Hail Damage to Solar Panel

Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail?

Solar panels are photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy into electrical energy. They don’t have any moving parts making them be among the most long-lasting energy-generating technologies. 

With minimal maintenance, your solar panel can serve you optimally for decades without showing any sign of degradation. In fact, some solar panels that were installed almost half a century ago are still functional, providing their owners with free and clean energy. 

If solar panels are that durable, can they withstand hailstones?

This is one question that many new homeowners that want to install solar panels ask. Solar panels are made of tiny crystalline cells that are very fragile. If left exposed, these cells can easily crack, thus reducing the power output of the system drastically. This can also reduce their lifespan. 

Manufacturers of these panels are aware of this. That’s why they equip the panels with acrylic, glass, or laminate casing for protection. During testing, solar panels are shot at using pneumatic guns, and they’ve been found to withstand high velocities. For example, a glass-glass solar panel casing from SolarWorld can withstand a velocity of over 260 mph. 

When a solar panel is built to international standards, it can comfortably withstand projectiles fired at 50 mph. This also applies to hailstones moving at the same speed. 

From experiments, it has been found that a one-centimeter diameter hailstone will attain a terminal velocity of 20 mph, far much less than what these panels can withstand. 20 mph is the highest speed a hailstone of one-centimeter diameter can attain when it falls from the sky.

An eight-centimeter hailstone can attain a terminal velocity of 110 mph. This is still far much less than what a solar panel can tolerate. It is very rare for hailstone to exceed eight centimeters in diameter. This means it is extremely rare for solar panels to get damaged from hailstones. 

It is also worth noting that these panels rarely get direct hits from hailstones and other falling debris. This is because they are mainly installed in tilted positions on the roofs or ground-mounted supports.  

Is it necessary to weatherproof solar installations?

Modern solar panels are indeed designed to withstand tough weather conditions. However, these panels can’t withstand everything thrown at them by Mother Nature. Proper racking and mounting are essential to make sure the panels are safe. 

Weatherproofing a solar panel is particularly important if you live in coastal areas. The wind velocity in these regions is very high, especially during storm seasons. During Hurricane Sandy, the residents of New York, New Jersey, and Maryland discovered that their solar panels could not tolerate such turbulent storms. Many homes relying on solar energy lost power when their panels broke down. 

Even though solar panels are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, you can take some steps you can take to provide your panels with more protection.

Add a Methacrylate layer

The simplest way of giving your solar panel additional protection is to use methacrylate. You can hire an expert to apply a thin layer of this product onto the fragile parts of the solar panel. 

The application must be done carefully so it doesn’t interfere with the proper functioning of the panel. The layer of methacrylate will double the durability of the solar panel and ensure it can survive even when hit by hailstones with bigger diameters. 

Installing the panels at an angle

When installing solar panels, ensure they are mounted at an angle so they don’t get hit directly by hailstones. When the panels are tilted, the hailstones will hit them at an angle hence reducing the effect of the impact. 

Additionally, you can put some rails at the top end of the solar panel to protect its upper edges against damage from hailstones. It is also good to install the panels away from the side of the building affected by strong winds. 

The strong winds may also cause the hailstones to come at an angle, so your own building can act as a barrier between the hailstones and the solar panels. 

Always check the weather forecasts

This may not sound practical or helpful, but in all honesty, knowing what to expect can help you protect your solar panels better. For example, when you realize there’s a pending storm, you can either provide a protective cover over the panels or remove them until the storm is over. Leaving your panels to the mercy of the storm can be an expensive affair because it may force you to install a new system after the storm. 

Get more information about your solar panels

Solar panels have specifications. Getting to know what you are about to buy or install is very important. You can do some research to find out which brand of solar panels can survive the prevailing weather in your area. 

For example, if you are living in an area with regular storms, you may have to buy solar panels that can withstand these turbulent conditions. This would not be the case when living in a region that has fair weather throughout the year. 

Have your solar panels checked once in a while

A solar panel that has some damages already can not withstand hailstones even if they are moving at low velocity. That’s why you need to invite a technician at least once a year to check your panels and fix any damages. 

Checking them this way will also ensure they perform optimally. Experienced technicians will discover problems with your panels and fix them before it’s too late.

Wrapping it up

Hailstones are a major concern for many homeowners all over the world, particularly those living in areas prone to storms. Solar panels can provide you with cheap and clean energy for a long time, depending on how you take care of them.

The fact that many solar panel manufacturers ensure these products can withstand hailstones doesn’t mean you should not take steps to provide them with protection. The steps outlined above can ensure your solar panels serve you longer so you don’t have to pay high electricity bills.