What to Do If Your Solar Panels Are Broken
While solar panels don’t need extensive maintenance, they do degrade over time. In addition to the natural degradation of solar panels, they can also break. Understanding the potential reasons why solar panels might break before expected and what to do if they do will relieve stress.
Handling a Malfunctioning Solar Array
If there is sufficient sun for the panels to convert sunlight into power and it isn’t, the solar array will need a diagnostic to determine what isn’t working and why. Before you try to find the issue, contact the company that installed your solar panels. Having the company that installed the array look at it is best because they know the system, allowing them to problem-solve with ease.
Why You Should Talk to Your Solar Installer First
Every solar company should have professionals that can look at the system and determine the cause of the malfunction. They can then help the customer look at their options moving forward.
Often the reason behind the system not functioning isn’t an earth-shattering fix. There could be trees that have grown since first installed. The build-up of dust, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris could also impact the efficiency of the solar panels. These fixes may mean rinsing off the solar panels a couple of times a year, or the trees around the system need trimming.
More serious reasons behind array malfunctions could mean components within the system are compromised. Solar panels receive the most exposure, making damage before their natural expiration date more likely.
How to Deal With Broken Solar Panels
Broken solar panels can be dangerous because of the materials within the solar panel. However, the type of damage determines if the solar panel is repairable or better off recycled.
Causes of Premature Solar Panel Replacement
While solar panels do degrade, they may need replacing before their 25 to 30-year warranty if the solar panel develops microcracks, gets hit by lightning, or extreme weather causes havoc. Each of these unfortunate possibilities can compromise the integrity of the solar panel, causing it to underperform.
Microcracks in Solar Panels
Microcrack causes include manufacturing mistakes, incorrect mounting, or improper installation. Make sure to choose solar panels that receive rigorous testing. The solar installer also shouldn’t stand on the solar panels while installing them and follow the manufacturer’s mount location guidelines.
Lightning and Solar Panels
While lightning myths suggest that metal attracts lightning, the truth is that lightning often hits the tallest lone object in the area no regardless of its construction materials. Solar panels don’t increase the chance of being struck by lightning. However, if lightning hits your home, it could cause significant damage to your solar panels.
To protect your solar panels from the risks of lightning, solar panels need a lightning protection system. These systems include grounded air terminals to direct lighting away and surge protector devices to prevent lightning from frying the system.
Potential Malfunctions Due to Extreme Weather
While solar panels go through rigorous testing to ensure that they can withstand extreme heat, cold, snow loads, and hail, they aren’t invincible. Over time extreme conditions can cause issues within the solar panel. For instance, solar panels can withstand higher temperatures, but if the solar panel doesn’t have adequate air circulation, it can overheat, causing the solar module to underproduce.
Should You Repair Cracked Solar Panel?
Solar panels with cracked glass are repairable. However, if the cells under the solar panel have sustained microcracks, replacing the solar panel will ensure the module performs its best. Microcracks can cause solar panels to degrade at a faster pace.
Recycling Solar Panels
NREL has proposed a plan to help solar panel recycling become profitable by 2032. However, not all solar manufactures and solar installers currently recycle solar panels.
The main reason why solar panel recycling isn’t commonplace in America is the cost of recycling these materials. However, as initial solar installations get closer to their expiration date, more recycling options have become available.
Most of these services are available to solar installers and solar manufacturers because they have to dispose of more solar panels than a homeowner. Talk to your solar installer to see what recycling options they use.
Preventative Measures for Solar Arrays
While we can’t prevent all potential threats, taking preventative measures can save a lot of money and stress if your solar panels don’t last as long as anticipated. The two main ways to prevent solar homeowners from dealing with the stress of an unanticipated malfunction include warranties and insurance. However, other preventative measures also help.
Solar Panel Warranties
One of the best preventative measures to take is to ensure the solar panels in your system have a quality manufacturer warranty. A quality warranty will cover solar panels that have degraded more quickly than anticipated or have received damage during transportation or in the manufacturing process.
While solar insurance is an option, often homeowners insurance will cover your solar array without costing anything extra. Talk to your agent about what your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover. If your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover weather-related solar panel damage, adding coverage may be a smart move.
Solar Panel Maintance and Cleaning
One of the best ways that homeowners can take an active role in preventing premature expiration is to take care of their system. Most solar arrays don’t have moving parts, which means they don’t need a ton of maintenance.
However, cleaning them once or twice a year can help the solar array maintain its projected efficiency. Additionally, keeping nearby trees well-pruned will prevent them from shading your system.
Solar Panel Skirts
Other preventative measures include installing solar skirts to deter birds and squirrels from making your solar array their home. These animals can not only leave feces on the solar panels, causing efficiency issues, but they might also chew the wiring.