To protect solar panels from hail, be aware of atmospheric conditions, keep your system clean and well-maintained, and understand panel ratings. Although most solar panels are tested against potential hail damage, hail ratings can vary depending on the type of solar panels installed.
Polycrystalline solar panels are more susceptible to hail damage than monocrystalline solar cells. Solar panel manufacturers include hail rating information on the datasheet included with each panel. When installing solar panels, remaining aware of the potential for extreme weather and severe hailstorms will help keep the solar energy systems in good shape.
You can employ several additional protective measures, including protective covers, adjustable mounting systems, keeping panels clean, and performing regular maintenance.
Hail Can be Devastating
The size of hail can vary from minuscule to the size of a softball, which can make a difference in the potential damage to solar panel systems. Find out when you need to protect solar panels from hail and when you can rely on well-constructed solar panels.
Weather Warning Signs — What to Look For
Predicting the weather is not always an accurate science. Although meteorologists do their best, they can be incorrect at times. Other times, you can’t monitor the weather, so knowing what to look for can help you protect your solar panels from severe weather conditions.
The type of cloud formation that produces hail is a cumulonimbus cloud. These are vertical clouds with a fanned and flattened top, often resembling an anvil. Although not always hail-producing, this type of cloud formation is the first sign of adverse weather conditions. Other warning signs are:
- The thickness of clouds
- Electrical activity (lightning) within the cloud
- Presence of heavy rainfall/high precipitation or humidity
- Slight green coloration within the clouds
Areas That Are Prone to Hail Storms
Although hail storms can occur anywhere, they are more common in areas of the Midwest and Great Plains regions. Because they are landlocked and meet other specific criteria, the area where Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska meet is highly prone to hailstorms, earning it the nickname of Hail Alley. The number of hailstorms that affect Cheyenne, Wyoming often reaches 10 or more per year.
Hailstorms are most common during the late spring through early fall, between May and September. This is when atmospheric conditions are aligned, with thunderstorm clouds having a high moisture content and rising high enough to freeze. Hail storms are often preceded by a sudden decrease in the ground air temperature brought by a cold front.
Hail Ratings for Solar Panels
They test solar panels to determine how well they can withstand damage from hailstorms and other extreme weather conditions. The information regarding the results of this testing is normally noted in the datasheet or other documentation that accompanies solar panels.
In the case of hail, testing involves shooting ice balls at the tempered glass on a solar panel. The test ice is about the size of a ping pong ball, and they are hurling at approximately 50 to 70 miles per hour (mph). This test attempts to replicate the size, force, and velocity of hail during a moderate storm.
Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail Storms?
Yes, solar panels are capable of withstanding damage from hailstorms. During the manufacturing process, solar panels are subject to rigorous testing. The quality assurance program is monitored within the industry.
Because renewable energy sources can be expensive, it is good to know that solar manufacturers are interested in producing a quality product that stands up well to adverse weather conditions.
Minimum standards call for testing solar panels submit panels to hail up to one inch in diameter with a falling speed of about 50 mph. When a solar panel passes these standards, it is certified.
Consistency in Manufacturing Standards
In 2011, the International Photovoltaic Quality Assurance Task Force (PVQAT) was established. This task force standardized testing criteria for solar panels. By maintaining guidelines on testing, customers purchasing solar energy systems can assure that their panels are of uniform construction and quality.
In addition to general testing against weather, they also test solar panels for mechanical stress, temperature gradients, ultraviolet radiation, humidity, and electrical stress. The foundational supports that are provided by the PVQAT are:
- Design qualification — assuring that panels are designed for the climate they are used in.
- Quality assurance management — verifying that panels are uniformly constructed.
- Overall system quality — inspection protocols to ensure proper installation, design, and operational efficiency.
By maintaining consistency in the manufacturing and inspection of solar panels, consumers can assure that their investment will last years.
Is Hail Damage Covered by Home Insurance?
Yes, in most cases, solar panels damaged by hail are covered within the provisions of your standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Once installed, a solar energy system is considered a permanent fixture, much like shingles and siding, but that doesn’t mean you will be covered automatically.
They recommend that you discuss adding solar panels with your insurance company. Some insurance companies may have specific equipment requirements or require a rider policy or addendum to your existing policy. It is best to know their exact provisions before signing your installation contract.
Advantages/Disadvantages With Leased Solar Panels
If you have leased solar panels, maintenance and repairs are the company’s responsibility that owns the solar panels. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of leased solar panels since many people don’t realize this may be an option. Solar leases are not available everywhere.
There are two ways to lease solar panel systems. The first is an outright lease, where the leasing company maintains ownership of the system regardless of how long the lease is active. The second is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), where you pay a third party for the power produced by the installed system. With a PPA, the third party maintains ownership of the solar power system.
