Do Solar Panels Break? How Tough Are Solar Panels?

Do Solar Panels Break? How Tough Are Solar Panels?
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Every customer who is buying solar panels, wonder will these solar panels break. In this article, we will see Do solar panels break? and also look at how tough they are.

Do solar panels break, yes they do, but not in normal operating conditions, they can easily survive a mild hail storm, a kid throwing rubber ball on them and a person walking on top of it.

But one should try to avoid any of it as much as possible because they can create microcracks which can hamper the total power generation in the long run.

How strong are solar panels:

how strong are solar panels- solar-panels-construction
Solar Panels Construction

Solar panels have solar cells connected in a series-parallel arrangement, encapsulated between a transparent polymer and enclosed in an aluminum frame which is covered by a thick 3.2 mm tempered glass.

The tempered glass is much thicker and stronger than your traditional glass and because it is tempered instead of breaking into large pieces it shatters into small prices making them safe as well.

How Temper Glass Shatters (Source: http://www.megaluminio.com/en/tempered-glass.php)

Even though individual solar cells are wafer-thin and can easily break, the way they are arranged in a solar panel make them very strong.


When Can Solar Panels Break?

Now that we know solar panels have a thick tempered glass on top of it to protect the solar cells inside it. Let us see how does the glass protects in real-life scenarios.

1. Walking On Solar Panels – If you have installed solar panels on top of a metal roof, then chances are you might have to walk on some of them to access the solar panels during cleaning and maintenance.

The below video from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows the effect of walking on solar panels.

Damage On Solar Panels Due To Walking Over It – NREL

If you didn’t watch the video it basically says to avoid walking on the solar panels. Walking on it can produce microcracks that can damage the solar cells in the long run and reduce its efficiency.

2. Hail Storms: One might think that hail storms will affect solar panels but that is not entirely true. The majority of the solar panels which are available in the market are tested for hail storms. A moderate hail storm will not shatter the glass and even if it does it will not penetrate through the entire solar panel and break the cells.

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 they are.

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

Apart from walking on solar panels and hail storm other thing which can happen is a tree branch falling on the solar panel, someone throws a stone or rubber ball on the solar panels and maybe even monkey’s shattering the glass with their hands.

All of the above are possible situations, but apart from the monkey menace and voluntary action done to break the solar panels all other situations will not cause any visible physical damage but they may cause microcracks.

Microcracks are something that will decrease the efficiency of your solar panels with time. Microcracks are not visible to the naked eye and are caused due to frequent impact on solar panels, temperature, and weather changes.


Is your performance affected when solar panels break?

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 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.


What part of solar panels damage is covered in warranty:

When it comes to 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 panel is damaged due to flood, fire, lightning, or the act of god then it does not come in warranty hence won’t be replaced. (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.

It is safe to say that if the solar panel was broken during transportation then they will replace it, and if you have properly installed your solar system and the solar panels gets damaged not because of the act of god then it falls under warranty and will get replaced.

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 solar panels in tough conditions, and 8 out of 10 times they will not get damaged in real life. So don’t worry.


How Can You protect your solar panels from damage:

If there is a massive hail storm or a riot near your house and someone is throwing stones on it then you cannot do anything to save the panels, but these are extreme cases. Most places don’t receive hail storm and such riots are very uncommon hence we can adopt some simple measures to protect our solar panels.

  1. Don’t install solar panels under the shadow to avoid microcracks and hot spots.
  2. Don’t clean your solar panels when they are hot (like in the afternoon), this can cause microcracks due to sudden temperature difference.
  3. If there is monkey menace, frequent hail storm then it is best to get your solar panels insured. Nowadays many companies are providing insurance for a small premium which can save big replacement costs in the future.
  4. If there is a problem of theft in your area then set up some kind of alarm system to notify you when there is movement near the solar panels.

Conclusion:

Do solar panels break, yes they do, but not in normal operating conditions, they can easily survive a mild hail storm, a kid throwing rubber ball on them and a person walking on top of it.

But all of these should be avoided as much as possible because even though you might not see any physical damage with your naked eye, they all will develop microcracks on the solar cells which will hamper the power generation in long run.

I would say buy the best solar panels available in the market,, get it installed by a good installer and sit back and enjoy the savings in the electricity bill they bring in.

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Thank you for reading.

Have a nice day, bye bye 🙂


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