Hail constitutes one of the most dangerous threats to investments on alternative energy sources such as solar panels.
Although people opt for solar panels because it is clean and cheaper, hail falls on unprotected solar panels reverse that advantage by breaking the panels and affecting the efficiency of the output. To know how to protect solar panels from hail damage, you need to know the measures through which you can protect your solar panels and enjoy the output to its maximum.
To protect your solar panels from hail, you need to firstly get a premium solar panel, use extra coating materials such as Methacrylate plates, use plexiglass protectors, set your solar panels on mobile or moveable sets, set your panel at an angle away from the hail, install solar cleaning robots and install your solar in shaded areas.
In this article I am going to take you through how hail can damage your solar panels and the safety measures to protect them from hail damage.
What is hail?
Hails are solid precipitates from the sky. They look like ice and come in different shapes and sizes, sometimes, even a baseball size and weighing up to half a pound or more.
The variation in sizes which they come determine how hard they fall. This also determines the level of their destruction when they fall.
Hailstones of the size of a dime can fall at 20 miles per hour, while those of the size of a baseball can fall at 3 to inches 3 and a half.
When there are thunderstorms and the air current comes rising, some significant droplets of water get forced and driven higher right into the atmosphere.
While in the high atmosphere, they harden and condense into ice. It is this condensed ice that falls in different sizes to the earth and hailstones.
In essence, the more water there is in the higher atmosphere or pushed there by air current, the more hailstones there are bound to be.
Imagine being hit by a baseball pitch by a professional baseball player. Yes, that’s how hard the hailstone comes when it does. Although it does not really kill human beings, it can lead to injuries, damages on crops and properties.
Now, what about owners of solar panels? How secure can they feel about their panels when hailstones fall? As a solar panel owner or an investor in solar panel, you would want me to answer this question:
Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?
Well, here we go. In Colorado where a few days in a year look more like the end of the world with heavy downpours and hailstones of different sizes, evidence has shown that hailstones can actually damage your solar panels.
Evidence has also shown that not all solar panels can be damaged by hailstones. It then becomes important that while you plan to buy your solar panel you make appropriate enquiries as to the kind of panel you are going for.
This also applies to those whose panels have been damaged and are thinking of a replacement.
So, why and how do hailstones damage solar panels?
Solar panels are built with glasses as their top coverage. These glasses or panels are expected to pass some tests confirming their ability to withstand impacts. Thus they are made to be strong.
One of the reasons why they are made strong is to be able to withstand the impact of hailstones particularly. Yet some of these panels get damaged by the same hailstones against which they are tested to withstand.
The simple reason for this is that existing testing has obviously become inadequate.
The International Electronic Commission (IEC) has set a minimum impact test which solar panel manufacturers are meant to pass before their products are declared worthy for use.
The issue however is that this minimum impact test is too easy for solar panel producers to pass without necessarily meeting up with the real impact level or pressure of hailstones.
The International Electronic Commission requires that solar panels certify the pressure of A 25-mm ice ball shot at it in eleven different points at 23 meters per second.
The module test is considered certified if it meets three conditions.
- First, the solar glass panel must not break.
- Second, power generated must not drop lower than five percent from the original output.
- And three, the panel must not leak water after the test
In Australia, the standard requires that solar panels are able to withstand the direct impact of hail stones measuring a diameter of 35mm or the size of a golf ball.
The fact, however, is that hailstones can fall heavier than the recommended standards by International Electronic Commission, and this is why it is possible to have your solar panels damaged by hail stones
The International Electronic Commission equally understands that hailstones can be heavier with their impacts than the minimum standards they set.
Thus, they have further tests of bigger ice balls projected at higher speeds to test for the ability to withstand more severe impacts.
This further test isn’t compulsory and is only at the choice and discretion of solar panel manufacturers to engage in voluntarily.
While some manufacturers may volunteer for this extra test, a greater majority only pass the minimum set standard and push their products to the market.
So essentially, while all solar panels can considerably withstand the impact of hail stones within the IEC’s recommended standards, hail stones heavier than the minimum standard can damage solar panels without improved or higher resistance than the minimum standard.
States like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming witness higher and more severe hail stones ranging between 44-mm to 51-mm, as against International Electronic Commission’s minimum standard of 25-mm.
These severe hail stones can damage your minimum certified solar panels.
How Does Hail Damage Affect Solar Panel Performance?
Physically, hail damage is usually seen on the panel. The panel shatters.
Beyond that however the performance or output of the solar panel can be further affected. The efficiency or performance of a solar panel is dependent on the number of its functional cells.
Advancement in technology has made the sizes of solar cells even thinner. The thinner the cells however, the easier it is to be affected. The thickness of a modern solar cell sits at 170 μm.
Imagine severe hails falling on your panel and leading to even cracks. There will be issues with the cells conducting currents. What results from this is low energy production.
Hail-shattered panels lead to cracks and cell imperfections. This leads to increased resistance that turns hot spots in the course of time.
