snow on solar panels

How do solar panels work in winter?

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Does a solar panel work as well in the winter as it does in the summer? Canstar Blue finds out.

Electricity is needed all year round. During the summer time, air conditioning begs for its attention, while in the dead of winter it’s heaters that ring power bills up sky-high. No matter the season, electricity is essential to keep homes at a comfortable climate.

These days, however, many Aussie homes are choosing to utilise the power of the sun to meet their electrical needs. But as a power source reliant on certain climate conditions, there’s some debate over the effectiveness of solar panels during seasons such as winter, where sunlight and heat perhaps isn’t a contributing factor.

So, how do solar panels work in the winter exactly, and is there a drop-off in output? This Canstar Blue guide investigates.

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How do solar panels work in the winter?

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels work by converting sunlight into energy, and not heat. So, as long as there is sunshine, solar panels will continue to generate energy.

The main things that will have an impact on the amount of energy generated during the cooler months are the shorter days and any cloud cover. Whether a solar panel is cold or not shouldn’t impact its ability to produce energy.

Hot tip: If you’re considering installing solar panels on your roof, around the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) is the best time to check if your roof falls victim to significant shading. Too much shading could have the potential to impact the efficiency of your panels. If your roof is shade-free during this event then there’s a good chance it will be shade-free all year. Not that having a little bit of shade is a major issue, but it certainly can have an impact on the efficiency of your panels

Do solar panels work better in summer or winter?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it might seem. While the output of solar panels is generally higher in summer due to the longer days and sunnier conditions, cool weather and clear skies are actually the optimal conditions for solar panels to convert sunlight into energy. In fact, the optimal temperature for solar panels is around 25 degrees Celsius, once the temperature exceeds this, overall output tends to decrease.

So, in terms of solar energy output, summer is generally better, due to the longer days and clearer skies, but in terms of actually efficiency of the panel, winter usually creates the more ideal conditions. According to Captain Green, an Australian solar retailer and installer, a 5 kilowatt (kW) system will produce, on average, 13kW a day in winter and 20kW a day in summer.

However, there are some exceptions. In fact, Darwin often sees better solar energy output in the winter because the day length does not vary as much and summer usually brings endless rain – which means cloudy skies. Solar panels do not work as well with cloud coverage so Darwin’s winter, which brings dry weather and clear skies, generally has better performance.

Compare Solar Plans & Prices

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

What is the best way to make the most of my solar energy in winter?

The best way to utilise the solar energy produced by your solar panels not only in winter, but also all year round, is to monitor your usage to see when the panels are producing the most and find a way to maximise your usage during this time. This might involve moving more of your energy consumption into the middle of the day, a feat made possible for those who are out at work or school through the use of timers or automated processes. For example, putting your washing machine on a delay so that it’ll be ready for you when you get home, rather than you having to put it on when you get home.

Otherwise, you might consider adding a battery to your solar energy setup, to capture any of that unused power to use later on or to sell back to the grid when it is at an optimal price. A time of use tariff may help to align with times of peak and off-peak demand. However, be sure to set-up your usage periods correctly, or you may end up footing the bill for more than double the average prices during peak times.

If you are on the hunt for a new energy plan or can’t remember the last time you compared prices then be sure to check our free comparison tool below. Here we show a range of plans from over 30 providers. All you need to do is chuck in your postcode – no emails or phone numbers needed

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Image credits: Shorzewiak/Shutterstock.com, John Martin Will/Shutterstock.com

Kelseigh Wrigley
Energy Specialist
Kelseigh Wrigley was a content producer at Canstar Blue for three years until 2024, most recently as an Energy Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology.

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