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I want to look at getting solar panels for my home. Unfortunately, one thing that I need to resolve first is whether or not they will work / last while in the temperature extremes - anywhere from -40 C to +40 C.

My question is, are solar panels built to withstand this kind of temperature variance on a yearly basis? Summers can feel very hot, winters can get very cold. Would there be major considerations to get them to work properly in the extremes, or will it "just work"?

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Effects of extreme temps on solar panels

This answer on Chemistry.SE lists the three major factors which lead to solar cell degradation:

  1. Temperature
  2. UV exposure
  3. Mechanical damage

Specifically for temperature:

  • High temperatures reduce the internal shunt resistance (lowering efficiency), and contribute to degradation of the anti-reflective coating
  • Thermal cycling also degrades the coating and can stress other components of the system (causing cell cracking, flexing, delamination, etc)

A few specification examples

I went on Home Depot's website and pulled up specifications for the first five brands listed by searching "solar panel." Here's what I found regarding temperature specifications:

  • Grape Solar (pdf): -40C to +85C
  • Ramsond: "resilient to ... extreme temperatures"
  • Wagan Tech: no specs for panels, but inverter limited to 0C to 40C
  • Goal Zero: no specs listed
  • Nature Power: no temperature specs listed

Conclusion

Let's assume that Grape Solar has not exceedingly outperformed the industry average with their temperature rating: at 40C, you are well within the limit.

As for thermal cycling, in the winter this may be an issue due to cold nights followed by warm sunshine. Since this will occur anywhere in the world to some level, resistance to its effects will be built in to any panel.

In your case, you may want to use light duty aluminum frames (which wouldn't be rigid enough to flex the panels when they contract) and/or rubber gaskets at attachment points to reduce the impact of thermal cycling.

Other considerations

Assuming you will install chargers, batteries, and inverters inside the home, extreme outdoor temperatures shouldn't affect the performance of these items.

For cabling you will want to make sure and use outdoor rated types, for which extreme temperatures won't be an issue.

Snow cover, obviously, will reduce panel output. Though your output will be reduced in the winter anyway, it's probably a good idea to clear the snow off periodically to reduce the payback time. As noted in the comments, you may even consider giving the panels a bit steeper of a tilt to prevent snow accumulation.

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    With snow and at high latitudes it's worth mounting the panels over-steeply rather than under if you can. You trade a little output in the peak summer months for easier snow-clearing and better output in the winter. The better solar calculators will show this. – Móż Jan 11 '17 at 23:21
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    My understanding is that electronics, and many materials, undergo am increased rate of deterioration with high temperatures. Longer than usual periods of high temps are likely to lead to a below average lifetime of the components affected. Nice answer though :-) – Highly Irregular Jan 12 '17 at 8:53

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