The Impact of Weather on Solar Panel Efficiency: What You Need to Know

Every hour, Earth receives an astounding influx of energy from the sun, amounting to approximately 430 quintillion Joules. This remarkable figure surpasses the total energy consumption of our planet over an entire year.

Although a portion of this energy is captured by solar panels and transformed into electricity, the process isn't flawless. The quantity of energy generated is contingent upon various factors, including the efficiency of the panel, its alignment with the sun, and naturally, the prevailing weather conditions.

What influence does the weather have on the performance of solar panels? Factors such as cloud cover and temperature can affect the amount of electricity produced by your system.

Let's consider a few situations. You might be intrigued by what you discover.

Clouds, Rain, and Fog

Despite common belief, solar panels continue to produce electricity even during cloudy, rainy, or foggy weather, although at a reduced rate compared to bright, sunny days. Typically, solar panels generate approximately 10% to 30% of their maximum capacity on cloudy days.

The precise output varies based on factors such as the type of solar panels used, the thickness of the clouds or fog, and the duration for which they cover the area.

Take Germany as an example: Despite experiencing numerous cloudy and rainy days, it leads globally in solar energy installations and production. However, the sunshine received over the entire year compensates for the overcast days, ensuring that the weather does not diminish the long-term benefits of adopting solar energy.

Rain and snow are useful for solar panels as they effectively cleanse them of accumulated dust, pollen, and other particles. Once the solar energy system is set up, no maintenance is required. Nature not only generates energy for you but also ensures the cleanliness of your system!


Although a small amount of snow helps clean solar panels, their productivity isn't significantly hindered as sunlight can still penetrate through a thin layer of snow.

Additionally, the panels are usually positioned at an angle to aid in sunlight reflection, and this tilt also serves as a slope for the snow to naturally slide off.

Typically, a typical snowfall will cover roof panels with a layer of snow. However, the sunlight that typically follows a snowstorm will usually melt the snow off the dark solar panels, which absorb heat.

A big snowstorm with a large blanket of snow around your home and street could increase your solar production because the sun reflecting off the snow acts as a mirror, boosting the intensity of the sunlight reaching your panels.

Hail, Wind, and Lightning

Most solar panels are engineered to endure an average-sized hailstorm and withstand winds of approximately 50 mph. While there is a possibility of severe weather events like large hail, lightning, or hurricane-force winds causing damage to residential solar energy systems, such occurrences are infrequent.

Lightning strikes pose a minimal risk as solar panels are typically grounded during installation. In the rare event of severe weather-related damage, it's important to note that such incidents may not be covered by solar panel warranties. 

However, homeowners can often rely on their homeowner's insurance to provide coverage.

To safeguard against potential risks, it is crucial to promptly add your home solar panels to your homeowner's insurance policy once the system is activated.

Extreme Heat

Many individuals hold the belief that solar panels perform optimally during hot, summer days filled with sunshine. However, this notion is only partly accurate. 

The truth is that solar panels tend to be more efficient when temperatures are moderate rather than excessively hot. Their productivity hinges more on the intensity of sunlight rather than the ambient temperature. 

A cooler day with ample sunlight is far preferable for achieving peak production compared to a scorching summer day. 

Some studies examining solar panel efficiency in hot weather have revealed that during extremely high temperatures, ranging from 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, solar energy output declines gradually, though not significantly enough to negate their advantages.

The Best Temperature for Solar Panels

Consider the ideal conditions for solar panels. Naturally, one would envision a day with clear, azure skies and abundant sunshine. Surprisingly, however, the temperature on this optimal day is cool rather than warm.

Similar to other electronic devices, solar panels operate with greater efficiency in colder temperatures, enabling them to generate higher voltage and consequently more electricity. 

Conversely, as temperatures escalate, the panel's voltage output decreases, leading to diminished efficiency and electricity production.

The extent to which temperature affects production can be discerned by examining the specifications provided for various panels. These figures are derived from diverse tests administered by the manufacturer.

