Are Solar Panels Affected by Weather?

Solar panels are built to withstand heavy rain, hail, wind and cycles of heat and cold for many years. Every now and then we get questions related to solar panels and weather damage, so we did a quick write-up on the subject:
Shade obviously affects the output of solar panels. Read more about this in Factors That Determine Solar Panel Efficiency. This article is about how weather potentially can damage solar panels.

Solar panels go through rigorous testing

ISO, UL, IEC/EN, and CSA are some of the certifications and standards that are used to qualify solar panels. See the video below from Westpak, an independent testing laboratory based in California, to get an idea of how some of the tests in the solar industry are conducted:

To be eligible for state rebates your solar panels and the installation itself has to be compliant with local building codes – the National Electric Code (NFPA 70) in most places. The NFPA 70 specifies that you need a solar panel that is UL certified (or one that is certified from another approved testing lab).

However, the federal government does not specify UL certification, which means that in some places you could still get your federal rebate.

Can hail, lightening or wind damage my solar panels?

Solar panels can be damaged from heavy hailstorms, but this is very rare. Most of the solar panels on the U.S. market are UL listed, which means they`ve gone through testing to withstand hail.

However, the main point of the hail test is to make sure that the glass doesn’t put people in danger by exploding (the glass can still break and pass). Hail is simulated with a one inch steel ball at terminal velocity that strikes the solar panels at an angle of 90 degrees.

Although miniscule, there certainly is a possibility that lightening can damage your solar panels. Proper grounding is a requirement set by the National Electric Code, but there is not really anything we can do to protect ourselves 100% in the case of a lightening strike.

Wind damage is also rare. Solar power companies found that their customers` solar panels held up very well against Hurricane Sandy when it struck most of the eastern United States in October 2012. Make sure that you go with a reputable solar installer that will mount your solar panels properly (whether it`s on the roof or on the ground).

Chris Paxton, engineering leader at UL (Underwriters Laboratories) says the majority of failures happen when they expose solar panels to cycles of heat and cold in a humid environment. During the 10-day humidity freeze test, the solar panels are first exposed to 85 percent humidity (similar to the levels of humidity in the tropics), then they`re brought to an environment of negative 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

Does my solar panel warranty cover damage caused by weather?

Generally speaking, solar panel warranties do not cover damage resulted from hail, lightening or wind, but most homeowner`s insurances do. Call your insurance provider to get up-to-date on their policies regarding solar panels and weather damage.

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