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9 Ways to Clear & Keep Snow Off Solar Panels | Stress-Free Guide

September 2, 2021
By John Cole

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Have you been looking for ways to remove snow and ice from solar panels? Solar panels are an excellent investment for any property, as they provide clean, green energy without fumes or emissions. Solar panels also last for decades before they become so ineffective that they need replacing, allowing you to enjoy eco-friendly power sometimes for as long as you own your home!

To clear and keep snow off your solar panels:

1.       Use a roof rake

2.       Use a soft-bristled outdoor broom

3.       Blow the snow off with a leaf blower

4.       Spray the snow with a hose

5.       Use a softball

6.       Trim back tree branches

7.       Ensure the panels are angled properly

8.       Use a pulley-operated tarp

9.       Use a heating system

While keeping solar panels free of obstructions is vital for them to absorb and convert sunlight easily, a property owner should always stay safe when working on or near a roof, especially one covered in thick snow. Heavy snow and ice sliding off a roof can cause severe injury, and being on a ladder is dangerous in ideal conditions much less when working on slick surfaces.

removing snow and ice from solar panels

Property owners also want to avoid damaging their solar power system with heavy or abrasive tools. To ensure you keep your solar panels in good condition and as free of snow and ice as possible, note a few more details about how to clear and keep snow off those panels.

Effective Ways to Remove Snow and Ice From Solar Panels

Check out a few simple tips and tricks for ways to remove snow and ice from solar panels, and don’t hesitate to discuss these options or other concerns with a solar panel installer near you. He or she can often recommend a number of ways of ensuring your solar power system functions as optimally as possible no matter the weather.

Use a roof rake

Roof rakes are specially designed to remove snow, ice, storm debris, and other buildups from a home’s roof, alleviating weight and keeping the roof as clean and damage-free as possible. These rakes have telescoping handles that allow you to stay safe on the ground while still reaching various high points along the roof, and can be used to remove snow from solar panels.

Use a soft-bristled outdoor broom

As with roof rakes, outdoor brooms with telescoping handles allow you to reach far points of the roof and easily scrape off snow, ice, and other debris. Ensure you choose a soft-bristled broom for solar panel cleaning, so you don’t scratch the face of those panels.

One vital note to remember is that falling snow and ice are both very heavy and can cause injury or even a fatality to someone standing directly below! Always stay several feet away from the home when cleaning snow off the roof rather than standing directly under the roof’s edge.

solar installer

Also, keep in mind that snowdrifts and large ice chunks can break away and slide off the roof unexpectedly. Don’t assume you’ll be safe if you try to remove just the uppermost layer of snow, as loosening snow and ice or just disturbing it can risk large sections sliding off the roof unexpectedly.

Remove snow and ice from solar panels with a leaf blower

Lightweight, fluffy snow can sometimes be removed with a standard leaf blower. As with using a broom or rake, it’s vital that you still avoid standing under the roof edge, and use caution when on a ladder as it’s difficult to stay balanced when trying to manage a cumbersome leaf blower. Property owners should also ensure they keep electrical cords out of water puddles and away from other electricity conductors.

Spray the snow with a hose

If the weather is warmer and there is no risk of snow freezing, another one of the ways to remove snow and ice from solar panels is to spray those panels with a standard garden hose. The lukewarm water from the hose can easily melt snow and allow it to fall away from the panels.

Use a soft ball

Gentle vibrations can often knock very light snow loose from solar panels and the home’s roof. If you have good aim and a good arm, you might try to gently hit those solar panels with a softball; however, avoid this trick for heavier snow, as the ball is just likely to get stuck on the roof rather than knocking loose any snow!

Trim back tree branches

Tree branches hanging over solar panels need trimming so that they don’t obscure the sunlight absorbed by those panels. However, tree branches also hold layers of snow and ice that can then fall onto your home’s solar power system. If you notice tree branches hanging over your home’s roof, schedule pruning and trimming and keep them cut, to ensure those panels are unobstructed and to reduce the risk of falling snow and other debris.

Ensure the panels are angled properly

A structure’s roof typically angles downward, to encourage snow and ice runoff; your solar panels are also then angled and should allow debris to slide off their faces. In some cases, however, this angle is not steep enough to accommodate typical snowfall in your area.

solar panels

Solar panel installers should also angle those panels slightly when installed on a flat commercial roof. If you notice consistent snow and ice buildup on your structure’s solar panels, and especially if your building has a flat roof, contact a solar panel installer and have him or her check that installation angle.

Use a pulley-operated tarp

If you’re mechanically inclined, you might consider a pulley-operated tarp for your structure’s roof. You can pull the tarp over your solar panels before it snows and then winds up the tarp once the snow stops, taking that snow with it.

If you consider a pulley-operated tarp system, use caution when attaching it to a structure’s roof as you don’t want to create cracks or other damage. It’s also vital that you use rust-resistant pieces and plastic tarps rather than cloth, to encourage snow and ice runoff.

