Solar Panels and Hail: How to Protect Your Solar Power
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Solar power is at the forefront of the renewable energy movement. It makes up over 10% of the renewable energy supply in the U.S. and remains one of the most affordable and accessible sources of energy available today.
Solar panels harness the sun’s rays to convert sunlight into energy that we can use for any application. They even work on cloudy or overcast days. However, many home or business owners considering a switch to renewable energy worry about the necessary maintenance. In areas prone to severe weather, they fear hail and other extremes could damage equipment and cause power outages at critical times.
Solar panels and hail don’t mix. However, solar panels are more durable than you might expect. Learn more about how this renewable energy infrastructure holds up against even challenging weather conditions and what you can do to extend the life span of your solar panels.
Does Hail Damage Solar Panels?
Hail is frozen precipitation ranging in size from small stones to large balls of ice, which can cause severe damage to objects in its path. Fortunately, hail storms are not the most common weather event in the U.S. While it can occur almost anywhere in the country, hail typically affects the following states more than others:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
Since solar panels are installed on roofs or in open spaces and face upward in order to gather direct sunlight, they are often in the direct path of hail and other forms of precipitation.
Despite these risks, solar panels are resilient. Most solar panels and other solar equipment are designed to withstand serious weather forces while providing constant power to users. For example, most panels can withstand winds of up to 140 mph, with certain states and cities requiring even higher wind resistance.
Panels are also tested for hail and other types of precipitation they may encounter during hurricanes or other severe storms. Well-made solar panels have tempered glass to protect the surface. Studies show even a 3 mm layer of tempered glass can protect panels against impacts from 1-inch balls of hail falling at high speeds.
However, solar panels are not completely immune to damage from hail. Depending on the size and velocity of the icy precipitation, solar panels and other equipment may sustain small scratches, larger cracks or internal damage from heavy storms. That’s why you should be prepared and take the proper precautions before and after hail storms.
How to Repair Hail Damage on Solar Panels
Solar panels can sustain several types of damage from hail storms, from surface-level cracks and scratches to internal issues that impact how the technology itself works. Repairing these problems yourself depends on the level of damage and your DIY skills.
The first thing you should do is assess the damage. If and when it’s safe to do so, physically examine your solar panels and check for damage. Look for scratches, cracks, broken glass, loose wires, broken frames and anything else out of the ordinary.
You’ll often need to call in a professional to handle serious repairs. However, if the damage is minor, you may be able to address it yourself. For example, if hail has knocked the frame off balance, you can replace any bolts and retighten the frame.
If your solar panel glass has broken, check to see if the panels still work. Give it 24-48 hours to determine if the panels are still gathering and converting sunlight to power. As long as they still work, you may only need to replace the top glass layer. If the damage is more severe, you’ll need to perform a more extensive repair.
Protecting Your Solar Panels From Hail Damage
Most modern solar panels are durable and prepared to withstand moderate hail or other weather conditions. However, you can take steps to protect them even further. Explore these tips to reinforce your solar equipment and ensure you’ll have power throughout any storm:
- Check your insurance: Take a look at your current homeowner’s insurance to determine if solar panel damage, and specifically damage caused by hail, is covered under your policy. Coverage may change depending on where your panels are located — for example, on your roof versus on a carport or on the ground — so you should be aware of your options ahead of time.
- Find high-quality solar panels: Not all solar panels are created equal. If you want panels that last through hail storms, you should be on the lookout for top-rated equipment. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rate panels based on their strength. Look for IEC 61730 or UL 61730 models, which can withstand hail impacts.
- Check the warranty: Some manufacturers and installers offer storm-damage warranties for solar panels. However, not every company does. Double-check before you buy to ensure you know the types of protection you’re purchasing.
- Use temporary covers: When a storm is approaching, you can use temporary covers to protect your solar panels from hail and other falling debris. These covers come in various configurations, from wire mesh and vinyl to hard shells. You won’t be able to gather sunlight while the covers are in place, but you can remove them as soon as the storm passes.
- Perform inspections regularly: Whether you live in a common hail zone or not, regularly inspecting your solar panels will ensure they work efficiently and last longer. Catching a small crack early on could prevent it from growing into a significant problem that requires a full-scale replacement later on.
- Monitor remotely: With today’s technology, you can even monitor your solar panels’ status remotely from any location. If there’s an issue with your equipment, you’ll get an alert as soon as the panels stop gathering sunlight so you can initiate a quick fix.
Protecting Your Solar Power Equipment
Solar power is an affordable and efficient alternative to fossil fuels, and solar panels make it possible to harness the sun’s power. Protect your solar panels and other equipment from hail to ensure you have clean energy at all times.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.