Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?

Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?
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In this article, we will see whether a hail storm can damage your solar panels?

A hail storm in which the hail size is around 1 inch will not damage your solar panels. Almost all the solar panels are tested to withstand an impact of 1-inch hail bombarded at a speed of 23 m/s or 51 mph. This is more speed than a normal hail storm, for reference a normal hailstorm has a speed between 25 mph to 40 mph.

Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?

Can hail damage your solar panels? Not really. if you are bombarded by a hail storm where the hail size is around 1 inch in diameter, then there is a higher chance that your solar panel will be not affected in any way.

You see, almost all the solar panels available in the market today are tested for hail storms and have test certification for that (more on that later).

Also, almost all solar panels have a thick tempered glass (around 3.2 mm) on top of it to protect the solar panels from such collisions.

The below video is from Adam Savage Tested (Mythbuster Guy), they bombarded hails, plastic and metal balls on the solar panels to show how tough solar panels are.

If you didn’t watch the video, the solar panel was left without a scratch when it was bombarded with ice pellet at 30 m/s (108 kmph), but the glass shattered when the plastic and metal balls struck it at higher speeds (still not any visible holes).


Solar Panels Testing Against Hails:

Almost all the countries have made it mandatory for solar panel manufacturers to obtain IEC 61215 which is a hail test certificate before they introduce them in the market, but what are the test parameters?

In the hail test (IEC 61215), the solar panels are bombarded with 11 ice pellets each 25 mm (1 inch) in diameter at a velocity of 23 m/s (82.8 kmph) (51.4 mph). To successfully pass the test the solar panel should have no visual defect and should also pass the insulation test.

To compare this, most common hailstones that one would typically see in a severe thunderstorm are 1-inch to 1.75-inch in diameter, and the expected fall speed is between 25 and 40 mph. It’s clear the testing size and speed are higher than what most of us would receive in real life. Hence, no need to worry about normal hailstorms.

The largest hailstone recovered in the United States fell in Vivian, South Dakota, on June 23, 2010, with a diameter of 8 inches and a circumference of 18.62 inches. It weighed 1 lb 15 oz. If something like this falls on your solar panel then there is no amount of protection that can save it.

You can read more on hailstones and the impact of it has in this article – Severe Weather 101 – Hail

You can read more about the testing of solar panels against hail in this research paper from the university of applied science and arts southern Switzerland – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268810383_HAIL_TESTING_OF_PV_MODULES_RESULTS_OF_A_ROUND_ROBIN_FOR_HAIL_GRAIN_QUALITY_DETERMINATION_AND_TESTING_RESULTS_OF_DIFFERENT_MODULE_DESIGNS

Now that we know that almost all the solar panels can resist hailstones, let’s look at which solar panels can withstand hailstorms in the best way.


What type of solar panels is best against hail damage:

To find whether the solar panel which you are installing has passed hail test you can check its datasheet and see whether it has passed the IEC 61215 test.

canadian solar datasheet with hail test
Canadian Solar Datasheet

The above screenshot is of Canadian solar panel datasheet, as you can see from the screenshot this solar panel has IEC 61215 certification and its load-bearing capacity is 6000 Pa.

Almost all the big solar panel manufacturers have IEC 61215 certification so don’t worry about that. But if you receive frequent hailstorms in your region then it is best to buy a solar panel with high heavy snow load capacity (basically the load it can handle on its front side).

I think solar panels with snow load capacity of 6000 Pa is the a good option to look for.

Now if you look at a bifacial solar panel they have less front load-bearing capacity.

canadian solar bifacial solar panels load bearing capacity
Canadian Solar Bifacial Solar Panels Load Bearing Capacity

As you can see above, the Canadian solar bifacial solar panel has the IEC 61215 (hail test) certification but the overall loading capacity is 5400 Pa which is lower than the standard panel.

It makes sense, that the solar panel which has high front load-bearing capacity will be more resistant to a hail storm that the one having less.

Hence, you should look into load-bearing capacity when you receive frequent hail storms, but if you don’t receive hail storms then buy the solar panel which is affordable and has good efficiency.


Is hailstone damage covered in solar panels warranty ?

When it comes to the warranty of solar panels almost all the major solar panels manufacturer offers 10 years product warranty and 25 years performance warranty.

The product warranty or manufacturing warranty or workmanship warranty basically is the warranty which covers any physical damage caused to solar panels.

I checked the warranty structure for big solar panels manufacturer and almost all of them said that if a solar panel is damaged due to flood, fire, lightning, or an act of God then it does not fall under warranty hence won’t be replaced. (I guess this rules out damage due to hail storm).

Apart from that if they think your solar system was poorly designed like, installation in shadow and other such things then also warranty will be void.

What I have found by reading the warranty clause of several manufacturers that they are testing the solar panels against hailstones but are not offering any warranty on damage caused due to hail storm.

You can read more about Canadian solar panels warranty over here – https://www.canadiansolar.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/PV_Double_Glass_Module_Warranty_en.pdf

I don’t want to sound harsh on the manufacturers, they test the solar panels in tough conditions, and I feel in 8 out of 10 times solar panels will not get damaged in real life. So don’t worry.


How To protect your solar panels from hail damage:

Once the hailstorm starts there isn’t much you can do to protect your solar panels. I think the best option if you receive hail storms and are worried that your solar panel will get damaged because of it, is to buy insurance for your solar panel.

This way even if solar panels get damaged in a hail storm the insurance company will get it replaced and you won’t have to bear a large one-time replacement charge.


Does Hail damage make the solar panel useless?

I would like to point out that the efficiency drop in solar panels depends on the type of damage caused to the solar panels.

If only the tempered glass of solar panel is shattered and the solar cells are intact then the power output will be as good as a proper unbroken solar panel.

But, if the solar cells are broken and there is a visible hole in your solar panel then the power drop will be higher than 50 %.

You can check out the below video that compares the efficiency of a new solar panel with a broken solar panel and a solar panel with visible holes in it.

New Solar Panel VS Broken Solar Panel

If you didn’t watch the video, it shows that solar panels with hot spots and see-through holes have a drop of over 50 % in power generation whereas the panels which just have their glass shattered see a dip in only 10 % power generation.


Final thoughts:

Solar panels are designed and tested to withstand an average hailstorm, but if the size of hails is bigger than average size (1-inch diameter) then it can damage your solar panels. For places like these one can opt for insurance.

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Thank you for reading, bye bye 🙂

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