Will Hail Damage Solar Panels?

Will hail damage solar panels?

Hail storms can cause significant damage to buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure, including solar panels. As solar energy continues to grow in popularity for homes and businesses, understanding how hail impacts solar panels is important for system owners. Hailstones, which are lumps of ice created in strong thunderstorms, are capable of denting metal, breaking glass, and damaging the exterior of solar panels.

Large hail, over 1 inch in diameter, poses the greatest risk of causing costly damage to solar arrays. While most solar panels are durable, a direct hit from large falling hail can crack the glass surface or dent aluminum frames. Even small cosmetic damage can degrade a solar panel’s performance.

This article will examine how hail damages solar equipment, assess the likelihood of hail damage in different regions, and provide tips on protecting panels and making repairs. With some preventative measures and prompt inspections after storms, solar panel owners can mitigate much of the potential harm from hail impacts.

How Hail Damages Solar Panels

Hail can cause substantial physical damage to solar panels in a variety of ways. The high-velocity impact from hailstones can crack or shatter the glass covering the solar cells. Even small hailstones traveling at high speeds can cause hairline fractures in the glass that are not visible to the naked eye. These cracks disrupt the panel’s ability to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.

Larger hailstones can dent metal framing and mounting equipment, compromising the structural integrity of the overall solar array installation. Hail-related dents and deformation of the panel frame can make it difficult to properly seal and waterproof the panel. Frame damage also stresses internal components, which can eventually lead to cracking or detachment from the frame.

In addition to external glass and frame damage, hailstones can damage the photovoltaic cells and electrical components inside the panel. The shock of impact can crack individual solar cells or detach them from electrical connections. This type of internal damage is difficult to detect from visual inspection alone. However, it negatively affects power output and can lead to complete solar panel failure over time if left unaddressed.

According to SolarReviews.com (https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/solar-panel-hail-damage-what-you-need-to-know), the Department of Energy warns that solar cell cracking can occur at hail sizes and speeds below that which causes visible glass damage. So even relatively minor hailstorms have the potential to degrade solar panel performance and longevity.

Likelihood of Hail Damage

The likelihood of hail damage to solar panels varies greatly by region. According to a U.S. Department of Energy report, the central United States experiences the highest frequency of large hail. Texas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming see the most hailstorms with hail over 1 inch in diameter. The eastern U.S. also experiences significant hailstorms, especially in states like Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee. Western states like California rarely see damaging hail.

In areas prone to hail, higher watt solar panels typically come with strengthened glass that provides increased impact resistance. Most solar panel manufacturers offer some hail damage protection through their warranties, often for 5-10 years. Regional weather patterns are factored into warranty terms. For example, a European study found that warranties in regions with high hail frequency may exclude hail damage coverage entirely.

Protecting Panels from Hail

There are several methods that can help protect solar panels from hail damage. One option is to apply a protective film or coating over the panels. Companies like 3M make durable protective films that can absorb the impact from hailstones. These films can be professionally installed over existing solar panels. Alternatively, some solar panel manufacturers offer hail-resistant glass options that are up to 200 times stronger than standard glass.

Adjusting the tilt angle of solar panels can also help deflect hailstones. Angling panels at least 25 degrees allows hail to bounce off rather than accumulating. Sturdier aluminum or steel mounting systems and stronger panel frames can prevent hail damage as well. Periodically inspecting mounting hardware for looseness or weakness is recommended.

For homes in extreme hail risk areas, completely covering panels with protective canopies, awnings or carports is an option. Though this reduces light access, it offers maximum protection from hail and debris.

Inspecting for Hail Damage

It’s important to regularly inspect your solar panels for any signs of hail damage. Here are some tips on what to look for:

First, visually inspect the panels from the ground if possible. Look for any obvious dents, cracks or holes in the glass or aluminum framing. Small dimples or fractures in the glass can indicate hail impact. You may need binoculars for a close inspection if the panels are on a roof or tall mounting structure (1)

Check the underside of panels for signs of backsheet punctures or tears which can be caused by hailstones striking from the front. This may require temporarily removing a panel for inspection (1).

Inspect the aluminum frames for any dents, bending or cracks which can impede proper glass support and panel drainage (2).

Pay close attention to panel edges and any exposed junction boxes which are the most vulnerable parts of a panel. Damage here can expose internal components (3).

Monitor your inverter for any system alerts or production losses as this can also indicate panels have been compromised by hail strikes (1, 2).

Being proactive with regular inspections and maintenance will help detect any hail-related issues before they escalate into major solar system problems or safety hazards.