Generally, for each degree above 77 degrees Fahrenheit (referred to as standard testing conditions or STC), the panel's efficiency diminishes by one percent, whereas for each degree below 77 degrees, its efficiency increases by one percent.

Despite the heightened efficiency of solar panels in cold weather, they may not necessarily generate more electricity during winter compared to summer. Summer typically offers the sunniest conditions, coinciding with warmer temperatures.

Furthermore, with fewer clouds and longer daylight hours, the panels, though less efficient in warm weather, are likely to produce more electricity overall.

Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather?

Anything obstructing the direct path between your solar panels and the sun, whether it's clouds in the sky, fog on the horizon, or shade from nearby foliage, reduces the amount of solar energy your system generates.

However, akin to how one can still get sunburned on overcast days, your panels might still be generating electricity, contingent upon the density of cloud cover.

On partially cloudy days, your energy production may decline by 10% to 25%, contingent upon the frequency with which clouds pass over your system. Yet, an occurrence known as the "edge of cloud" effect can amplify sunlight, resulting in a brief surge in electricity production. 

For instance, when fluffy cumulus clouds drift across the sun, their wispy peripheries act as a magnifying glass, intensifying the sunlight hitting your panels.

As for overcast days, a simple method to gauge whether your system is generating energy is by observing shadows outdoors. If you can discern objects casting shadows, your system is likely producing energy to some extent. Conversely, if shadows are absent, the cloud cover is likely too dense for electricity production. 

It's estimated that solar panels will generate approximately 10% to 30% less electricity on cloudy days compared to sunny ones. However, this shouldn't deter you from adopting solar power. Even if you reside in regions with less sunshine than Southern California and Arizona, investing in solar energy can still be financially rewarding.

For instance, foggy San Francisco and Portland, Oregon both rank among the top 20 cities in the US for solar installations. Moreover, despite Germany being significantly cloudier and occupying just 1/28th of the landmass of the US, it produces 45.9 GW of solar energy compared to the US's 49.6 GW.

When providing a solar quote, installers should consider the impact of cloudy weather on your system's production, enabling you to make an informed decision based on your circumstances. Additionally, if you live in an area with net metering, any surplus electricity generated on sunny days can offset your consumption during cloudy periods.

Will Solar Panels Work in the Rain and Snow?

While rain itself won't affect the functionality of solar panels, the presence of rain clouds is likely to decrease energy production. Nevertheless, occasional rainstorms can benefit your solar system by naturally cleaning the panels without any hassle or risk.

Frequent rainstorms prevent dirt or dust from accumulating on the panels, which could otherwise obstruct sunlight and reduce production.

Although not yet widely implemented, scientists are developing a new type of solar panel known as hybrid solar panels, capable of generating electricity even during rainfall. These panels harness energy from both sunlight and rain, with precipitation hitting the panels converting into electricity. During sunny conditions, they operate similarly to traditional solar panels, albeit currently less efficiently.

Concerning snowfall, unlike rain which typically doesn't accumulate on panels, snow can significantly affect production by blocking sunlight. However, depending on subsequent weather conditions and the tilt of your panels, heavy snowfalls can swiftly melt and slide off the panels.

Despite solar energy's reliance on sunlight, it remains a viable option for many homes, businesses, and farms in regions prone to cloudy, rainy, or snowy weather. To illustrate this, two businesses in Ohio and Upstate New York share their experiences after transitioning to solar power.

For those interested in assessing potential electricity generation in their local climate, obtaining a free solar quote customized to your area's weather conditions can provide valuable insights into your system's payback period.

Final Word: The “Best” Weather

The most efficient conditions for solar energy production are cooler, sunny days. However, in the northeastern regions, such days typically coincide with late fall, winter, and early spring, which also entail shorter daylight hours.

Therefore, while energy production reaches its peak efficiency, the duration of sunlight exposure on the panels is at its lowest throughout the year.

It's evident that there isn't a singular "optimal" time for solar energy production, as various factors such as weather patterns, sunlight availability, and seasonal changes all influence the efficiency of solar energy generation.