Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 by Office
DC’s first major snowfall in three years brought no more than two inches to the city and drew mixed reactions from the locals. It could have been worse; other states were literally buried.
Regardless, experts say that snow load isn’t something to worry about as long as the roof is built to spec. So, you can let nature clean up its own mess; no need to take out that shovel and work several feet above. However, if your house comes with solar panels from DC roofing contractors like Maggio Roofing, you may need to go out after all.
It should be obvious that a thick blanket of snow on solar panels can reduce energy production to almost nil. In fact, it’s not just snow that can hamper the panels, as Martin LaMonica writes.
"A thick blanket of snow--and we've seen many of those this winter--can all but eliminate electricity production. Sure, some light can penetrate through but the panels produce just a fraction compared to their potential.
Here's another thing I learned: because of the way solar panels are wired together, a little bit of snow--or bird droppings or leaves--blocking just a portion of an array can dramatically cut the output."
Solar panels works great in cold weather, even better. However, thick snow, even on one part of the panel, can deny the system of precious solar energy. One study in 2012 recorded energy losses of up to 60 percent during wintertime and 18 percent annually. For a power generation system that doesn’t make as much as fossil fuel power plants, this is a significant reduction.
It's time to take your snow rake out of its shed. Before you start raking, however, heed LaMonica’s advice of attaching a soft strip.
"When I mentioned what the rake was for, the guy at the hardware store cleverly recommended I attach a squeegee-like strip on the bottom so I didn't risk damaging the expensive panels."
Some rakes in the market have these strips whose duty is to make sure the rake does its job minus collateral damage. They can cost around $20 online.
Above all else, learn to practice safety when clearing snow off roofs. The rakes are designed to be operable from ground level, eliminating the need to go up to the roof where the risk multiplies tenfold. Should you scratch the panels by accident, contact a Washington, DC roofing contractor for a quick assessment.
(Article excerpt from “A tale of solar panels, snow, and roof rakes,” CNET, February 6, 2009)