Solar panels represent a significant investment. Figuring out how to protect solar panels from hail is part of protecting that investment. Large hail that dents cars and breaks through vehicle windshields can damage all types of solar panels.
You have several different options for protecting your solar panels from hail. The options vary in cost and convenience, but the right one will let you preserve your panels without interfering with the energy they produce.
In this article, we’ll look at solar panel ownership and what you need to know to keep your panels working at top efficiency for years, including:
- How to protect solar panels from hail
- Which options are most convenient
- Whether you need to buy insurance for your solar panels
- How to protect your solar panels from other types of damage
- How to maintain your panels and protect your investment
Many protection options are inexpensive and easy to use, especially compared to the cost and hassle of repairing or replacing expensive solar panels.
How Do You Protect Solar Panels From Hail Storms?
A combination of preventative measures can protect your solar panels from hail storms more than a single method. The options you can use to protect your solar panels from hail include:
- Adjustable installation
- Removable protective covers
- Protective coating
- Wire mesh
Hail can damage and destroy your expensive solar panels, so you should consider hail protection a necessary part of your investment in green energy.
Use one or more of these strategies to protect your solar panels.
You can’t install solar panels vertically and expect maximum energy from them. They need to face up to absorb the most UV rays, but you can turn them so that hail hitting them doesn’t hit straight on.
Angling the panels at 45 degrees so that hail can slide off as it hits offers some degree of protection while still allowing them to create energy. Bad hailstorms or particularly large hailstones can still do considerable damage to slightly angled solar panels.
By mounting solar panels on poles instead of directly on a roof, you can adjust the angle anytime it’s necessary. When you know a hail storm is coming or the weather offers the potential for large hail, you can turn pole-mounted panels vertically to avoid hailstones striking the surface.
If the solar panels were installed correctly, changing their position this way shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. This method won’t do much to protect against surprise hailstorms, but it’s helpful on days where you know the potential for storms exists.
Automatic Panel Changing Systems
Automatic panel changing systems let you turn the panels without going outside. While convenient, the system can add a thousand dollars or more per panel to the total cost of the installation.
The benefit is that you can adjust the angle of the panels through remote control and even turn them when a hail storm starts to minimize the damage.
This system is probably the most expensive option for protecting your solar panels from hail storms, but it may be one of the most convenient.
Protective Cover for Solar Panels
Look for covers that advertise hail protection. Not all covers can protect against the impact of hailstones. Sturdy covers will absorb the impact of hail to protect both the surface and the solar cells within your panels.
If potentially hail-producing thunderstorms are coming to your area, you’ll need to go outside and put the covers on the panels to protect them. While the covers are on, sunlight can’t get through, so the panels won’t work.
Protective covers might be a good affordable option for days when your batteries have full charges, but it’s not very convenient unless you only have one or two small panels and you’re at home to cover them before the hail starts.
Protective Coating for Solar Panels
You can have a qualified solar company apply a layer of methacrylate to the panels. This polymer coating forms a hard, durable surface that offers protection. The effect is the same as a screen protector on your smartphone.
A plexiglass panel is also an option for covering the glass panel. The plexiglass can absorb much of the impact of hailstones. While it might get damaged in a serious hail storm, replacing the plexiglass is cheaper and easier than repairing or replacing a solar panel.
A drawback is the cost of plexiglass and how it could get hot enough to damage the solar cells beneath it. Whether it’s a good option depends on your local climate and high temperatures.
Your solar panel manufacturer or installer can help you choose the best option for your region and climate.
The most inexpensive option for protecting solar panels from hail is wire mesh. Some people mount mesh above the solar panels and secure every side so that it withstands large hailstones and doesn’t give enough to touch the panels.
The materials are inexpensive, and these wire screens are a convenient way to protect your investment. Hailstones small enough to get through the holes in the wire mesh aren’t likely to cause damage.
How Much Hail Can Solar Panels Handle?
You might think that glass panels are easy to break or shatter at the slightest impact. The good news is that solar panels are incredibly sturdy.
Tempered glass is much stronger than standard glass and protects the solar cells of these panels very well. Solar panels can withstand hailstorms, and damage from hail is relatively rare.
Most damaging hail measures 1 inch or larger in diameter. Ping pong ball-sized or larger hail has much more potential to do damage than smaller hailstones, but even large hail doesn’t automatically mean that your panels will be damaged.
Plastic panels are even more unlikely to be damaged by anything but incredibly large hailstones.
Plastic Solar Panels
While most solar panels contain photovoltaic cells made from silicon and a layer of glass, some new ones are thin panels that contain amorphous silicon solar cells and a plastic layer instead of glass.
These plastic-covered solar panels are less likely to be damaged by hail because plastic is more flexible. The panels cost less than glass, but they’re also slightly less efficient at producing energy.
