How do solar panels work in winter?

Property owners can prop up the price of their homes by installing solar panels, but there are downsides. Picture: Pexels

Property owners can prop up the price of their homes by installing solar panels, but there are downsides. Picture: Pexels

Published Aug 2, 2023


As load shedding continues to impact our lives, we are forced to find alternative sources of power, if possible.

A popular option is solar power. But have you ever stopped to wonder: How do solar panels work during the winter months?

A common misconception of solar panels is that it needs heat. In fact, it needs sunshine, and although the sun is not exactly out in full force during winter, it is still there. That’s why it is still possible for there to be a solar farm in Alaska.

In a statement, Versofy Solar’s Ross Mains-Sheard said colder temperatures do not have a huge impact on solar panel efficiency and that efficiency may be lost if the temperature is too high.

“Solar panels do not convert heat energy into electricity; they convert solar radiation into electricity by making use of the photovoltaic effect,” said Mains-Sheard.

It is worth noting that solar generation is reduced during the winter months, but this is due to fewer sun hours.

In the case of solar power, it is all about the angle. Compared to summer months, the angle of the sun is lower in the colder months, which can result in a 50% generation loss in winter.

What about in rainy weather?

While solar panels can generate power after a rain shower (light travels through the water, making this possible), the panels will generate electricity at an incredibly low rate.

How do debris, hail and frost affect solar panels?

Mains-Sheard said due to the angle of installation and the way panels are mounted, the weight is distributed evenly, so any debris, hail or frost should slide off.

However, he emphasised the importance of washing off dirt and dust every six months.

“Dust and dirt can affect your generation by approximately five percent. You can clear the panels simply by spraying them with water from a hose pipe,” said Mains-Sheard.

Earlier this year, IOL reported that a survey recently conducted by Pam Golding Properties among its agents shows that more than a third of buyers (35.4%) are prioritising solar over other green features.

Pros and Cons of solar power

The pros of solar energy at home are:

– Solar energy is a renewable energy source and reduces carbon emissions

– Solar energy can reduce your home’s electricity bill

– Solar power can get you money back through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)

– Homes with solar panels installed may improve home value

– Solar panels have low maintenance costs

– Solar energy can generate electricity in any climate

The cons of solar energy at home are as follows:

– Solar energy storage is expensive

– Solar doesn’t work for every roof type

– Solar panels are dependent on sunlight

– The initial costs of installing solar panels are high.