olar panels are usually designed to be tough and resilient to external events like extreme weather. Nevertheless, rough weather can worry homeowners, as high winds, hurricanes, and blizzards might appear dangerous for a solar panel system.
Mainly, hail is one of the major concerns for many. The mere sound coming from hailstones falling on the surface of solar panels can be pretty nerve-wracking.
Can a hail storm damage your solar system? Should you protect solar panels?
Most solar panels are proactively designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. However, intense hail storms can cause some damage to your solar panels, from star-shaped micro-cracks to larger ones. Here we should note that damaged solar panels with cracks on their surface will still work. However, these defects can lead to decreased solar generation. The probability of such panel damage is relatively low, but essential maintenance and some proactive steps to protect solar panels are an absolute must.
Saving your panels from hail: basic rules of solar panel hail protection
So you probably want to know how to protect solar panels from bad weather and your budget from spending thousands of dollars on repairs. Here are some tips about how to protect solar panels during hail storms.
Choose the right solar panels
To protect your solar panel system, choose solar panels depending on how many hail storms your area receives - for example, Texas, Colorado, and Nebraska have frequent hail showers. If that is your case, choose a reputable brand that can ensure solar panel hail protection. Before purchasing, check whether the solar panel brand has conducted a “hail test” certification. When you buy solar panels, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as your climate conditions, the probability of hail, in particular, largely determine what solar panels you need.
Invest in hail protection cover for your solar panels
Solar panel protection covers are one of the best ways to protect solar panels from hail. Some of the most popular solar panel hail protection methods are methacrylate and wire mesh.
Apply methacrylate on the surface of the panels
Methacrylate is a transparent polymer plastic that can be sprayed on the surface of solar panels or added as a thin layer. Thanks to its transparent structure, it doesn’t impede sunlight, meaning that the efficiency of solar panel production won’t be affected. Such a protective cover can protect solar panels from hail and extend their lifespan.
Build a wire mesh
The most inexpensive solar panel hail protection solution is a wire mesh. It is a plastic or metal mesh designed to protect solar panels from giant hailstones. It is cheaper than methacrylate but has a slight disadvantage, as it creates a small shadow on solar panels.
Install solar panels properly
To protect solar panels from hail, angle them at 45 degrees. This proactive step allows hail to slide off, although there can still be a significant impact from large hailstones on slightly angled solar panels. Angling your solar panels at 90 degrees will cause the most damage during hail storms. Of course, hiring a solar professional to install your solar panels properly is highly important.
Install solar panel modules on adjustable frames. In this case, changing their position takes just a few minutes. This method won’t help protect solar panels against surprise hail storms, but it is helpful on days when you know the potential for hail exists. When you see a hail storm coming, you can turn pole-mounted solar panels vertically to prevent hail from striking the surface.
Monitor the weather
Having your solar panels installed on mobile frames allows you to protect solar panels when you follow the weather forecasts on a daily basis. In regions with extreme weather conditions like hail storms, purchasing mobile PV panel frames is an excellent step in solar panel hail protection. Another tip is to subscribe to some trusted sites which can alert you about a hail storm occurrence. Also, consider installing apps that monitor the weather designed especially for householders with solar panel systems to protect solar panels even better.
Inspect your solar panels
If you want to protect solar panels from hail, some routine maintenance is essential. Although solar panels are durable and resilient, they won’t last long if you don’t regularly maintain them. Inspecting the panels doesn’t require much effort – you can do it independently, and you don’t need any special skills. Firstly, check the glass of the solar panels for cracks. Then inspect the frame and the racking system of your panels for signs of hail damage, such as warping, bends, cracked metal parts, and corrosion.
Choose solar panels with plastic cover
While most solar panels are composed of cells made from silicon and a layer of glass, some new solar panels contain amorphous silicon photovoltaic cells and a plastic layer instead of glass. These plastic-covered solar panels are less susceptible to hail damage because plastic is a more flexible material. Such panels cost less than glass but are also slightly less efficient at generating energy.
Bottom line: protecting solar panels from hail doesn’t require much effort
Today, solar panels are typically designed to withstand a direct vertical impact of hail up to 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter. Because of their tempered glass covering that can protect solar cells from devastating weather, the chances of hail damaging panels are less than five percent.
For instance, in May 2017, a particularly severe hail storm struck Colorado, damaging thousands of houses and properties. One area that suffered hardest was Golden Colorado, home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where solar panels are developed. NREL is home to a solar array of more than 3000 solar panels. In this massive hail storm in 2017, only one panel was broken out of the thousands of present solar panels. This is an excellent example of how strong solar panels are.
Still, bad weather may indeed damage your solar panels. However, solar panel hail protection is necessary to keep them working properly for 25-30 years. Our advice is to take care of your solar equipment and protect solar panels from hail so that they can provide your house with green energy for many years.