Oh no, it’s that time of year again and your solar panels are covered in snow! Fear not, this article offers some useful tips on how to clean snow off solar panels.
Tips for Cleaning Snow From Your Solar Panels
Tip #1 – Let It Melt Naturally
Whilst it might not be what you want to hear, leaving the snow to melt is often the best approach. Most homeowners spend thousands of dollars on their solar PV systems – why would anyone want to risk damaging that investment?
Sure, the presence of snow on top of solar cells can render them useless for a short while, but most buildings can still draw power from the grid as and when needed. Whilst this will cost more in the long run and reduce the return on investment of your solar PV system, it is likely to be much cheaper than having to repair any damage that you might cause through other cleaning methods.
If you’re expecting a prolonged period of snowy weather or your only source of electricity is from solar energy, then you probably won’t want to wait it out. Instead, why not try one of the other snow removal tips below.
Tip #2 – Use a Hose
Depending on the conditions, you may be able to use a hose to remove snow from your solar panels. This method is both simple and effective, but you will need to have a hose and outdoor tap available on your property. You will also want to check the tap hasn’t frozen in the bad weather.
One thing to be wary about with this method is the possibility of the water freezing. If the temperature is well below zero, the water might instantly freeze to cause further problems. This could turn the snow into hazardous sheets of ice that may fall off your roof at a later time.
You should also watch out for any water that misses your roof. This has the potential to run onto untreated paths, driveways, and even the road outside your house. The water is then likely to freeze, causing a hazard to pedestrians and road users.
Tip #3 – Use a Roof Rake
This tried and tested technique might be laborious but is one of the most effective in clearing snow from solar panels. You can invest in a roof rake with a soft rubber head that acts almost like a squeegee. Such tools should be available from your local hardware store and many come with telescopic handles, helping you to reach higher up the roof.
Depending on how much snow has fallen onto your solar panels, be sure to take adequate safety precautions. You will want to stay well clear of the path of the snow as you remove it.
Tip #4 – Hire a Professional
When in doubt or where you feel the job is just too dangerous, you might be better hiring a professional. Since the boom in residential solar technology, a number of companies specializing in the cleaning of such systems have sprung up. Many of these offer snow removal services and a professional should know what they are doing. So, why not shop around and see if you can find a company to do the work for you.
Some Do’s & Don’ts
As with most things in life, there are some do’s and don’ts which could help you avoid costly repairs and/or injury. Some of these include the following:
- Always put safety first. Be sure to assess the risk of cleaning your solar panels before committing to the task, especially during the winter months.
- Where possible, let the snow melt naturally. This is often the best approach and requires the least effort.
- Do check the manufacturer guidelines on cleaning snow and ice to be sure you won’t void your warranty.
- Always watch out for falling snow and stay well clear of the path it will take as you remove it from your solar panels. Nobody wants mother nature to have the last laugh.
- Never use rock salt or similar substances to melt the snow. This can cause serious damage and corrosion to your solar panels.
- Don’t use the nerf ball approach. This is recommended by some websites, but repeatedly throwing an object at your solar panels has the potential to cause damage.
Can Snow Build-up Be Prevented On Solar Panels?
In short, the answer is yes. There are two main methods of helping to prevent the build-up of snow on solar panels, but both of these involve the design and specification of the system. Therefore, they are unlikely to be of any benefit to those with an active system that is not yet ready for replacement.
If you are considering a new solar power system, you might want to have a look into self-cleaning solar cells. Some of these have an anti-snow feature which can detect snow cover and temporarily increase the temperature of the system in order to melt it.
Some solar arrays can be installed at steeper angles than others. The steeper the angle, the more likely it is that snow will not settle on the surface of your solar cells. Where it does settle during periods of heavy snow, it is more likely to slide off on its own before it melts naturally.