Repairing Hail Damage

In the event that your solar panels do sustain hail damage, there are repair and replacement options to consider. The severity of the damage will determine whether repairs or full panel replacements are necessary.

For minor damage like small dings or cracks, repairs may be a good option. Solar panel manufacturers can often provide replacement parts like covers, frames or glass to fix individual items that were damaged. The repair costs will depend on the extent of the fixes needed, but are typically much less than full replacements. Repairs can usually be completed within 1-2 weeks.

If the internal solar cells are damaged or the panels are cracked through multiple layers, then full panel replacement will be required. This involves removing the broken panels and installing brand new ones in their place. The cost for replacements can range from $200-500 per panel on average. The project may take 1-3 weeks depending on system size.

It’s recommended to get professional solar installers to handle any major repairs or replacements, as they will have the expertise to properly select new parts, maintain safety, and get the system functioning optimally again. They can also determine if any underlying mounts, wiring or inverters were affected as well.

Home insurance policies may help cover repair or replacement costs for hail damaged solar panels. Check your policy or contact your provider to find out if this type of damage is included. This can alleviate the financial burden if your system does require significant fixes after a major hail storm.

Preventing Future Hail Damage

There are several ways to help minimize potential future hail damage to solar panels:

Strategic panel placement – Position panels in areas less susceptible to direct hail strikes, such as under patio covers or adjacent to chimneys and walls which can help deflect hail. South-facing rooftop arrays are often most exposed.

Install protective coverings – Add sturdy transparent covers over the panels to absorb and deflect hailstone impacts. Products like solar shingles or standing seam metal roofs can also help shield panels.

Weather monitoring – Use weather tracking apps and warnings to monitor for upcoming storms. This allows time to take protective measures like angling panels or covering with tarps.

Robust mounting – Secure panels firmly to racks and frames designed for hail resistance using multiple attachment points. This helps minimize vibration from hailstones.

Routine inspection – Frequently check panels for any damage after storms. Early detection allows for quicker repairs before extensive issues arise.

Consider hail-resistant panel models – Some manufacturers now produce impact-resistant solar panels rated to withstand one-inch hail at terminal velocity speeds [1]. Upgrading to these types of panels can prevent hail penetrations.

With proactive precautions, homeowners can help safeguard their solar installations against potential hail events and minimize risks of damage.

Hail Damage Costs

The cost to repair or replace solar panels damaged by hail can vary widely depending on the extent of the damage, type of solar panels, and other factors. According to research, the average cost to repair hail damage on solar panels is around $809, but can range from $223 to $1,442 or more per system [1].

To replace an entire solar panel system that has been damaged by hail, costs typically start around $10,000 and can exceed $20,000 for large home installations, based on professional estimates. Factors like the number of panels needing replacement, roof repairs, and electrical work can all impact the total costs.

When filing an insurance claim for hail-damaged solar panels, coverage will depend on your specific policy. Most homeowners insurance covers hail damage, but may have deductions like your policy deductible. With solar panels, the equipment may be covered but the labor for repairs may not be, so review your policy details. Some additional solar panel insurance can help cover these gaps.

Maintaining Hail Damaged Panels

If your solar panels suffer hail damage, there are some tips for safely operating and maintaining them while minimizing further issues:

Inspect the panels regularly for new cracks or damage that may allow moisture inside. This can cause corrosion or short circuits over time. Carefully clean any debris off the panels after a hailstorm.

Avoid putting too much stress or weight on damaged panels as this can worsen existing cracks. Be gentle when cleaning or making repairs.

Check electrical connections to make sure insulation isn’t damaged and connections are secure. Moisture can cause issues over time.

Consider covering panels with clear silicone or other sealants to fill cracks and prevent water getting inside. This may extend the life of mildly damaged panels.

Generally, hail damaged panels can still generate electricity safely as long as active leaks, corrosion and short circuits are prevented through proper maintenance.

If damage is severe, have a solar professional inspect to determine if panel replacement is required for safety or performance.

Conclusion

Hail can cause significant damage to solar panels, but there are ways to protect them. Inspect panels regularly for any signs of cracks or dents from hail impacts. Immediately repair any damaged panels to prevent issues like water intrusion. Install protective coverings on panels in hail-prone areas to help absorb impacts. Maintain panels by cleaning off any hail residue so they can operate at peak efficiency. While hail damage is an unfortunate possibility for solar panel systems, taking proactive preventative measures can help minimize both the likelihood and extent of any damage. Protecting solar investments through proper hail mitigation helps ensure your system keeps functioning smoothly for years to come.

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