Over and over, solar panels have proved their remarkable resilience and durability. In 2017, for example, a hailstorm in Denver shattered car windows and left golf ball-sized dents on the roofs of homes and vehicles. However, only one out of the 3,000 solar panels installed at the nearby National Renewable Energy Laboratory sustained damage. And when Hurricane Maria surged through Puerto Rico, a rooftop solar array in San Juan's VA Hospital continued to operate — at full capacity — even with hurricane-force winds of 180 mph.
However, damage does happen. Falling debris can dislodge or crack panels, for instance. Knowing how to prepare your panels for severe weather can help minimize the risk of damage.
With severe weather on the rise, here's a look at some simple measures to protect your customers’ solar panels.
How Can a Severe Storm Affect Your Solar Panel Installation?
High wind speeds and heavy rain can dislodge solar panels while flying debris might compound the damage. However, most panels are tested by manufacturers to ensure they can survive hurricanes. Consumer panels are usually highly waterproof and certified to withstand wind speeds up to 140 mph. Panasonic’s solar panels can endure hailstones up to 1 inch in diameter.
If damage does occur, it’s usually from flying debris, weaknesses in the roof, or poor installation. In hurricane-prone areas like Florida and Texas, local governments often require installers to undergo rigorous equipment testing to ensure panels remain fixed, even at high wind speeds.
How to Prepare Your Solar Panels for a Storm
In addition to making sure that a trusted and experienced contractor installs solar panels, there are several things homeowners can do to protect your panels from severe weather:
- Trim Overhanging Trees. Cut your trees back as much as possible to keep the wind from sweeping broken branches onto your panels. While tree branches are unlikely to damage your panels, they may cause scratches or minor cracks that could affect your system’s integrity and performance.
- Check for Debris. Flying debris is one of the most common causes of damage to solar panels. Check your property and secure any objects that could become projectiles during a storm, such as tools, fallen tree branches, potted plants, and garden furniture.
- Turn Solar Panels "Off." Power surges damage electrical equipment. While panels should turn themselves off if a hurricane triggers a power surge, homeowners can completely prevent the risk by manually switching them off ahead of a storm.
- Seal and Secure Solar Panel Components. If a powerful storm is coming and panels haven't been inspected for several years, you may want to suggest to your customers that an installer inspect them. Check that waterproof seals are intact, secure exposed wires and connections, and ensure no unsecured objects on the roof can be propelled through the air in strong winds.
- Suggest Charging the Home Battery System. If your client’s solar panels are paired with a home battery system, suggest that the system is fully charged ahead of a storm. That way, your customers can access backup power during and after a hurricane, even if the power goes out. Tip: Make backup power last longer by unplugging appliances not in use and monitoring energy drawn from the battery.
- Take Photos of Solar Equipment. Suggest your clients take photos of their panels and components before the storm to verify their condition. If panels sustain damage, homeowners have the documentation needed for the insurance company.
After A Severe Storm
Once a storm has passed, remind your customers to check panels for signs of damage. Some damage may be immediately visible, such as badly cracked, broken, dented, or lifted panels; minor losses, like scratches or small cracks, may be harder to spot. If the storm was particularly severe, suggest sending an inspection crew to inspect the system visibly.
Once panels are reenergized, remind customers to check their monitoring equipment to verify that the panels are producing as much power as expected. Tip: Suggest to your customers they keep an eye on panel performance in the weeks immediately following a storm so any panels producing less power than usual can be quickly identified.
Remember, solar panels are designed to withstand the elements for 25-30 years, but with extreme weather on the rise, it’s good to know how to protect their installation.
If you want more information on maintaining your clients’ existing solar systems, Panasonic has you covered with best-in-class solar and storage products, helpful resources and a network of trusted authorized installers.