Snow Rake for Solar Panels

by Ben N on December 11, 2017

A few days ago, we got the first snow storm of the year. Not a big deal, but that was the first snow we had since I installed the solar array on my garage. I found that using a broom, even from a ladder, I could only clear the lowest of the three rows of panels.

After reading through a number of web pages, it looked like the most common way that people remove snow from their panels is with a roof rake. So, I found one at reasonable price and ordered it.

Last night, we got another dusting of snow, and as luck would have it, my roof rake showed up as well! It’s a SNOWJOE 21-Foot Twist-n-Lock Telescoping Snow Shovel Roof Rake Model RJ204M. Assembly was easy, just pop the plastic blade onto the end of the telescoping pole and screw on two small aluminum braces.

With that, I headed outside to try the roof rake.

Extending the pole is easy, just loosen by twisting, then extending one section of the pole (it’s four sections total) and then twisting again to lock it down.

IMG_7503At full length, the pole does flex quite a bit. The rake end kind of bounces, but it still feels pretty solid. I had the right amount of reach to get all the way to the top of the second row of panels, and that was WITHOUT a ladder! I could get part of the bottom of the third row of panels, but only if fully extended and with me right next to the building. At that point, I couldn’t actually see up the roof and had to guess at where the rake had landed!

I was hoping that if I could get at least part of the third row of panels that perhaps it would allow the sun to warm the panel and have the snow start to slide down. Although it didn’t get sunny today, it did get a degree or two above freezing for a while. Sure enough, the snow on the top row of panels DID slide down a bit, but not off the roof. Actually, it was almost worse. With the snow covering HALF a panel in the upper row and the middle row, I likely got LESS energy production than if the top row was completely covered and the middle row completely bare!

Using the roof rake is a bit of a workout. Anytime a person is working over their head, it’s always a bit tiring. To me, it felt like a deltoid workout not unlike paddling a kayak. (An like paddling a kayak, NOT something I do every day!) The roof rake itself isnt’ that heavy, (4.8lbs./2.2kg) but with it fully extended, it’s a handful!

Overall, the roof-rake does a pretty good job of clearing the snow from the solar panels. Good, but not perfect. I found that it got caught pretty easily on the mid-clamps that hold down the solar panels. It could also get caught in the gap that separates the rows of panels, although approaching at an angle seemed to help with that issue. A foam or squeegee head might run over the mid-clamps better, but might not bite into the snow as well.

IMG_7506It was also difficult to completely clear the snow. Seemed like there was always a little bit here and a little bit there. Even small amounts of shading on a solar panel can dramatically reduce energy production, so that’s not ideal. On the other hand, if the sun ever DOES come out, those small bits of snow should melt quickly. That’s the one last thing that I’ve been noticing so far with snow and solar panels – of course snow on the solar panels blocks light, but just HOW CLOUDY it’s been seems to have an ever larger impact on the power made.

That is to say that even though the snow is covering the panels, there’s just NOT that much light to convert to energy anyways! In my area, this is an extrememly dreary and gray time of year. Now, if it was SUNNY and the panels were covered in snow, THAT would be a different story!

For now, using a roof rake to clear snow off the panels seems like a simple and practical solution. It’s not perfect, and I certainly wish I could more easily reach that third row of panels, but for now, it’s more than good enough.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Campbell December 16, 2017 at 10:10 pm

I duct taped the snow rake to two 20′ x 1″ Schedule 40 PVC pipes, and it works pretty well. I push the top half of the top panels over the peak of the roof, and pull the rest down.

2 Ben N December 17, 2017 at 10:21 am

I was thinking about adding a “handle-extension” with some PVC pipe. Seemed like using large diameter PVC pipe on the bottom end of the pole is the way to go. I might try it the next big snow-fall we get.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: