Ordinarily, your solar panels do not need solar panel protective covers. But sometimes, to protect solar panels from hail and other adverse weather conditions, solar panel protective covers may be necessary. A solar panel cover is also useful in conditions where overload and animals like birds may damage solar panels.
There are various types of solar panel covers. Each one works differently and comes in various sizes. But the solar panel protective cover you opt for ultimately depends on how you intend to protect your solar panels.
For one, if you intend to keep birds from nesting under your rooftop solar panels, a bird mesh solar panel cover would be perfect. But when protecting solar panels from hail or other harsh weather conditions, polymer coating and hard shell covers would do. Then if you are trying to prevent overload/overheating, any cover that blocks solar rays from reaching the surface of the solar system would work fine.
Types of Solar Panel Protective Covers
One of the most common materials used to protect solar panels is a polymer called methacrylate.
Methacrylate strongly resists hail. It also offers some protection against damages that may come from high winds and rain.
There are two ways to apply methacrylate as a protective cover for your solar panels:
- Lay a thin layer of methacrylate over the panel.
- Spray methacrylate on the glass surface of the panels.
The thin-layer method is pretty straightforward. However, the spray method requires some calculation. If you are spraying methacrylate on the surface of your solar panels, you must ensure you spray just enough methacrylate.
If you apply insufficient methacrylate, the panels will not get enough protection. On the flip side, if the methacrylate is excessive, it will hamper system performance. So, ensure you find a midpoint.
As long as you apply it to your solar panels correctly, methacrylate is one of the best solar panel protective covers. Besides offering a high level of protection against adverse weather, it is relatively inexpensive.
Hard Shell Cover
Hard shell covers offer some of the most effective protection for solar systems. They offer long-term protection, and as their name implies, they are typically sturdy enough to resist impacts of various intensities.
Hard shell covers are installed above the solar panels. So they can block sunlight from reaching the panels. However, they have a shutter-like design or a mounting system. So, they can open and close them when you want.
Hard shell covers are made of aluminum. So, they are impact-resistant and water-resistant. However, when installing solar panels with hard shell covers, you must be cautious. Aluminum can conduct electricity, so take all precautions to ensure you do not get an electric shock.
Solar Protective Cover Alternatives
Some small birds typically prepare nests underneath solar panels. But then, this is not really okay as birds may damage solar panels by scratching the surface with their claws.
Solar panels covered in scratches – whether visible or hard-to-see scratches – experience a drop in their ability to absorb solar energy. Consequently, their electric energy production drops. Of course, this is undesirable.
Besides scratching the surface of the solar energy panels, some curious birds may peck at the cables that run from the solar panel system into your house. With sufficient force, they may damage such cables.
To keep birds away from your solar panels, you could install roof spikes around them. The spikes will deter the birds from landing on your roof and building nests under the panels.
Bird Wire Mesh
Besides roof spikes, bird meshes are another way to keep birds away from your solar panels. In fact, you can use both methods for more effectiveness.
Bird meshes used to protect solar panels are installed in a way that allows them to shield the sides and undersides of the panels. With these spots covered, birds can no longer nest under the panels. Of course, if they cannot nest under the panel, you are unlikely to find them around the panels. And if they do not come around your solar panels, they cannot damage the panels.
Tarpaulin sheets are one of the inexpensive solar panel protective cover options. You can use them to protect panels from overheating, inclement weather, and birds.
To protect your solar panel with a tarpaulin sheet, you basically have to lay the sheet over the surface of the panel and secure it. Once you do this, the tarp will offer some cushion against hail damage and serve as a barrier against birds. Also, it will block the sun from reaching the panels, preventing overheating.
The thickness of the tarpaulin sheet you use to protect your solar panels is vital. If you use a thin sheet, it may not offer sufficient protection against hail balls. But with thicker sheets, you get more protection.
While tarpaulin sheets may offer some protection to solar panels, you should only use them temporarily.
Tarpaulin, plywood sheets, cardboard, plastic sheets, blankets, and other inexpensive solar panel protective cover alternatives do not offer maximum protection. So, while you can use them for some time, you need actual solar panel covers for effective protection.
If you own an RV with a solar panel on it, you can use plexiglass to protect the panel from hail damage and other sources of damage.
RV owners typically use plexiglass as a permanent protective layer. Thankfully, it is transparent, so the sun’s rays still gets to the panel’s solar cells, allowing it to generate electricity.
While plexiglass protects panels well, it may become less penetrable to solar rays as it gets old. Cracks and scratches, for one, may reduce its transparency to sunlight.
Sun covers are another inexpensive-but-temporary solar protective cover alternative. You can use them pretty much the same way you would use a tarpaulin sheet. But while they may protect against debris, overload, and birds, they may not do much against inclement weather.
How to Install Solar Panel Covers
The installation process for solar panel covers depends on the type of cover. But generally, when installing screens or screen-like covers, place them along the upper side of the panel’s legs. So, when you need to cover the panel, you could roll the screen down. Then when you want the panel uncovered, you could roll the screen up.
To install hard shell covers, all you have to do is follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Hard shell covers come with their own mounting system and instructions on how to install them.
If you are applying methacrylate spray to your solar panel, you should get any dust and debris off the panel before application. The manufacturer may offer additional application instructions on the spray can.
All in all, when installing solar panel covers, take precautions – especially against electric shock. You should be extra careful if your panels produce more than 48volts and are connected in series.
Ways to Protect Solar Panels
Besides using solar panel protective covers or any of the alternatives we’ve mentioned, you can protect solar panels by doing the following:
Pay Attention to Weather Forecasts
One way to protect your solar panels is to pay attention to the weather forecast. The forecast gives you an idea of what to expect – whether the weather will be okay or harsh.
If the weather is harsh, you can make adequate preparations to protect your panels beforehand. But if the weather forecast does not indicate impending harshness, you have nothing to worry about.
Besides helping you prepare against bad weather, the weather forecast may help guide how you maintain your solar panels. For instance, if the forecast predicts a lot of rain, you may start preparing to maintain your solar panels because of the excess water.
In many cases, you have to consciously pay attention to weather forecasts. However, you may also get a solar panel system that has an inbuilt weather-monitoring app.
Install an Automatic Adjustable Mounting Frame/Angle System
Solar panels are mounted flat to expose them to as much sunlight as possible. But this mounting position also leaves them wide open to hail damage. Of course, if one were to incline the solar panel, it would be less prone to weather damage. But then, it would stop getting ample amounts of sunlight.
With an automatic angle system, you can readily toggle between leaving your solar panels exposed to the sunlight and inclining them to protect them from hail. The angle system also protects solar panels against overload.
Routine Cleaning and Inspection
Generally, solar panels are low-maintenance; you may go long periods without having to maintain them or run maintenance checks on them. But even at that, you should inspect your solar panels regularly; you never know when they may start getting weak and deteriorating.
If you can catch some damages early, you might be able to protect the panels from extensive damage.
Besides inspection, regular cleaning goes a long way in protecting your solar panels. For one, regular cleaning prevents dirt buildup, ensuring the panels’ continuous reception of solar energy.
You can inspect and clean your solar panels as often as you want. But generally, cleaning them 1-2 times a year should do.
If you are getting home insurance, check to see if the policy covers your solar panels. If it does, you are in luck.
An insurance policy that covers your solar panels ensures that you do not have to spend too much to repair, maintain, or replace your panels. So, while getting insurance may not protect solar panels directly, it protects homeowners from the huge costs of getting or repairing the panels.
Get the Right Panels
When buying solar panels, you will come across many options. However, do not just opt for anything; pay attention to the following:
- Ensure the panel you buy is hail test certified. The hail test certification is an indication of how well the panel will perform in hail.
- Ask around about the brand. If your neighbor or someone you know has the same brand of solar panel you intend to buy, ask them how the panel performed in heavy storms. Also, ask what they had to do to protect the panels in the intense weather.
- Check the records of the manufacturer and their warranty.
- Check the records of the installation company. If they’ve been in the business for a long while, their experience might be evident in the quality of the installation.
FAQs About Solar Panel Protective Covers
Do Solar Panels Work When They Are Covered?
When covered, solar panels can only work if the cover is made of transparent material.
Transparent materials allow solar rays travel through them. So, if you cover your solar panels with one, sunlight will eventually get to the photovoltaic cells of the panels, and they will work.
On the other hand, if the cover is not transparent, it will shut out sunlight. Hence, the solar panels will not work.
Do I Need to Cover My Solar Panels?
Solar panel manufacturers typically build their solar panels to withstand most extreme weather conditions. So, ordinarily, most solar panels may need no solar panel protective cover. But then, if you live in a region that experiences harsh weather conditions frequently, you may need to protect your solar panels with a cover.
Solar panel manufacturers usually ensure that their solar panels can resist impact from hail balls measuring up to 1 inch. But if you get bigger hail balls in your region, and they show up frequently, you need to cover your solar panels. If you don’t, the hail will damage them.
Are Solar Panels Susceptible to Damage by Hail?
Solar panels can get damaged by hail. However, their susceptibility to such damage is relatively low.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, less than 1 in 1000 solar panels get damaged by adverse weather. This is not too surprising: as said before, most manufacturers ensure their solar panels can resist most extreme weather.
Polymer coating and hard shields are two of the most common types of solar panel protective covers. However, you can find worthy alternatives in items like tarps, sun covers, roof spikes, and bird meshes.
Solar panel protective covers are generally easy to install and use. They are also very effective. However, you can protect your panels better if you buy the right panels, pay attention to the weather, inspect & clean the panel regularly, and install an automatic angle system.
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