary in quality but the standard lifespan of a solar kit is usually over 20 years.
The lifespan of your solar panel isn't significantly decreased by snowfall over time so long as basic maintenance is done.
Keeping snow off your solar panel boils down to what you are ultimately seeking to gain.
Cleaning the snow off can improve your solar panel’s performance.
If you're trying to capture the full potential of your solar panel then cleaning the snow off of them with one of the above methods is advised.
On the other hand, if you're using your solar panel on a less strict agenda, simply leaving the snow to melt and slide off is probably a better option for you.
The best way to decide the dilemma is to try one of the methods mentioned and see what best suits you and your needs.
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