How Easy Do Solar Panels Break?
Solar cells are thin and extremely fragile on their own. When they’re packaged into the panel with tempered glass or plastic on top of them, they can withstand much more impact and pressure.
Solar panels can stand up to most hailstorms, a ball hitting them, and other ordinary impacts.
Even if the glass or plastic covering doesn’t break, however, hard impacts or weight such as someone kneeling or walking on a panel can damage the solar cells inside. It’s best to avoid any weight or impact against the surface of a solar panel.
Can Solar Panels Be Destroyed by Hail?
Whether you use glass or plastic solar panels, hail can damage and destroy them. Solar panel repairs can be costly, even if they only fix cracks or chips in the glass surface.
Hail that damages the solar cells beneath the glass can damage the panel enough that it needs replacement.
What Can Damage a Solar Panel?
Solar panel damage can come from:
- Dirt and debris
- Poor handling
All kinds of extreme weather conditions that can damage homes and cars can damage solar panels. High winds, hail, and lightning can wreak havoc on a solar array in the same way they can damage roofs, siding, trees, and vehicles.
Rain can damage panels that aren’t sealed properly or have a seal degraded over time. Debris like fallen twigs, branches, and leaves can also scratch the surface.
Poor installation, dropping, and stepping or kneeling on panels can damage the delicate solar cells inside.
Squirrels and birds like pigeons can scratch the surface. They also like to nest beneath the solar panels and can damage the wires.
How Can I Protect My Solar Panels?
In addition to the methods listed above, good maintenance will protect your solar panels. Get an expert inspection at least every year or two to ensure your panels are in proper working order.
Between those inspections, you can do a few things to help keep your panels working well.
Keep Solar Panels Clean
Keeping the panels clean to avoid debris or dirt from damaging the surface is part of the necessary maintenance for solar panels. Clean solar panels are more energy-efficient, too.
You can do this yourself with water, a soft brush, and Windex or a glass cleaner made for solar panels, but it’s safer to hire an expert occasionally if your panels are roof-mounted. For occasional DIY cleaning, a hose used from ground level will wash away dirt and debris.
How To Protect Solar Panels From Rain
Solar panels don’t need protection from the rain because they’re sealed and waterproof, like your home’s windows. When you have your panels inspected, they’ll check the seals to ensure they’re intact to protect the solar cells from rain and dirt.
How To Protect Solar Panels From Stones
With the methods outlined above, you can protect the panels from hailstones, rocks thrown by kids, or anything that might get dropped by squirrels or other wildlife. A simple wire mesh covering will defend against most of these problems.
Solar Panel Protection From Birds and Other Wildlife
You have a few options to protect your solar panels from animals, and they’re all relatively inexpensive.
- Bird spikes installed on the roof prevent birds from landing and perching on the rooftop and the solar panels.
- Plastic decoys that look like birds of prey will scare away pigeons and other birds.
- You can wrap wire mesh around the edge of the solar panels to keep animals from getting underneath and nesting or chewing wires.
- Removing food sources like bird feeders will make your yard less attractive for all types of wildlife.
Can Solar Panels Be Insured?
If the solar panels are on your roof, your homeowner’s insurance should cover them as part of the dwelling. Before you make that assumption, contact your insurance company and ask about their coverage policies.
You should also ask about your roof insurance coverage. You may need special insurance because some insurance companies won’t cover the part of your roof beneath a solar array.
In some cases, particularly in areas with many damaging wind storms or hail, you may need to change the claim amounts on your insurance policy, which could increase your payments.
You’ll also want to make sure that your rooftop system is professionally installed. Installing solar panels on your own is not a DIY project. Professional installation ensures that the panels are properly mounted to protect your roof and the array.
Solar Panel Insurance
If your solar panels aren’t on your rooftop, where they count as part of the home for insurance purposes, you may need a separate solar panel insurance policy.
Your insurance company will probably be able to issue a separate rider for the solar panels.
The company where you purchase the solar panels may also have suggestions if your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover the solar panels for some reason.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to protect solar panels from hail.
How to protect RV solar panels from hail?
RV solar panels are often factory-installed and can’t be angled or moved. A protective coating, removable covers, or wire mesh covers can protect the panels from hailstones.
What’s the best solar panel protective film?
Methacrylate is an organic polymer coating that protects the surface of the solar panel without blocking sunlight. Having it applied by experts is more cost-effective than using inch-thick plexiglass that blocks up to 10% of the sun.
Can I use a pressure washer on my solar panel?
No, you should never use a pressure washer to clean solar panels. The intense water pressure could damage the panels. Use a regular garden hose with an ordinary sprayer attachment.
Do solar panels need protection?
Solar panel protection is part of the cost of owning a solar array. Given the high cost of panels and installation, protection is necessary to keep them working for the estimated 25-30 years that they should provide green energy to your home.