Solar-PowerAt first glance, it seems as though solar power was absolutely made to be used during the winter. After all, what better time to allow the Sun to cover your energy expenses than those few months of the year in which you leave your heater running all of the time? However, when one starts to consider the actual mechanics of it, certain concerns begin to crop up. For one thing, will solar panels still be able to gather the necessary sunlight if the day is shorter and everyday is dark and cloudy? And what about snow? If it covers the paneling, how could sunlight possibly get in? Will cold weather keep my panels from functioning properly?

Well, have no fear, because we’re here to address those concerns right now.

For starters, let’s get something out of the way up: cold will not hinder your solar panels. In fact, electricity actually flows more efficiently in cold environments, meaning that your panels will be able to produce more energy as a result of sub-zero temperatures.

As for snow build-up, it shouldn’t really be a problem. While it’s true that snow can build up and block sunlight from reaching the panel, the panels themselves are designed to sit at a slanted angle. This will allow the snow to slide off on its own (especially as the sun comes out and the panel begins to heat up). Of course, if you want to speed up the process and your solar panels are in an accessible location, then you can always use a broom to brush the snow away—you’ll just have to make sure that you don’t hurt the panels or yourself (especially if the solar panels are located on the roof).

As for the most major concern, yes, your house will produce less electricity in the winter due to shorter daylight hours. At the same time, cloud cover could reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the panel. In fact, in areas such as the Northwestern United States, a solar powered home may require either a backup generator or a connection to the city power grid for use in the event that not enough energy can be harnessed. It’s also important to be sure that you have your panels installed by a professional, as he or she will be able angle the panel in a way that allows it to capture the most sunlight. Mechanical systems that allow the panel to alter its tilt to automatically follow the sun can also maximize solar efficiency during the winter months.

But perhaps most important of all, a home automation system that includes well placed solar paneling will likely produce so much energy during the summer months, and use so little of it thanks to devices such as smart thermostats and occupancy sensing lighting, that you’ll be able to actually sell some of your energy back to the city. This means that you could build up a hefty reserve to help get you through the darker seasons of the year.

So don’t fret! Solar power is a great alternative to conventional electricity. Just make sure that you know how to get the most out of your investment. After all, the Sun is going to be out there providing free energy regardless of what we do; we may as well take advantage of its natural generosity.