What to Expect Your First Winter with Solar in Oregon

by | Jan 19, 2022

Congratulations! You made the switch to clean, renewable energy generated right on your roof. Depending on when you had your solar energy system installed, you’ve also been building up credits with the power company every time you send any excess power back to the grid.

Making the investment in rooftop solar is an incredible step towards your energy independence and environmental sustainability at home. 

Summer with solar is easy: the bill from your local utility company dwindles to zero as your panels soak up the long days of summer sun. But your first winter, if you got your solar installed later than the previous April, you might see some things that bring up some questions. We’re here to help answer those, and give you resources to learn more about how your panels save you money. 

With our help, you’ll be well prepared for the adjustment period that comes with any investment, including rooftop solar. 

How Does Solar Work in the Winter?

We have a whole blog written about common concerns surrounding how solar panels work in the winter, in case you want an in-depth look. But let’s go over some quick basics:

  • Solar is so efficient in the longer, summer hours, that solar panels today can generate enough energy to bank credits through your utility provider to cover electricity you might need to pull from the grid during the winter.
  • Snow and rain won’t harm your panels. The rain is basically a free way to wash your panels, which helps keep them clear of residue and debris. The snow might cover your panels and slightly reduce generating capacity, but with a professionally installed system placed at an angle, and the heat of the panels, it should melt off soon enough. The panels Purelight installs are also built to withstand over 110 lbs of snow per square foot!
  • With net metering, your panels in the summer were helping build up a bank of credits with your utility company that you can use during the winter if you need to. With colder weather, earlier evenings, and hosting holiday gatherings and visiting family, most of us see our winter electricity usage go up. Those banked credits cover the increased electricity usage that is above what your panels will generate in the winter.

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How to Make the Most of Your Panels Your First Winter

During the first winter with your solar panels, you might not notice much on your monthly bill from the utility company beyond the grid connection charge you’ve been paying all summer. That charge helps make sure you can send the excess electricity you generate in the summer to the grid and get compensated for it.

If you had your panels installed somewhere during May through September, you won’t have the same amount of banked credits your first winter. This means you might still be seeing your electricity bill increase a little. The number one thing to do is just have patience and know that this time next winter you’ll have four or five months worth of summer electricity to pull from as you need.

However, if you’d still like to see a bit more savings immediately, there are some things you can do.

  • Keep up those energy saving habits! With the freedom of solar comes the awesome bonus of being less stressed about how an extra few loads of laundry, or being less careful about not leaving lights on might impact the power bill. With Oregon seeing a particularly wet and rainy La Niña winter this year, most of us are tempted to crank the heat up too!

    Because your system was created with past energy use habits informing the design, if your energy usage has notably increased after install, you’ll see that impact your power bill. While we can always help adjust your system to accommodate long term, permanent increased power needs, if it’s something within your control, it’s worth continuing to be mindful of how you use energy in your home.
  • Make sure your panels are clear of debris. We’re past the time of year where the trees are dressed in the reds, oranges, and yellows of their autumn glory. Now those leaves are brown and clogging gutters. They also might be covering parts of your panels, which will reduce how much energy your panels can produce.

    No need to grab a rake or climb on the roof. Grab your everyday garden hose, put a spray nozzle on, and spray your panels to help move any stuck on leaves or pine needles. This is the safest and only recommended way to clean your panels, aside from hiring a professional.

During gray winter weather we all feel like spring might never come. But eventually March comes along with more sun and the start of longer days. Until then, check out our other blogs to help you learn more about your solar energy system, and know that you can feel confident that an investment in solar saves you money in your first year and every year after.

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