Hail-damaged solar panels cause solar cells to be more vulnerable to weather attacks and further damages.
Once the understrength glass is damaged by hail, there will be a huge reduction in the light absorbed by the panel. Also foreign materials elements like water and dust will have easy access under the glass where they will cover solar cells and affect energy output.
Hail-shattered solar panels lead to poor quality supply of power from a damaged cell line. This leads to lamination or mismatch solar of cells. This affects solar performance, too.
How to confirm if your panel is damaged after hail
After hail occurs, you might be wondering whether your solar panel is affected or not. To confirm this
First, make a visual inspection. Take a distance from your solar panel stand and sight from afar if the panels are smashed.
Smashed or cracked solar panels are always more visible from a distance especially when the crack is quite faint.
Sometimes, the crack or damage can be so faint that you might not be able to see it. So the next step is to check your inverter.
Much hail damage on solar panels is always detected by your inverter. To confirm damages from the inverter, look at the inverter’s display screen for a red light signal.
If there are damages showing such as ground or earth faults, or there isn’t any indication of power being generated, then there might be an issue and you might need to contact your solar professional for further investigations.
How To Protect Solar Panels From Hail
Although the glasses of solar panels are built to withstand significant pressure and stress, the panels are still fragile. This means that when imparted by weigty materials or pressure such as hail, it is capable of being destroyed or shattered.
Each time a hailstorm happens, numerous solar panels get damaged. An annual accumulation of these damages on solar panels has been estimated to a loss of about twenty-two billion dollars annually
So it is necessary that you know exactly how you can protect your solar panels from hail damage. Here are some tips for you:
1. Get a standard panel
All panels are not built with the same strength or ability to withstand severe hail pressure.
While some simply pass the minimum standard test, others go the extra mile of taking extra tests.
Thus, since prevention is better than cure, it is better to get “hail tested” solar panels, especially those that can withstand hail up to one inch in diameter falling at 50 miles per hour.
Thin-film or amorphous photovoltaic panels are some of the strongest when it comes to this. It is a flexible plastic and is very resistant to hail and rock damage.
2. Use extra coating materials such as Methacrylate plates:
Except for thin-film plastic surface solar panels, most solar panels are fragile since they are made of glasses. The methacrylate plates can assist, if properly used, to further coat the surface of the glass solar plate and strengthen the resistance level of the solar panel.
In doing this however, extra care has to be taken to ensure that the solar cells are not cracked, as cracked solar cells can affect performances.
3. Use plexiglass protectors
Plexi Glasses are also good fittings and shields for solar panels. An inch thick plexiglass is recommended and they should also be bigger than the solar panel. Make sure also that a space is left between your solar panel and the plexiglass so that no crack is sustained.
4. Follow weather forecast
The coming of hail, just like rainfall and other weather related occurrences, are predictable by weathermen and forecasters.
All you need to do is subscribe to some trusted sites which will update you ahead of time of hail occurrence. With this update, you can monitor if your solar panel is properly adjusted or is at a high risk of being damaged by hail.
Thus, subscribing to weather tips and following weatherman’s advice will help you take some proactive measures against hail.
5. Set your solar panels on mobile or moveable sets
If you live in States with a high risk of hail occurrences, it is very much advisable that you set your solar panels on mobile or moveable sets. This will enable you to act once you are alerted by the weatherman on the possibility of hail occurrence. All you would need to do is simply move or shift your solar set to a safe area or place and move it back after the hail.
6. Set your panel at an angle away from the hail
Having a professional fix your solar would get you covered on this. Hails have their angles at which they fall and professional weathermen know exactly how to set your solar panel to an angle that will deflect the fall and pressure of hail.
Solar panels are usually placed and mounted to face the south at angles 18° to 45° to deflect the natural course of hail.
Having your panels mounted at an angle less than this, say 10° will make your panels more vulnerable to hail damages.
7. Consider installing your solar panel in shaded areas
You might be wondering, how would solar panels work I’m shaded areas? Yes, ultra-modern solar panels can work in slightly shaded areas which can actually protect your panel from hails. All you need to do is to get the Most Efficient Solar Panels For Shaded Area and you are good to go.
8. Install solar cleaning robots
The solar cleaning robots are an amazing new technological breakthrough which assists you with a very small amount of water to clean your solar panels from possible particles from hail.
With the solar cleaning robots, you will have very little to worry about regarding hail particles or hail stones inflicting damages on your solar panel.
9. Install protective wire gauges
Using protective wire gauges is a very efficient and less stressful way of protecting your solar panel from hail damage. It is cheap and it doesn’t require you to do an extra job since sunlight can pass through a gauge to charge your panel efficiently.
In this article, I have taken you through the several ways you can protect your solar panel from hail.
While there are several means to protect your solar panels from hail, it is necessary that your choice of a measure to adopt is defined by the peculiar situation of your home or your panel and your budget.