Solar panels are remarkably durable and can withstand most weather conditions, including hail. However, severe hailstorms can cause damage to them. To maximize solar panel hail protection, there are several steps you can take. Here is a list of 8 great tips from solar industry experts.
1) Purchase resilient panels
To safeguard solar panels from hailstorms, the initial step is to invest in robust panels. The durability of a solar panel is determined by the materials used in its construction.
Panels rated UL 61730 undergo rigorous testing to endure hail strikes ranging from one to three inches (254mm to 762mm) at speeds of up to 88.3 miles per hour (142 km/h). Opting for panels that meet this certification level can provide substantial protection for your solar array in almost any storm.
Another essential rating for all rigid solar panels is an IP68 rating, indicating that the panels are waterproof and dustproof. Hail can potentially cause secondary damage by cracking the panels and causing leaks, so it’s crucial to have panels rated to withstand all hail-related threats.
Thankfully, most of today’s panels meet this standard, making the likelihood of significant hail damage to your solar panels quite low. However, certain regions frequently experience storms with larger and more hazardous hailstones.
Considering the recent increase in severe weather events and the projected rise in larger hailstones due to climate change, implementing additional protective measures becomes vital. Doing so can provide enhanced security and peace of mind when facing such storms.
2) Use protective covers
When a hailstorm is predicted, you have the option to shield your solar panels to prevent damage. Using a hard shell covering offers the most effective protection against impacts.
Hard cases fully shield the panels, absorbing the full force of hailstones or other weather elements, while keeping the solar panel underneath intact.
However, there’s a drawback to using these hard shells – they block out sunlight, preventing your panels from collecting solar energy while covered. It’s crucial to remember to remove the case after the storm passes; otherwise, you lose the benefit of allowing the panel to harness and convert sunlight into electricity.
On the other hand, a soft cover provides less defense against hail damage. It reduces both the sound and impact of hailstones on the glass but isn’t as robust as hardcovers. Nonetheless, in most hailstorms, soft covers prove sufficient to protect your solar panel investment.
3) Spray on a methacrylate layer
Methacrylate is an affordable spray-on monomer that offers a protective solution for your panels. Unlike hardcovers, it allows your solar array to continue receiving and converting sunlight even after application to the photovoltaic panels.
However, it is crucial to determine the appropriate amount to use for effective protection. Care should be taken not to spray methacrylate on the metal parts of the panel, as this can lead to damage and reduced electricity conduction efficiency.
Methacrylate stands as one of the most cost-effective protective measures for your solar panel. However, excessive application can hinder the panels’ ability to efficiently collect and store energy from sunlight. It is advisable to follow the instructions meticulously, potentially starting with a small isolated section to ensure the correct level of application.
4) Protect panels with wire mesh
Enclosing the panels with a wire gauge mesh offers a sturdy shield that prevents direct hail impact while allowing sunlight penetration for panel operation. This protective method acts as a barrier, safeguarding against large hailstones.
To ensure the effectiveness of the wire mesh, it is essential to use the appropriate distribution. The holes should be large enough to permit sunlight passage while preventing the most destructive hail from slipping through.
Similar to methacrylate, using wire gauge presents a cost-effective approach to protect your solar investment. However, a potential risk lies in inadequate securing. Strong winds may dislodge the wire mesh if not tightly fastened, leaving gaps that expose your panels to hail. The cover should possess sufficient strength to withstand hail while remaining flexible enough to conform to the panel’s shape and securely attach.
5) Adjust panel angles
An essential aspect of maintaining peak efficiency in your solar system lies in the installation process. Hiring a skilled installer ensures that the angles of the solar panels are set correctly to maximize energy collection. Interestingly, this positioning can also play a crucial role in protecting the panels from hail damage, prompting the consideration of adjusting the orientation to minimize the impact of hail.
The use of an automated solar panel angle adjuster allows you to modify the angle of the panels. Just as there’s an optimal angle for direct sunlight to achieve the most efficient solar energy collection, there’s also an angle at which the panels are most vulnerable to hail impact. By adjusting these angles, you can effectively reduce the potential damage caused by large hailstones.
However, it’s crucial to exercise caution in this process. If you opt for an automatic adjuster, you’ll need to reposition the panels to their optimal angle for energy collection once the storm passes. Failing to do so may result in reduced efficiency, as the panels won’t be optimally positioned to harness incoming sunlight.
In the case of portable solar panels, you have the advantage of avoiding this issue altogether. When a hail forecast is predicted, simply disassemble the portable panels and store them indoors to ensure their safety.
6) Regularly inspect your panels
Similar to car windshields, small cracks in solar panels can quickly worsen. Even a hailstone that might not harm an intact panel can exacerbate the damage on a cracked panel.
To avoid such issues, it’s essential to regularly monitor the condition of your solar array and perform regular maintenance. Repair any identified damage promptly to prevent minor problems from escalating into more significant ones during a storm.
Flexible solar panels, made of a thin film of monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, may have a better chance of withstanding hailstorms. However, for rooftop systems utilizing rigid solar panels, damage to even a single panel can compromise the efficiency of the entire array.
Often, small cracks may not immediately impact the overall performance of your solar energy system, making them easy to overlook without a visual inspection. However, once hail hits those vulnerable points, the potential for severe damage increases. Hence, it’s crucial to conduct first-hand visual inspections and maintenance to address these issues proactively.
If you identify any problems during the inspection, contact the manufacturer or a certified repair facility. You may encounter challenges with insurance coverage if your warranty has expired. Therefore, it’s wise to manage this process during favorable weather conditions to prevent more significant problems from arising when unfavorable weather strikes.
7) Check your home insurance policy
Solar panels often come with a manufacturer’s warranty that is subject to specific conditions. For instance, a warranty may become void if the panels are improperly installed.
Typically, the manufacturer’s warranty covers defects present at the time of manufacturing, but it usually does not include damage caused by weather events like hailstorms.
Although solar panel warranties generally do not encompass hail damage, your standard home insurance policy likely provides coverage for such incidents. To be certain, review your insurance policy and take note of any requirements to fulfill before filing a claim. It is crucial to follow the instructions meticulously to avoid losing coverage due to technicalities.
If your rooftop solar panels incur damage, submitting a claim through your home insurance policy is usually the appropriate course of action.
8) Follow weather forecasts
Being prepared involves both having the necessary resources to address a crisis and knowing the right time to take action. When anticipating inclement weather, it’s crucial to monitor its movements and developments as it approaches. This information will help you determine when it’s appropriate to cover your solar panels and safeguard your property.
It’s worth noting that storms often lose strength before reaching your location or may deviate from their projected path. However, being aware of the weather’s trajectory allows for effective preparation, enabling you to be ready before it makes an impact.
Taking proactive measures to protect your panels will undoubtedly enhance your sense of security regarding your investment. By covering or safeguarding your solar panels and seeking shelter indoors, you have done everything possible to prepare for the storm, greatly reducing the likelihood of any lasting damage.