Although solar panels have come a long way, the technology of these free-energy generators is constantly improving. And while solar panels are meant to withstand most climates and are built to last up to 20 years, they’re still not immune to damage—especially since they’re made from outward-facing glass. Here are some of the most common causes of damage—as reported by solar panel users and the contractors who repair them—as well as ways you can avoid damaging your own solar panels. While you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to prevent the weather from interfering too much, thereby lengthening their lifespan.
Falling Debris Causes Damage to Solar Panels
Falling debris—even small debris like twigs, leaves, and dirt—can cause micro-scratches on your solar panels. These scratches dramatically lower the energy output by decreasing the amount of solar energy each panel can absorb because the scratches keep the sunlight from shining directly on the cells. Heavier debris like full branches or acorns, for example, can cause much more damage by breaking panels completely.
The most logical solution is to make sure there are no trees directly overhead or in close proximity, but considering the many benefits of having trees around your home, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. But if you maintain upkeep on your trees by having them regularly pruned, you won’t have to choose between them or the lifespan of your solar panels.
Likewise, allowing the debris to build up will significantly decrease the efficiency of your solar panels and lower the energy output—but the good news is that this is easy to avoid. To get rid of the smaller debris on your solar panels, clean them regularly using a microfiber cloth and your garden hose. You don’t have to do it too often—about once a season should be enough. But use your best judgement—if it looks like your solar panels are dirty or you can see a lot of stuff on them, get to cleaning!
Hail storms can wreak havoc on your home and solar panels. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to protect your solar panels from the damaging hail when a storm hits. You can take preventative steps when installing the panels if you live in a climate that usually sees a lot of hail. Installing smaller solar panels can reduce the damage caused during a hail storm. This is because if one part of a solar panel is damaged, the energy output loss is considerable and almost as if you lost the entire panel. You can reduce the loss of energy output by reducing the size of the solar panels. While they are more costly to install initially, they cost less to replace individually than larger panels.
Water Damage to Solar Panels
Water damage from deteriorated or old seals is another common pain point for solar panel owners. This is not much different than the insulation or sealing of window panes. As the sealant gets older, it becomes less effective and allows water to leak through. When this happens, it can lead to short-circuiting and degrade the components of your solar panels. To avoid water damage, take the time to reseal each panel or have a licensed solar panel contractor do this for you. They will be able to see if anything else can be done to maintain your solar panels.
Each panel is tested before installation—typically while it’s still at the factory. Still, sometimes short-circuiting still happens—it’s usually caused by manufacturing defects and will occur when exacerbated by strong winds or rain. Ask your contractor if your warranty would cover issues like this and then consider purchasing an extended warranty to protect you in the future.
Troubleshooting Solar Inverters
If you’re experiencing problems with your solar panels but you don’t see any damage, call your solar contractor. They will come out to inspect your solar panels, as well as the inverter, to make sure everything is still connected and charging properly. Sometimes the battery terminals wear out and fuses blow, so it’s best to have an expert take a look and advise you on what to keep an eye on. That way, if you experience any problems again in the future, you’ll know more about what’s going on.
Hopefully, with these tips, you will help your solar panels last longer than their expected 20-year lifespan!