Use a heating system

Heating systems designed for solar panels in particular are often installed in areas with heavy snow and ice accumulation, and especially if the weather tends to stay cold for prolonged periods so that the snow and ice don’t quickly melt on their own. These heating systems might use a series of small hoses or pipes through which warm water runs, or electrical wires or coils attached to the panels which then get just warm enough to melt snow and ice.

If your solar panels are often covered in thick snow and ice that doesn’t melt quickly, ask a solar panel installer near you about a heating system. He or she can offer you various solutions that fit your needs and budget and ensure your chosen heating system is installed safely.

How Snow Impacts Solar Panels

All these methods of clearing and keeping snow off solar panels might seem a bit cumbersome, but property owners should consider how snow impacts solar panels and their overall effectiveness. This information can help you realize why it’s vital to keep snow and other debris off those panels, and might also help you decide the best snow-clearing method for your property!

How solar panels work

house with solar panels on it

First, consider how solar panels work. Sunlight first passes through their glass faces; energy from that sunlight is then absorbed by what are called photovoltaic or PV cells. Photovoltaic refers to a process of converting light into energy; that energy creates electrical charges in those PV cells so that electricity begins to flow through wiring in the panels.

Unfortunately, the electricity created by this photovoltaic process is called direct current or DC power, while household utilities require alternating current or AC power. Direct current power only flows in one direction at a constant voltage, while AC power changes direction from positive to negative periodically.

In order to use the electricity created by those photovoltaic cells, solar panel wiring goes through what is called an inverter. This inverter switches the direction of DC current so that it becomes AC current, and is then usable by household appliances and power grids.

Why to clear snow and ice and keep it off solar panels

Since solar panels work by absorbing power from sunlight, it’s vital that those panels remain unobstructed. If your property’s solar panels are covered with snow, ice, storm debris, dust, dirt, or mud, they won’t be able to absorb sunlight easily and they will lose effectiveness! Debris covering solar panels is like sitting under an umbrella while at the beach; while it’s good to block the sun’s rays from reaching your skin, you want to keep solar panels free of obstructions and ensure they enjoy as much sun exposure as possible.

Keeping solar panels clear of snow and ice is especially vital since those panels will likely absorb even less sunlight during the winter months than they do in the summertime. Since your panels will already be providing less electricity in winter, you want to keep them as clear as possible and ensure they’re working effectively during those months.

Solar panels are also designed to stay strong and durable and to resist cracks and etching, but ice and snow can still damage their surfaces. Ice especially might scratch those panel fronts, risking cracks and creating obstructions. To keep panels in good condition for as long as possible, keep them clear of snow and ice as well as other debris.

How to Keep Solar Panels Clean and Clear Year-Round

solar panels without ice and snow

While it’s vital that you keep solar panels clean during wintertime, you also want to ensure they remain unobstructed year-round! The more sunlight they absorb, the more power panels create and the less you’ll pay for city-supplied electricity. Note a few quick tips for keeping solar panels clear and working effectively:

· Trim back tree branches as needed, so they don’t block sunlight from reaching those panels. Tree branches also continuously drop leaves, sap, moss, twigs, seeds, acorns, and other debris onto panels, and provide a roosting place for birds that also leave behind droppings! Regular pruning ensures your solar panels enjoy maximum sun exposure.

· If you live in an especially dusty area or notice your home or business covered with soot and air pollution residues, rinse off the panels with a garden hose. Those panels don’t need power washing or scrubbing, but a quick rinse once a month or as needed will ensure they’re always clean and unobstructed.

· If rinsing doesn’t get solar panels clear, use gentle dish soap diluted in a bucket of water, a soft sponge, and a squeegee meant for glass to remove thicker dirt and dust. Ensure you don’t scratch those panels during this process, but a gentle clean with a bit of soap is usually sufficient for removing thick dirt and dust.

· If you notice your solar panels consistently covered in leaves and other debris, talk to an installer about adjusting their angle. Tilting them up even just slightly can encourage debris to slide off those panel faces, keeping them clean and clear.

Do Solar Panels Ruin Your Roof?

Solar panels are not inherently bad for a home’s roof, as they are bolted to the decking or framing under shingles or tiles, and secured into place. Those bolts are covered with assemblies or other metal parts that prevent water from seeping into those openings.

how to clean solar panels and what to use

In some cases, solar panels can actually protect a home’s roof! Solar panels block heavy rains, high winds, harsh sunlight, and storm debris from shingles and tiles, which can reduce the risk of roof damage.

One consideration to keep in mind when it comes to solar panels and roof damage is that a solar installer will typically need to remove those panels before a contractor can perform roof repairs or replacement. A roofer cannot simply work around those panels if they need to replace shingles or tiles under them. In turn, it’s good to ensure your structure’s roof is in good condition before installing a solar power system.

Green Energy Geeks is proud to bring this information to our readers about ways to remove snow and ice from solar panels. If you’re thinking of solar panel installation, trust our team of experienced solar power installation contractors! We can work with you to choose the best solar power system for your property and ensure you receive all available financial incentives. For more information, call us today!

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