- No high dollar investment
- The lease includes repairs and maintenance
- Regular Lease program — Standardized monthly payment
- PPA Only — Payments based on the power produced by the system
- Savings are not as high as with a purchased system
- 20-year lease contracts are typical
- PPA — Costs can increase over the duration of the contract reducing savings
One advantage of a leased system is maintenance and repair. Because you don’t own the system, the problem of how to protect solar panels from hail falls on the leasing company.
Protecting Solar Panels From Hail Damage
Solar panels do have tempered glass, but they can shatter under the right circumstances. If you have ever driven through a parking area after a hailstorm, you have undoubtedly observed shattered car windows. Although front windows are laminated glass, side and rear windows are tempered glass.
Even though solar panels are resistant to hail damages, it may be necessary to provide additional protection.
Use Protective Covers
They design solar panel protective covers are temporary cloth covers to protect solar panels from light debris and avoid scratching. Although many solar panel protective covers are available, they are not very effective in protecting solar panels from hail.
The downside of using a protective cover is that it may decrease solar energy production because it diffuses sunlight. This type of coverage is also subject to sun damage over time, which will deteriorate the material.
A secondary option is to install a Plexiglas shield over your solar energy array.
Add a Layer of Methacrylate (Plexiglas)
Although solar panels are pretty resilient against the vast majority of bad weather, investing in additional hail protection might be helpful if you are in an area prone to large hail storm activity. Adding a Plexiglas shield will also protect solar panels from extreme rain, high winds, and other storm activity.
Methacrylate is a clear polymer plastic that will create a highly waterproof and strong cover to protect PV modules against many storm conditions, regardless of the severity. Because they are clear, full sunlight can reach the surface of the solar panels. This allows continued energy production and is a cost-effective method to help your solar panels withstand hail storm conditions.
Install Adjustable Support Structures
If you know that you are in an area subject to heavy rain, hail, and other weather conditions, you can opt to install adjustable support structures with your solar power system. The additional cost of adjustable supports is worth the investment, especially with a roof array.
Adjustable supports allow you to remotely adjust the slant of your solar panels on your roof to a vertical position. This exposes less surface area to potential hail damage from bad weather. Adjustable supports also allow you to make seasonal adjustments to angle the surface of your solar panels for the changing direction of winter sunlight.
Another advantage is that the angle allows water to flow quickly off panels during strong winds and heavy rains.
Being aware of potential storms will help you to protect your solar panels from hail.
Stay Aware of Pending Storms
Most people check their local weather forecast regularly. We use the daily and extended forecast to plan family gatherings, sports outings, and outdoor activities. But the weather forecast is also an integral tool to protect solar panels from hail.
There are weather apps for your phone, and constant updates are available online. Most weather apps also offer text alerts that advise you of serious conditions that may affect your solar panels.
You know the cliche about an ounce of prevention, so we’ll recommend finding a good phone app and staying aware of any incoming storm that may affect your roof solar panels.
Keep Panels Clean
Part of protecting solar panels from hail and other potential damage is keeping your panels clean. While rain keeps dust off solar panels fairly well, they also collect bird droppings, grime, soot, and other contaminants.
To remove contaminants, you should clean the solar panels with soap and a soft brush periodically. While you can hire a professional, you can also perform this task independently with the right equipment.
Cleaning robots are available but can be an expensive addition for a homeowner. They design this technology for commercial solar systems and solar farms where multiple cleaning robots optimize energy production.
Schedule Regular Checks by a Certified Technician
Schedule regular maintenance checks twice yearly to keep your solar panels producing energy. Certified technicians can identify, repair, or replace a damaged panel before it harms your energy production.
A technician can test the power output and the overall condition, including the surface of each panel. They will make recommendations on whether you should repair or replace a panel.
How to Handle Damaged Panels (Don’t)
If you notice damage or cracked surface area on a solar panel during a visual inspection after a storm, please immediately contact a technician. The best way to handle a damaged panel is DON’T. At least not until you study up on how to test solar panels.
Making a wrong move during testing or connecting your solar panels could cause more damage. Having a technician evaluate the damage will provide you with a written estimate for your insurance claim.
File a Claim With Your Insurance Provider
Once you have your written estimate, contact your insurance company. The adjuster should assist you in the process to make sure that they repair or replace your panels. Depending on the provisions of your policy, you may have to pay a deductible before the insurance pays or reimburse the remaining balance.
Have the Damaged Panels Repaired or Replaced
Having repairs or replacements done by a certified technician is the best route. They will assure you that the repair will restore the full operation of the panel or that a replacement solar panel will match the wattage of your other panels.
Safety and Recycling
While you can’t always know when a hail storm will happen, you can take precautions before a potential storm. Being mindful of weather systems can help you protect your solar panels from hail before any damage occurs.
If you choose to inspect and maintain your solar panels on your own, please remember safety. Always have a second person near while you troubleshoot, repair, or replace a panel in your array. Remember that your roof can be slippery, even when dry.
They design and test solar panels to withstand many severe storm conditions, but you should inspect each event. If you replace panels, please recycle the broken panels.
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