How to Remove Snow from Solar Panels Safely
A week of snow in the winter can put a big dent in your annual solar generation so learning how to remove snow from solar panels is an important part of your regular maintenance. Often there is a clear sunny spell directly following a blizzard and so it can be very frustrating to lose up to 95% of the generating capacity while you are waiting for the snow to melt naturally. Read on to find out how to do this safely and when it is best left alone!
The Wrong Kind of Snow!
There is a standing joke in the UK because every winter there are delays on the rail network due to “the wrong kind of snow”! However, when we are looking at how to remove snow from solar panels the first thing to look at is the type and amount of snow:
- Just a Covering…Half an inch or so – Let Nature take it’s course. A thin layer of light snow will usually melt, slide or blow off within 24 hours and so is not really worth the effort of trying to shift it.
- A Big Dump – Over a foot – If you are in area that regularly gets very heavy snowfall then you should talk to your supplier about the best options. Some of the modern panels are now fitted with low power heaters to start the melting and sliding process for example. It is not safe to try to remove a really big dump of snow yourself… don’t even try!
So Once you got all the equipment ready here is how to remove snow from solar panels:
- Remove the Fresh Snow as Soon as Possible – If you wait until it has melted a bit and then re-frozen then it takes ages to push of just a small corner. Get it off as quickly as you can or don’t bother at all.
- Do You have a Balcony or Roof Light Close to the Panels? If so then this is likely to be the safest point of access. Simply use the long handled or telescopic pole fitted with the brush to push the snow away. If possible start at the bottom to encourage the natural slipping process.
- Do You Need to Use a Ladder? If so then clear the snow away from where you are going to stand the ladder and make sure you have an assistant on hand to help you.
Things to Avoid
The best way to remove snow from solar panels is to either let it melt naturally or use a soft brush or scraper to start the natural sliding process. Do not be tempted to try any of the following methods:
- Spraying with Water or a Hose – The water can freeze solid on the surface of the panels and make things worse. Also you run the risk of squirting water between your roof tiles which can then leak into your loft. Keep the hosepipe for the plants in the summer
- Never use De-Icer or AntiFreeze – these chemicals are toxic and can cause corrosion on your solar panel. Any runoff can further damage your roof and guttering
- Never Walk on the Roof or Panels to Remove Snow – This is really dangerous…you can fall off the roof and you can damage the panels
Removing snow from solar panels can be dangerous so never carry out this work on your own, it is so easy to have an accident. A slippery roof, frost, ice, snow and humans don’t mix very well! In addition pay attention to the following points:
- Snow is heavy – if you make it slide off the panels make sure that you and your helper are well out of the way
- Ladders can Slip – Snow and ladders are not a good combination. Always make sure that the snow around the base of the ladder is cleared and that the ladder is secure. Get a helper to hold the base.
- Never Stretch Too Far – Solar panels are large so there is always the temptation to stretch out to clear the last corner. Never do this without first moving the ladder
- Use Plastic or Wooden Tools – Anything metal can damage or scratch the panels
The Right Way to Remove Snow from Solar Panels:
So how come I have written these instructions in such detail? Simply to help others avoid some of the mistakes that I have made myself. This year I made a couple of bad mistakes. The first thing I did was wait until three days after the snowfall before trying to remove the snow from the solar panels. I thought it would just slip off naturally as there was only about six inches. Wrong….it slipped down a bit exposing the top foot or so of the panels so there was some production…but then it froze solid. When I eventually got up on the roof it was very difficult to dislodge. Then I made what could have been a really damaging mistake…I climbed up the ladder without an assistant. Bad move….I got to the top and lent over to push the brush over the panels and woooohah the ladder lurched sideways because one of the legs was on a patch of ice. Luckily I was able to grab the gutter and so did not fall. But then I was trapped up the ladder in minus 5C temperatures not able to move. I ran through all the options….jump….try to scamper down…just hang on and fall with the ladder etc. Eventually I was able to lean over and by edging along the gutter I managed to move the ladder into an upright position again so I could climb down safely. No harm done this time, but believe me if you remove snow from solar panels the wrong way you could end up badly injured.
Take a Tip from the MeanyGoat – If you have just a moderate amount of fresh snow on your solar panels then grab a friend and get it brushed off as quickly as possible if you think it is safe to do so. Otherwise, let nature take it’s course and just resign yourself to losing a couple of days production…better that than risk a broken leg! Don’t forget that with the sun low in the sky during winter even a really sunny day will only give you a fraction of the solar input that you get on a summer day. So if there is any risk at all involved just be patient and let nature take it’s course… eventually the sun will remove the snow from your solar panels anyway!
Click this link to find out about other ways to remove Snow from Solar Panels: 5 Methods to Remove Snow from Solar PanelsPrint This Post