Are solar panels tested for hail?
Are solar panels tested for hail, golf balls, or other kinds of impact?
If solar panels are broken by some kind of impact, is this damage covered by the solar panel manufacturer's warranty?
If you're about to drop thousands of dollars on a solar system that's supposed to last a few decades, you obviously want to be confident that you're not investing in equipment that could be ruined by one day of extreme weather. It's a valid concern.
The ambiguity regarding hail resistance and impact testing for solar panels can be frustrating, so I spoke with a claims representative from a major solar panel manufacturer to get some clarification.
The short answer is that there's probably no manufacturer's warranty that will cover this kind of damage, but any high-quality solar panel will have tempered glass that's designed to take a beating and tested accordingly.
If you're worried about protecting your investment from this kind of damage, make sure that you pull a permit for the system and consult your property insurance provider. There should be no problem getting the coverage you need if you go by the books.
Back to the question about manufacturer's warranty- even though you likely won't find a manufacturer's warranty that covers hail damage, any reputable brand will test their solar panels to obtain industry-recognized quality certifications.
In North America, these tests are a 5 ft·lbs impact of a 2 inch diameter ball of 1.18 lbs that's dropped at a distance of 51 inches- no parts of the solar panel can be damaged to acquire this label. If the solar panel has undergone this standardized testing successfully, you will see something like this in the specifications sheet.
Because solar panel manufacturers usually sell to markets outside of the United States, modules are often subject to additional testing standards such as Europe's "IEC."
The European quality certificate specifically for hail is IEC 61215, which is circled in the image above. Solar panels with this label were shot with frozen ice balls at varying sizes and speeds from an air gun.
The most substantial of this IEC impact testing comes at 39.5 m/sec from a 203 gram ice ball. The solar module must perform at a maximum of 5% degradation with no visible damage.
If you live in an area that's prone to hail storms, you should get solar panels that have been tested for impact and talk with your homeowner's insurance company about your coverage options.
That being said, if your system is going to experience hail that would dwarf golf-balls, amorphous (thin film) solar panels could be an option for you. We don't sell these- but it might be worth your time to do some research.
In conclusion, most solar panel manufacturers warranties will not cover hail damage but you can still take a few precautions. Review specification sheets for quality certifications, as shown in the images above. Rather than focusing on the solar panel manufacturer's warranty, you should pull a permit with your city and work with your property insurance provider to protect your system against any potential damage (hail, electrical fire, etc.).
Check out this video of SolarWorld modules being tested!