Remove solar panel glass: Steps to Repair and Replace

If your solar panel is cracked, it is easier and safer to replace the panel rather than try to repair it. 

It is important to remove the glass as soon as possible to stop any possible damage to the solar cells.

In this blog we discuss:

  • What YouTube Videos about repairing broken solar panel glass do not tell you
  • Why you should replace defective solar panels rather than repair them.
  • What you really get when you repair an older panel. 

I will give you a step-by-step guide on how you can replace the glass properly.

Broken solar panel glass hands picking up broken glass

How to Remove Solar Panel Glass?

Do you need to remove the glass on a solar panel? If your solar panel has broken glass, two things can happen:

  1. Water or condensation can seep between the glass and the backing film. Water would disrupt the operation of the solar panel, and water is a bridge for electricity. A crack in your solar panel could cause arcing if water got inside, and that can lead to further damage, electrocution, and potentially even a fire. 
  2. The risk of broken glass working loose is higher. 

Several YouTube videos demonstrate how to repair the broken glass on a solar panel. But, sadly, they do not mention any performance of the panel before or after the repairs. That’s a critical flaw here. 

  • First, most solar panels have a 25-year warranty. So, broken or damaged panels would be replaced under warranty. 
  • Secondly, if you are buying used and broken solar panels because you don’t have them, you need to know what the solar panel can produce. A 25-year-old solar panel has degraded at about 1/2 percent of maximum energy production per year. 
  • Thirdly, repairing broken electrical components can be dangerous, especially when that component can create energy. 

What does it mean when a solar panel degrades? 

The efficiency of a solar panel translates into how much of the total amount of sunlight that strikes the surface the panel can capture.

For example, a solar panel with a 10% efficiency rating will only capture 10 percent of the sunlight that strikes its surface. That is a bad return on the investment.

On the other hand, if the solar panel has a 20 percent efficiency rating, it is first a high-efficiency panel, and it will capture 20 percent of the total sunlight that strikes its surface. 

On average, a solar panel degrades by 1/2 percent each year. So that 10 percent panel we used as an example would reduce to five percent output after just ten years of use. The 20 percent panel would degrade to around 15 percent output after a decade of use. 

So, the question is, ‘what are you repairing.” If you are repairing an old, worn panel, the payoff is not going to be great. The standard rule of electrical components is to replace rather than repair. Of course, there are exceptions, but only if they outweigh the risks. 

Can you replace the glass on a solar panel?

No, you cannot replace the glass on a solar panel, at least not without a significant investment. It would be much cheaper to replace the damaged solar panel with a new panel than replacing the glass.

Some solar panels are flushed sheets of silica. Removing a fused sheet of silica from another is nearly impossible. 

Online you see tutorials about repairing the glass, and those too are doubtful. One example uses poly film, and another paints the panel with polyurethane.

Is it worth is replacing the glass?

The idea in both examples is to reseal the solar panel to keep water from entering through the broken glass and keep the broken shards of glass in place. Is this worth it? It isn’t worth it for several reasons: 

  • It does not seem like it is worth it. An exception might be if the cracked glass involved only one or two of the solar cells. On a 24v solar panel, there are 72 solar cells. One of the more significant concerns is how much energy the panel can create after the resealing process. 
  • A crack in the glass of a solar panel would deflect some of the sunshine that struck the panel. That refraction would decrease the amount of energy the panel produces. If the damage is significant, then so is the reduction in energy production. If the damage is slight, then the drop in energy production may not be terrible.
  • One problem with all of this is the effect of shading on total energy production. If the solar array uses a string inverter, how the wiring for the string of panels occurs can limit the entire energy production of that string. If one panel drops energy production by 50%, then the energy from each panel in that string also drops. That’s not a good scenario. 
  • If the panel has a microinverter rather than being part of a string of panels tied to a string inverter, then the drop in energy from the damaged panel is restricted to the damaged panel. 

How do you safely remove a solar panel?

The only way to safely remove a solar panel is to power it down and disconnect it from the array. After that, you can turn off the solar connection and should.

Remember that solar panels are a circuit so that energy can flow away or towards the panel. 

If the panel is grid-tied, you will need to also stop the flow of energy from the grid in case it should flow in reverse and enter the panel.

With the solar connections turned off, you can safely disconnect the wiring. Be sure to use a voltage regulator to ensure that the power is off. 

How do you repair the glass on a solar panel?

There are examples of using poly film and polyurethane to repair the glass. These two examples do seal the unit so that water cannot get inside the panel and prevent shards of glass from dislodging.

However, they do not repair the glass. Underneath the glass remains cracked. 

Is there glass in solar panels?

Yes. Solar panels have tempered glass, which is much stronger than regular glass. Tempered glass is also used in automobiles. However, when it breaks, it tends to shatter into small cubes. 

How do you fix a broken solar panel?

The best way to fix a solar panel with broken glass is to replace it. Most solar panels are under warranty, and the standard warranty is generally for 25-years.

If there is another issue with the solar panel, such as a bad microinverter, you would still replace the panel. Many microinverters are installed at the factory level and are considered not repairable. 

Can I repair solar panels?

In some cases, you can repair a solar panel. For example, if a rodent chewed the wiring harness, you could replace the harness. If the glass is broken or cracked, it is best to replace the solar panel. 

Sources

Solar Panel Maintenance FAQ

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