Rust deteriorates metals and other materials fast, reducing their life expectancy by a number of years, especially solar panels.
Solar panels are quite the investment, especially when you’re thinking about “going green”, or living off-grid and it would be a shame if rust were to get in the way of that.
We investigated and came back with this; loads of info on the how, why, and what surrounding rust and solar panels.
Are Solar Panels Resistant to Salt and Corrosion?
Living next to the beach can mean a few things; fun, sun, and, sadly, rust. Unlike other places, there’s a lot of salt floating in the air by the ocean that can cause some materials to rust.
As someone that enjoys the benefits of solar energy, you’ve probably wondered how the combination of salt and humidity is going to affect your solar panels.
Normally, any kind of metal will gradually rust because it’s around water and is exposed to fresh air. Add some salt and that process speeds up. That’s because of the slightly acidic solution created by mixing salt with water.
Made to Last
Knowing the damage rust can do, you’re probably wondering how often to replace your solar panels, right?
Luckily, even with the increased risk, our solar panels are manufactured to be resistant to rust. As part of their design, the solar modules are sealed tightly between the back sheet and other interior materials.
Being vacuum-sealed prevents interior corrosion caused by the salt, it also means that you won’t have to worry about rust occurring within the solar module. Unless there’s a small crack in the panel.
Another reason you shouldn’t worry is that the solar panels made by legitimate manufacturers are put through an IEC 61701 Salt Mist Corrosion Test.
The test certifies that the solar panel has gone through some tough evaluation that simulates the actual effect of salt mist and other kinds of coastal weather.
Solar module frames are also highly resistant as they’re made from anodized aluminum, an anti-corrosive metal specially made for extra salty conditions.
How Are Solar Panels Protected?
Solar panels contain solar cells, these cells are encased in highly-durable glass for protection. There’s a layer of insulation underneath the glass, as well as a protective back sheet.
These technological components protect the panel against heat and humidity that form inside the panel. There’s also an anti-reflective coating on the panel that allows it to absorb the most possible power.
The average life expectancy of a panel is between 25 to 30 years, although they’re still able to produce solar energy with some decent solar panel maintenance while not getting damaged at some point.
What also helps is some old-fashioned solar panel cleaning to keep the dirt and dust off of them.
Additionally, there aren’t any moving parts inside of a solar panel, so there’s a much smaller chance that a mechanical part could break.
What the Research Says
Researchers from the Sandia National Laboratories have been working to study corrosion in a controlled environment.
Work done by Olga Lavrova at the Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration department showed that there’s a connection between rust and the risk of arc faults in a solar panel’s electrical system.
Further research has gone into creating a new film that could significantly increase solar panels’ reliability, called nanocomposite films.
The idea behind this research is to see how quickly rust can appear and how much damage it can cause by creating different simulated environments and various materials that solar panels use.
The data are then used to pick the right materials for the solar panel designs and to make materials that are catered to certain environments.
At this point, you might be wondering if rust really is that big of a problem - it is. According to a study done in 2002 by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, corrosion of metals in different industries, both infrastructure and manufacturing, has cost about $276 billion a year in maintenance worldwide.
They’re Doing the Research; What Can You Do?
So, while researchers are doing what they can to study the effect of rust on solar panels, what can you do as a consumer?
You can actually do some research on your own, too. We’re talking about reading the fine print on that solar panel’s warranty, and what to look out for.
This essentially guarantees that the solar panel you've purchased will maintain a precise level of energy production for however long the warranty is.
This is to assure you that the panel won’t degrade much in the allotted time period and you’ll be getting all the power you’ve paid for.
All-Inclusive Product Warranty
The average solar panel is made up of parts and materials that come from different companies. Each component could be under a different warranty. If one of them fails, it’s bad news for the solar panel as a whole.
It’s important to find a company that has an all-encompassing warranty, it’ll save you a lot of time and confusion this way.
Although your typical solar panel warranty will include a free replacement if your panel is defective, some companies will still charge you for shipping and installation.
Be sure that the company you buy from pays for the entire replacement process, not just the equipment.
Covers Rust Damage
This one is crucial as many warranties don’t cover damages or defects that are caused by rust because the installation is near the beach.
As someone who lives near the beach, you already know how quickly things can get rusty. So, it’s important that you find a company that’ll not only make rust-resistant panels but will also replace the panel in case of any damages.
Living by the ocean might seem like a bad place for a solar panel to be, what with all the salt and moisture but with the right company, tools, and warranties, it’ll still be able to work out for you.
Now, while you can finally relax, we’ve gotta go to Washington and help someone else figure out how to keep snow off solar panels.
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