Solar installers will tell you that a photovoltaic system can last more than 30 years. However, if you’re making the upfront investment to buy solar panels, you want to be sure they will still be around. One question that comes up often is if solar panels have the strength and durability to last the test of time.
The short answer is solar panels are built to last. They are specifically manufactured to withstand the most severe weather conditions. In the Northeast, the most likely possible culprits for damage may be tree branches or hail. In the case of tree limbs, they probably won’t harm the panels. However, if a large tree came crashing down on your home, there’s a good chance the cracked solar panels aren’t going to be the only thing you’re going to worry about.
Most solar panels are fitted with tempered glass and considered to be reasonably hail resistant. This type of glass is designed to withstand a direct vertical impact of hail up to 1 inch in diameter, travelling at 50 miles per hour. Larger hail is still not likely to cause damage because of the orientation of a solar array. Typically, solar panels are oriented to the south and at a tilt which is not the prevailing course that severe hail storms could make direct impact on the panels.
The underside of a solar panel is actually the most vulnerable since it’s not designed to endure impact. The undersides are protected in an already installed solar energy system; however, it’s important that your solar installer treat them with care before and during the installation.
If your solar equipment is damaged, there are a few considerations you should make. If you have homeowner’s insurance and you have claimed the solar panels as part of that property, your insurance company should insure the panels against damage. You should call them immediately and file a claim. They may give you either a monetary refund or they may choose to replace the panels.
If you don’t have insurance and the panels are merely cracked, I recommend that you speak to your solar installer. They may be aware of a manufacturer’s warranty that could potentially cover the damage or they may recommend that you replace just the outer pane of glass. Be aware that it won’t be worth the trouble if the glass isn’t replaced correctly. Humidity can get trapped underneath and cloud the panel from receiving full radiation.
All things considered, solar panels are resilient to most damage. I wouldn’t be too concerned about potential dangers. That said, they are a long term investment and that’s worth protecting. If a tree is a potential threat to your house, then it will be a threat to your solar energy system. It also wouldn’t hurt to look into potential coverage for solar panels through your homeowners’ insurance policy.
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