Do Solar Panels Work in the Snow? + More Questions About Solar Power in Northeast Ohio

Have you ever wondered if solar panels work while it's snowing? If you are curious about solar in Northeast Ohio, check this out!

The importance of clean energy has never been more prevalent than in our modern world. With solar energy becoming more affordable for homeowners and businesses alike, we had questions about solar power here in Northeast Ohio. Northeast Ohio isn't like the states out west, which gets sun for most of the year without much rain and no snow - where solar power would make a lot of sense; more sun means more power, right? So with our very temperamental weather here, from rain to snow in a matter of a week, or with our hot summers and cold winters -is solar power a good solution to clean energy here in Northeast Ohio?

This question and many others are answered in this video from an expert in solar energy, Jeff Kalt, a project manager with Better Together Solar - a leader in solar panel installation here in Northeast Ohio. Questions like if solar panels work in the snow and if your home or business is a good fit for a solar panel array. This video is for you if you are curious about getting solar installed in Cleveland or the surrounding areas, from the process to the upkeep!

Story by
Grant Quackenbush

(0:01) Do solar panels work in the snow?

So your panels will not work if they're covered in snow.  If it's mounted on a steeper pitched roof,  the snow will shed a lot quicker than a lower pitched roof would.  They do also, the solar panels themselves kind of give off a little bit of heat and start to start the ice melt to where it gets slippery enough that the whole array will shed. In Northeast Ohio, we take winter into account, basically we expect your system to get 4.2 sun hours of a light every day throughout the whole year. Obviously you get more than that in the summertime. So that's where your production has been up, In the spring, summer and fall

(0:55) Do solar panels work when it’s cloudy?

Solar panels do work when it's cloudy. They do like the cooler temperatures, there's a little less irradiance, but the solar panels are made to pick up diffuse lighting. And so they do work fairly well in cloudy weather,

(1:14) What are the best months for solar in Northeast Ohio?

Some of the best months for solar in Northeastern, Ohio is the early fall, spring time when the temperatures are a little lower, obviously you're making a lot of power during the summer, but with the heat, the panels aren't as efficient as they would be otherwise

(1:35) What makes a home a good candidate for solar panels?

When we're evaluating a home for a potential solar installation, what we're really looking for is unshaded free roof space or ground space. If you have enough land for a ground mount, it can be a perfect opportunity to utilize your yard.

(2:00) In what cases would a home not support solar panels?

So homes that have too much shade, or too little roof space, would not be great candidates for solar arrays.

(2:17) Do solar panels need to be cleaned?

Typically you don't have to clean your solar panels. The weather, rain, snow usually do a pretty good job of keeping them clear and producing. Sometimes when the pollen comes, you know, you could, if you wanted in the evening or early morning, once the panels are cooled down enough, you can take a hose and spray them down, but it's not something you want to do during the day it can develop microphones.

(2:48) Do solar panels require more maintenance compared to traditional forms of power?

So there's little to no maintenance that a homeowner will have to worry about. Us at Better Together Solar, we constantly monitored our systems remotely. So if there is an equipment failure, we often times catch it before the homeowners do. And, we'll send someone out and get it taken care of.

(3:11) Are there different types of solar panels?

There are many types of solar panels. Typically, we use mono-crystalline, there's also poly-crystalline, mono-crystalline has been around for awhile and efficiencies are improving every day. And it's just a great residential and commercial panel.

(3:32) How much has residential solar energy grown in the last 5 years?

Solar installations have been increasing exponentially, especially here in Northeast Ohio. A lot of people are taking more of an interest in it. And we see that with our volume of calls that we get every day.

(3:48) How much does a solar array cost?

Depending on the size of the home and the usage, the electrical usage inside the home. A typical solar array in Northeastern Ohio could cost anywhere between eight to $20,000. And that also depends on available space.

(4:09) What is the ROI on solar in Northeast Ohio?

The ROI on a solar installation in Northeastern, Ohio is anywhere between eight and ten years for a residential project.

(4:20) Are there any energy-saving strategies to make the use of solar energy more effective?

I would recommend anyone considering a solar installation to work on making your home, as efficient as possible. Changing to LED lights and  energy efficient  appliances are great ways to reduce the amount of solar you need. So it can reduce the cost of the solar installation upfront as well.

(4:50) How does net metering work?

If you own a solar array and you're producing solar energy and not using that energy in your home the remaining balance flows out to the. And with net metering, typically it means that you get traded a kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour from the utility companies, and that is reflected on your utility bill at the end of the month. So it's a way of basically increasing the value of a solar array.

(5:24) If more electricity is produced than used, will the electric company send you a check?

So the utility company will not send you a check at the end of the year for any additional power that you have provided the grid.

(5:33) Does your meter roll backwards?

Well, these days, no, they're all digital. But there is directional arrows on the meter that will show you if you're taking energy from the grid or putting your solar energy back to the grid.

(5:50) What is an inverter?

An inverter takes the DC energy that is produced by the solar. And it converts it to AC energy that you can use in your home and send back to the grid as well.

(6:04) What is a solar credit?

A renewable energy credit is basically a megawatt hour of production, solar production. So for every megawatt hour, you are entitled to a SREC that you can sell to an aggregation company.

(6:20)  Are there tax credits available for solar?

So there is a federal tax credit available. It is, as of 2021, it is 26% and that you can get back when you file for your taxes,

(6:33) What about options where another company owns the solar panels?

Power purchase agreements can be a great option for anybody who can't take advantage of the federal tax credit. Basically, someone who is willing to put up the funds for the array, commits to a contract with you and you agree upon terms and you basically buy back the energy that the solar produces from the PPA owner at a discounted price.

