How To Protect Solar Panels From Hail In 6 Steps
4 - Minute Read
PUBLISHED: Oct 20, 2022
Before making a major investment in your home by adding a photovoltaic (PV) system, you might be wondering how to protect your solar panels from hail.
Fortunately, solar panel manufacturers build modules with extreme weather in mind. For example, a storm hit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado with golf ball-sized hail in 2017. Out of more than 3,000 panels in the NREL array, only one broke. While that’s a commercial array, home solar arrays are also built to standards that set a good bar for resisting hail damage.
Let’s take a look at six steps you can take to ensure your home solar power system isn’t damaged in severe weather conditions.
Harness The Sun
1. Buy High-Quality Panels To Prevent Solar Panel Hail Damage
Not every solar panel can withstand hail impacts equally. Higher-quality solar panels might have a thick layer of tempered glass that will resist cracking and protect the internal components. Fortunately, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have ratings that can help you determine which PV modules are sturdier.
Modules with the UL 61730 or IEC 61730 should be able to handle the impact of a one- to three-inch hailstone traveling between 16.8 and 88.3 miles per hour.
2. Ensure That Your Panels Are Installed Correctly
Proper racking – or solar panel mounting hardware – will ensure that your system can withstand hail stones. By avoiding DIY solar installations and choosing a reputable installer, you can rest assured your system is more likely to endure extreme weather.
3. Check The Manufacturer’s Warranty
In some cases, reputable solar panel manufacturers offer warranties against storm damage. The scope of a warranty may be limited, though, so it’s best to ask your solar installer for specifics.
You might also ask your installer about their experiences working with solar panel manufacturers to help homeowners replace or repair solar panels damaged in hailstorms or other extreme weather like thunderstorms, snow or high winds.
4. Know Your Homeowners Insurance Policy Details
Checking with your homeowners insurance company about its solar panel policies is a good step. It’s common for homeowners insurance policies to cover rooftop solar panels because they’re considered a permanent attachment to your home. But panels mounted on carports or on the ground may not be covered, so be sure to verify that your policy covers the kind of panels you plan to install.
If your policy doesn’t cover PV arrays, you might be able to add coverage that will protect your investment.
Also, consider whether your policy covers accidents during the installation process, whether you’ll need additional insurance and whether you’ll need to raise your coverage limit for natural disasters.
5. Consider Smaller Modules
If you live in an area known for severe hailstorms, you might want to consider a solar energy system with smaller modules. If damaged, smaller modules might cost less to replace than larger ones. They can also be easier to replace, although it depends on the model.
6. Look Into Hail Protection For Your Solar Panels
A few types of solar panel protective covers are available. Some are made from marine-grade vinyl while others use wire mesh or plexiglass. A vinyl cover or tarp will interfere with your energy production, so you shouldn’t put it on unless the local weather forecast is certain you have hail on the way.
In most cases, mesh or plexiglass hail protection could be in the way more than it helps. Mesh and plexiglass might interfere with sunlight or maintenance. Be sure the climate in your area will make these forms of protection worth the effort.
FAQs: Hail And Solar Panels
Here are a few questions that homeowners commonly ask about solar panels and hail damage.
Can my solar panels work if they’re cracked?
Even if a solar panel is cracked, the solar cell may continue functioning. Also, a panel may not have cracks, but impacts from heavy hail can still damage the internal components and affect their functioning.
How can I tell if hail damaged my solar panels?
Check the app you use to monitor your solar production. You might want to wait until the storm moves on and is replaced by clear, sunny weather. Compare your current production to that in similar days before the hailstorm.
If there’s a significant drop in your solar power production, you may have damaged solar modules. Your app may even be able to identify which modules are producing less solar energy. You or your solar installer can also inspect the solar panels for signs of visible damage once the weather clears. Be careful if you have a roof-mounted system, as panels and roofs can be slippery and difficult to traverse.
Should I put methacrylate on my photovoltaic modules?
Some people suggest putting a methacrylate coating available from Amazon on solar panels to protect against hail stones. There’s even research about adding a form of methacrylate, rather than tempered glass, to solar panels.
But homeowners run the risk of shorting out their panels if the layer of methacrylate coating touches the wrong part of the panel. It’s also possible to make the coating too thick and reduce the efficiency of the solar module. It isn’t clear how a DIY addition of methacrylate might impact your warranty. Remember, you’re always better off consulting your installer before altering your panels.
Where are hailstorms most common in the US?
The most severe hailstorms in the U.S. typically occur in the middle of the country. Parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska have the greatest risk of getting hail larger than two inches in diameter. The western U.S. is the least likely area to experience hail greater than .75 inches in diameter.
The Bottom Line: Solar Panels And Hailstorms Often Work Well Together
Even if you have the occasional hailstorm, you should expect a long lifespan from your solar array. Most panels are built to standards that should withstand even powerful weather events – but it’s always good to double-check your homeowners insurance to see whether you’ll be covered if a freak storm damages your PV panels.
What else should you know before installing solar panels? Explore helpful information about how an energy audit might help the solar energy you generate go even further.