No matter if you are shopping for solar power systems or already have one installed, it’s important to fully understand what you can expect from solar as the seasons change. This is especially true when you live in a part of the US that sees a dramatic change in weather from season to season. You likely have a basic knowledge of energy output, but do you know the difference in solar panel output in winter vs summer or why it matters?
Here at ONIT Home, we’re in the business of simplifying home services and making solar energy accessible to everyone. That’s why we’ve put together this easy breakdown of what you need to know about how the seasons can influence the efficiency of your solar panels.
Average Annual Output for Solar Panels
Generally speaking, solar panels will produce anywhere between 40% and 60% less energy during the majority of winter (December and January) than during the height of summer (July and August). This means there’s a significant drop in energy production when comparing the seasons one to one. However, there are other factors to consider.
On average, some locations throughout the northeastern US produce 65% of their annual energy output between March 21st and September 21st. That’s to say that the middle six months of the year are the most valuable when it comes to solar power. However, locations that don’t experience significant variation in seasons, such as California and the southwestern US, are often more equally balanced. But just because they produce more power in the winter, it doesn’t mean that solar panels elsewhere are of no value.
Factors That Influence Energy Production
Ideally, your solar panel output in winter vs summer would be the same, allowing you to tailor your usage accordingly. Unfortunately, there are just too many factors that affect how much energy is produced. A vast majority of these factors are dependent upon the season.
As you probably expect, your location on the globe and the resulting seasons play a big part in solar energy production. During fall and winter, as the amount of daylight shortens, output will decrease. Once spring and summer begin and the days lengthen, the output will spike. This is due to the simple fact that less daylight means less time for your panels to absorb it.
Time of Day
Similar to how location and changing seasons influence production, the time of day can affect things as well. As we mentioned, shorter days mean less energy. The sun typically rises later and sets earlier, changing the exact time your system switches to using public utility power. This means the cost of your energy can be influenced just as quickly as the output itself.
Time of Year
Around this time, the height of summer is likely more appealing when it comes to using solar power. That being said, there can be some downsides. More heat often means more power used, more than you’d expect. This can result in higher utility bills and less efficient solar panels.
It should come as no surprise that the area surrounding your home as well as the location of your solar panels influence production. Panels on a hillside will get different amounts of light at different times compared to those in a valley. Tall trees and other buildings can also mean your panels find themselves in the shade more often.
Now to discuss the elephant in the room: weather. Both geography and season can affect weather patterns, causing more sun and more clouds. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be in the dark following a rainy week, but you may need to tap into the public grid more often.
Common Myths About Solar Panels and Energy Output
Myth #1: Solar Panels Don’t Work on Cloudy Days
It’s not uncommon to hear those that don’t fully understand the technology behind solar energy assuming that a cloudy day equals no power. This is simply untrue. Solar panels can and do continue producing energy on cloudy days. The amount of energy produced, however, can be reduced to varying degrees depending on how cloudy it is and for how long. As technology advances, it’s becoming increasingly simple to store the excess energy produced on clear days for use during cloudy weather. This is called net metering and it can help offset the production difference to the degree that it’s virtually unnoticeable. This same technology can be used to store energy throughout the winter, minimizing your need for public utilities. All of this is to say that homes with solar power systems don’t need to be alarmed when the clouds inevitably roll in.
Myth #2: Solar Panels Work Best in Summer
Though you will likely see more energy produced in summer compared to winter, this myth is not that cut and dry. There are many factors in play, including exactly what “best” means. The fact of the matter is that temperature greatly affects solar panels’ efficiency, which is why spring is typically the “best” season for solar in many regards.
The heart of a desert summer can mean a solar panel will produce less energy than it’s capable of. This is because of something called the “power temperature coefficient”. We won’t get into specifics here, but just know that this simply means that the hotter it is, the less effective your panels are. When talking strictly about efficiency, winter months can have your panels using less sunlight to make the same amount of energy compared to the summer.
Myth #3: Snow on Solar Panels Completely Stops Energy Production
Snow is a major concern for solar panel owners and good reason. It’s easy to see how layers upon layers of snow can block sunlight from reaching the panels. The misconception comes when talking about exactly how this influences energy production. Though the snow does create an extra obstacle for light to pass through, it doesn’t stop it.
As you may have learned from science class, the color white reflects every visible color in a beam of light. Additionally, if you’ve ever been on the other side of a piece of glass covered in snow, you’ll have noticed how the thickness of the snow changes how much light passes through it. However, these factors combined don’t completely block all light from reaching the panel. It’s not uncommon to see a 20-30% loss in energy production from snow-covered panels. Depending on how often it snows and how much energy you use, this can be a problem.
Fortunately, the sun works to melt snow, which can greatly help the situation. Though it doesn’t hurt to have the appropriate tools on hand to clear off the panels if need be. Overall, snow shouldn’t create any lasting side effects or damage to the panels.
States With the Most Solar Energy Output
It’s not unreasonable to wonder exactly how much solar energy you can generate in your state. When looking at the best and worst states for solar, especially when it comes to solar panel output in winter vs summer, there are some things to keep in mind. The main factor to note is that many data sets available right now may be skewed when it comes to the capacity for energy production for a single home. This is because solar energy is still relatively new and many states have a disproportionate number of systems installed. Population size, income, accessibility, government incentives, and social norms can all influence how many homes install solar panels. All of that being said, here’s what we know.
The top five states for solar generation are:
- California (27.5% of total US solar production)
- Texas (11.8% of total US solar production)
- Florida (8.9% of total US solar production)
- North Carolina (5.6% of total US solar production)
- Arizona (5.1% of total US solar production)
The last five states for solar generation are:
- West Virginia
Each state produces less than 1% of the total US solar production.
Invest in Solar Energy Today With Help From ONIT
Here at ONIT Home, we’re in the business of helping homeowners clearly understand all aspects of home services. Though there’s a difference in the daily solar panel output in winter vs summer, we firmly believe there’s no better time to go solar. With so many state and federal tax incentives for solar energy, a solar energy system is one of the best improvements you can make to your home. That’s why we offer a free energy audit for your home to help determine if solar power is right for you. Even if you decide against installing a solar system, this audit can help you decrease your energy costs by identifying areas for improvement.
For more information about how ONIT can help you start your solar power journey, contact us today! We can help you build the perfect system for your home or business to boost energy savings. Just give us a call at 1-833-433-0331.