(7:10) Are ads that say “no money down!” legitimate?

The zero money down is a real thing. I would encourage anyone interested in installing a solar array to consider the benefits of paying for it outright, um, and the long term potential costs of taking out a loan like that.

(7:30) What is the warranty on solar panels?

So the warranty on solar panels it’ll vary on the manufacturer. Um, we installed tier one solar panels and all of them come with at least a 25 year warranty. Guaranteeing 80% production capacity at the end of the warranty.

(7:49) How often do solar panels break?

Solar panels are typically only ever broken in transportation. So once they're safely installed up on your roof, the only thing that you have to worry about is maybe a critter getting underneath the solar panel and chewing a wire. Um, we do sell critter guards for that, and it also protects from debris and other things, you know, that you don't want underneath your array from getting underneath. The solar panels are made with tempered glass. So there's really little that can damage it up here in Northeast, Ohio,

(8:29) Who monitors the solar panels to make sure they’re working?

The solar installation company that installed your panels should be keeping an eye on your monitoring. Depending on the system that is installed, there are different types of monitoring and different levels, something like a solar edge system. You can monitor each individual panel on its own. But if you were to use a large string inverter you kind of lose that panel, the panel monitoring ability.

(8:59) What is a microinverter?

So a micro-inverter is an inverter that goes under each individual solar panel, much like an optimizer and a solar edge system is monitored panel by panel, a micro-inverter systems, such as end phase, gives us sustainability to monitor panel by panel.

(9:25) Why doesn’t a solar installation work during a blackout?

Your solar installation, unless you have battery backup, will not work during a blackout because of the rapid shutdown requirements. So basically if there's a blackout that potentially means that there's going to be utility companies working on the lines and they don't need those back fed while they're working on them. So your system automatically shuts down.

(9:51) Does a backup battery make sense for most homes?

Backup battery makes a lot of sense for any home, especially if you have a lot of power outages, you have some critical loads that you need to run, when the power is out, any medical equipment, if you had extended outages that can melt your freezer you definitely will need to start looking into a battery backup.

(10:17) What is the cost of a backup battery?

The cost of batteries varies widely, there's so many different battery technologies out there right now. And new ones being developed, depending on what you're looking to power. And how long you want it powered, and the type of battery that you're using, whether it's lithium-ion or led acid, um, are two examples. You could find a system, a small battery backup system for $5,000. You could go all the way up to $25,000, depending on what it is you as a homeowner would like to have secured power for in the event of a blackout.

(11:03) Where do you see the prominence of solar going in the next 10 years?

I think the direction that most solar installations are going to be going in the next 10 years here in Northeast Ohio, is going to be with battery backup systems. In 2021 alone, we've had more battery backup requests than ever before. A lot of people are more concerned about how the stability of the grid, how they're using their power and when they're using it.

(11:33) With solar panel technology improving, how often should the system be upgraded?

Technology is changing on a year-to-year basis. Wattage of panels is increasing. That being said, you know, with an ROI between eight and 10 years and a life expectancy of 25 years, there's really no need to to upgrade. One potential upgrade could be that when the system is installed, if you are interested in batteries down the line, make sure that your system is battery ready.

(12:01) Does a solar panel installation increase the value of a home?

I'm not a realtor,  but one thing that I know a lot of customers have done in the past when someone has approached them about purchasing their home and they have a solar array on it is they show them their electric bill and the costs that they're paying for the electric and how low it is compared to neighbors.

(12:25) What is a solar co-op?

A solar co-op is when a bunch of homeowners get together who are interested in solar and they can basically pool their buying power to get a better contract for their installation.

(12:42) Are solar panels a good DIY project?

Solar panels can be a good DIY project. If you're looking to do something smaller, maybe just power sump pump or something like that when the grid goes down or something educational for your kids  that can be a lot of fun as well. There's some solar powered race cars out there that you can pick up and put together. So there's a lot of fun opportunities, but typically with a residential install, I would recommend a professional.

(13:15) Can you install solar if you’re renting a property?

It's not a good idea to install solar when you're renting. You'd have to have the homeowner's permission and it'd be better if you had some sort of a long-term lease with the building owner. So you know that you're going to be getting the benefit of a solar array.

(13:35) How long does it take to get a permit?

Depending on the city, it usually takes about a month. There are some cities that are a little bit quicker. There's also possibly review boards that we might have to attend, review board meetings that we might have to attend, that could extend the permitting period. But, I'd say on average, permit application takes about a month to process.

(14:00) What is the process of installing a solar panel array?

So first, it starts with a phone call or an email. And then what we do is take your information. We ask for your electric bill and your address. We'll actually use the program to take a look at your house. And we'll be able to make a proposal using the aerial images to give you a general idea of how many panels we can fit and a general cost. Once we pass that information along to the customer, we then head out, and do a site evaluation and make sure that what we proposed will actually fit, once that's agreed upon, we sign a contract. As soon as the contract is signed, we start doing all the permitting paperwork

(14:46) What is Permission to Operate?

At the end of an install. We get the system inspected. And then when it's inspected. We take the inspection tag, send it to the utility company and the utility company will come out and install a bi-directional meter. And at that point we have permission to operate and that's when we can turn the system on.

(15:14) How soon after installation can operation begin?

Once we send the passed inspection tag to the utility company, they take that as a work order to come out and Install the bi-directional meter on your home. And what that is, is permission to operate. Once we have permission to operate, we can then turn your system on and you're good to go.

More stories coming soon!