Solar panel glass is incredibly strong. Photovoltaic modules are fabricated using commercial-grade tempered glass, which is much more resistant to breakage than normal glass.
However, although the glass is designed to withstand heavy use, it can break. This doesn’t happen often, but understanding what can compromise the integrity of your solar panels could help you prevent potential damage.
Have you ever poured cold liquid into a hot glass or placed a straight-from-the-oven glass dish into a sink filled with cold water? If so, you likely ended up with cracked, broken or shattered glass. This is referred to as thermal shock damage, and it happens as the result of a sudden change in temperature.
Tempered solar module glass, despite its strength, is also vulnerable to thermal shock. Consequently, if you need to use a hose to clean dirt and debris off your panels, you must be careful with your timing.
Since the water coming from your hose is probably cold, you don’t want to wash your photovoltaic panels when the sun is high in the sky. At that time of day, even in the wintertime, the glass will be hot enough to crack.
Instead, if you must spray down your panel array, do so in the early morning or evening when the modules are cooler. In fact, we don’t recommend that you use the hose to clean your panels at all, if you can avoid it.
The toughened glass used to build solar panels can take a hit from a stray Frisbee or rubber playground ball. However, the impact from a heavier object, or one traveling at high speed, can break the solar module glass.
You may want to warn your family and the neighborhood kids to take their baseball game to the park. And be sure to keep any nearby trees trimmed, as a falling branch could crack the glass.
Solar module glass won’t break during an ordinary hailstorm, as it is tested and manufactured to withstand hail up to one inch in diameter. And even if your region of the Intermountain West gets larger hail, the chance of damage is small. Photovoltaic panels are mounted at a tilt, so they’ll typically only suffer a glancing blow.
That said, softball-sized hail has been known to crack some solar modules. This type of damage is quite rare, but it can happen. Likewise, a direct lightning strike isn’t likely, but if your photovoltaic panels are hit, they will probably break.
You can’t prevent weather damage to your solar array, but fortunately, your homeowners insurance likely covers breakage due to an extreme weather event. Some policies may also cover accidental damage. Contact your insurance agent to learn more.
A final word of caution: If one of your solar modules becomes broken or cracked, don’t touch it or attempt repairs on your own, as you could sustain a serious electrical shock.
Intermountain Wind & Solar installs photovoltaic solar energy systems for both commercial and residential clients throughout Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado. Contact us today to learn more about how you can cut your electric bill with your own solar panel system.
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