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The Impact of Hail on Solar Panels

DIY Solar, Tech/
solar panel damaged by hail

Believe it or not, solar panels are somewhat fragile as they’re made of tempered glass. If you live in an environment prone to hail, you may be wondering whether your solar array can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Today, we’ll break down how hail can impact your solar panels and what to do if this happens to your array.

Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?

The answer to the question “Can hail damage solar panels?” is yes — but it doesn’t happen often. There are a few factors to consider.

First, there is high-quality tempered glass protecting the solar cells inside a solar module that is stronger than most car windshields. Most hail is small enough not to break your car windshield, let alone damage your solar panels.

A rare occurrence of a golf ball or softball-sized hail may damage your solar panels, but it isn’t a sure bet.

In May 2017, a massive hail storm rolled through the Colorado Mills area, causing significant damage to vehicles and buildings. The Colorado Mills Mall even closed down for a year due to damage from this storm. But just two miles away on a massive solar field at The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), only one solar panel out of 3,168 total panels was damaged by the storm. This incident was the ultimate testament to the ability of solar panels to withstand hail.

solar panel damaged by hail
Photo by energy.gov

What to Do If Hail Damages Your Solar Panels

If a major hailstorm with softball-sized hail occurs in your area, then there’s a chance that your solar panels, house or car will all have damage. Unfortunately, solar manufacturer warranties typically do not cover hail damage, but your homeowners’ insurance may be able to cover it along with any other hailstorm damage on your property.

If you live in an area prone to hail or extreme weather, you’ll want to opt into a homeowner’s insurance policy that protects your solar system. Contact your insurance provider to confirm if solar panels are covered under your policy; you may have to add this protection.

Solar Panel Hail Tests

The good news is that solar panels are tested for hail. You shouldn’t have to witness a catastrophic event — like the incident in Colorado — to know whether or not your solar panels can withstand the storm.

All solar panel manufacturers must submit their solar modules for testing to get a UL listing. The UL requirements include tests to prove that the solar panels can withstand hail to a certain extent.

The first solar panel hail test is a standard impact test. A 2-inch solid steel sphere drops from a height of 51 inches. The energy from this impact is equivalent to a 1-3/8 inch diameter hailstone hitting the solar panel at terminal velocity.

For the second solar panel hail test, a pneumatic cannon fires 25 millimeter (almost 1-inch) ice balls directly onto the solar panel at 52 miles per hour. The ice balls strike the solar panel in at least ten different locations. Then, the solar panel undergoes a test to ensure 95% or better energy production with no visible damage and no water leaks.

Check out this video of a solar panel hail test from SolarWorld USA!

Hail-Resistant Solar Panels

Some solar panel manufacturers go above and beyond the standard UL testing to verify that their solar modules can hold up to hail better than others. These tests will be a selling point in datasheets and brochures, so if you live in a hail-prone area, it might be good to shop around for these more ‘hail-resistant’ solar panels.

However, keep in mind that solar companies that do additional testing still aren’t likely to cover hail damage in their warranty. You’ll have to decide if these panels are worth the extra money. In the end, you could still be relying on your homeowners’ insurance policy to compensate for any solar panels impacted by hail.

Protecting Your Panels From the Elements

The bottom line is that solar PV systems are not immune from damage caused by extreme weather like hail. And based on current hail testing standards, it is unlikely that your average seasonal hailstorm will cause damage to your solar array.

A significant hailstorm is likely to impact your home, vehicle and solar panels, so implementing homeowners’ insurance to cover all your possessions might be the right call.

If you want to learn more about solar panel hail tests, or are on the fence about spending extra money on hail-resistant solar panels, reach out to the experts at GoGreenSolar today!

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