Solar Panels and Hail Damage
Solar panels are important financial and environmental investments which is why it's important to protect them from hail damage. This is a key factor in solar panels’ usefulness, along with their ability to withstand rust.
But just how bad can hail be, and how much danger does it really pose to your solar panel system?
What Happens to Solar Panels During a Hail Storm?
Are Solar Panels Hail Resistant?
Solar panels are made to be sturdy and are hail-resistant for the most part, but the possibility of them taking hail damage is still there.
The surface of a solar panel is made up of solar cells. It's the solar cells’ job to absorb sunlight to convert it into energy. Solar cells are only a few millimeters thick so they are quite susceptible to damage.
These solar cells are an important part of a solar panel system's functionality, which is why they need to be protected.
This protection comes in the form of commercial-grade tempered glass which forms the outermost layer of the solar panels surface. While solar panel glass is much more sturdy than regular glass, it can still take damage.
Hail is one of the biggest potential causes of damage to solar panels along with twigs, leaves, dirt, and debris. Solar panel manufacturers are well aware of this fact, which is why rigorous testing is done to ensure the panels are as durable as possible.
The hail storm that hit Colorado in May of 2017 serves as a testament to the durability of solar panels. During this storm, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was hit and out of their 3,000 plus solar panels, only 1 was damaged.
Along with hail, severe weather events could also end up with snow on your solar panel.
Solar Panel Hail Impact Tests
Before being put out on the market, solar panels are required to undergo tests and quality control inspections to ensure their functionality.
A hail impact test is but one of the many tests solar panels undergo. Frequently being battered by hail decreases the panel’s lifespan and means it needs to be replaced more often.
This test involves using a pneumatic ice ball launcher to strike certain points on the solar panel’s surface at around 20 to 30 meters per second, which is the standard for hail testing. The test will be declared successful if the solar panel glass takes no damage, if the power generated by it does not drop lower than 5% of its initial output, and if there are no signs of water leakage.
The specifics of the testing may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, such as the size of the hail being launched.
Manufacturers usually don't use ice balls larger than the size of a golf ball (1 ¾ inch) for hail testing. Although this is the average size of hail in the United States, hailstones have been shown to reach the size of a grapefruit (4 ½ inches), which is much larger than what the solar panels have been tested to withstand.
This shows that while they can withstand the force of the average hailstone, solar panels are not tested to withstand the full capacity of what hail can be capable of. The largest hailstone in the history of the U.S measured at 8 inches and was found in Vivian, South Dakota on the 23rd of July back in 2010.
Hailstones of this caliber are not very commonplace, so some solar manufacturers likely don't see the need to risk damaging their panels based on the slim possibility of larger than average hail.
How to Defend Solar Panels Against Hail Storms
Since we've established that solar panels can be damaged by hail, here are a few methods to help defend them from it. This is especially recommended for those who live in regions where hail storms are most frequent.
If you know that a hailstorm is on the way, it’s a good idea to disconnect your solar panels to prevent any damage to your circuitry. You can bring them inside as well if they’re portable.
Make Sure the Panel You Get Is Highly Durable
The fact is, not all solar panels are created equal. Some solar panel manufacturers stick to the minimum hail test requirements, which is not necessarily bad, it just doesn't bode well for the owner if they ever encounter an especially rough hail storm.
All it takes is a bit of research to find a durable solar panel that's tough enough to weather the storm.
Install Them in a Way that Makes Them Adjustable
By installing the solar panels this way, they can be tilted at an angle that would allow the hail to hit them in a manner that is unlikely to cause damage. The key to this is to know exactly when the hail storm will occur so that there's time to prepare, which can easily be done by watching out for weather forecasts.
This is also a useful way of clearing pigeons out from underneath the panels.
Solar panel protective covers are great for protecting the panels against anything that might damage them, be it hail or debris.
There are different types of protective covers, some of them are made to block out the sun to keep the solar panels from overheating, and others are made to keep animals out. It's important to differentiate between them and get the proper protective cover for your solar panel.
What to Do If Your Solar Panel Gets Damaged By Hail
Most home insurance policies include solar panels in their coverage, so taking care of the damage is as easy as making an insurance claim. The downside to this is that some insurance policies exclude damage caused by hail or wind from their coverage.
Aside from that, there's also the option of getting a separate or add-on insurance policy for your solar panels. The cost of this coverage would depend on the size of your solar panel system.
Solar panel warranties come in the form of an equipment and performance guarantee. Damage caused by environmental factors can also form part of the panel's warranty, this includes damage caused by hail. The problem with this is that not all solar panel warranties include environmental factors.
The warranty on your solar panels can also be declared null and void if it was not installed by a certified solar installer. This is why it's important to do research on the panels before purchasing them. It’s also important to keep your solar panels well-maintained so there’s no risk that you could accidentally void your warranty.
For someone living in a region that's prone to heavy hail storms, it's best to find a solar panel with a warranty that covers hail damage.
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