If concerns about solar panel problems and repairs are holding you back from installing solar power, you can breathe a big sigh of relief. The best quality photovoltaic (PV) panels are remarkably repair and maintenance free.
Most home PV panel arrays consist of solar cells that are encapsulated in thick glass and mounted onto sturdy metal frames. Once the panels are properly installed, they require minimal maintenance since there are no moving parts to wear. Yet, there are some things you need to consider, and I'll explain them in this article.
Before your solar panels are installed, the installer needs to make sure that the roof itself can support the weight of the PV panel array. Once that's determined and the panels are properly mounted to the roof they should remain solidly in place. A regular maintenance inspection should ensure this and relieve any concerns.
In the unfortunate event of a hurricane or tornado, roof mounted PV panels should weather the storm and remain attached to your roof provided the roof itself remains.
It's likely that weather will be your biggest concern, especially if your panels are mounted onto the roof. Of course, this might depend on where you live and the kinds of weather you typically receive.
For instance, if you live in an area of the country that experiences extreme weather conditions, you might be wondering if roof-mounted panels for your home are practical. A ground mounted PV system might be best.
Storms involving heavy rain, hail, snow and ice take their toll on regular roofs every year, and some areas experience more than their share of tornados and hurricanes. Solar panels can surprisingly withstand severe weather conditions quite well.
But, you need to make sure that the panels you install are manufactured with a high-impact tempered glass. The best quality panels are made with glass that can withstand 60 miles-per-hour storms dropping 3/4-inch hailstones. They will typically withstand weather conditions that are similar to what your roofing material tolerates.
If you live in an area that receives wind and dust storms, or in an urban area where there is lots of dirt and smog in the air, you might need to clean the surface of the solar panels with soapy water occasionally to maximize their electrical output.
However, follow the policy of safety first. Do NOT follow the example of the young girl pictured below, as she concentrates on washing a solar panel so near the edge of a roof. She's not wearing a safety harness nor is there any railing present to protect her from an accidental fall. Always use common sense and keep safety in mind.
Watch the excellent video below that demonstrates when and how to clean solar panels with the help of a garden hose, soft carwash brush, 18-inch squeegee, and a bucket of soapy water.
Special cleaning products can be purchased for washing grime off panel glass. Simply follow the manufacturer's instructions and get the family to help.
In smog-free rural areas, normal rainfall should be enough to keep your solar panels clean so they can function to proper efficiency.
If your yard contains an abundance of deciduous trees that shed their leaves every fall, you might need brush the fallen leaves off your solar panels, as they could prevent the sunlight from reaching the panel surfaces. Even some evergreens routinely shed their needles. A few swipes with a broom should do the trick as a routine maintenance procedure.
Thankfully, photovoltaic panels operate on sunlight not temperature, so they can operate just as efficiently in winter as in summer. However, with winter's shorter daylight hours, they will produce proportionately less power than in the summer months.
In northern climates like Canada's, snow can cover the panels and block them from receiving the optimum amount of sunlight, thereby reducing the electricity they can produce. It might be necessary to sweep the snow from the surface of the panels to restore their full efficiency. The PV panels themselves, however, won't be damaged by a heavy snowfall.
A bigger concern would be that the roof itself might be unable to withstand the weight of a heavy, wet snowfall. In such cases, shovelling the roof may be necessary along with removing the snow buildup from the solar panels.
A light snowfall is a different matter. The heat retained by the dark-colored PV panels is usually enough to melt off a light covering of snow or ice and help to keep them clean.
Today's photovoltaic panels produce electricity well even on cloudy days. On an overcast, rainy day, there is still enough diffuse sunlight by which the panel will produce electrical current. However, be mindful that solar cells require bright and sunny weather to work at their optimum efficiency.
Cracked or broken panel glass is one solar panel problem that we never want to see, but the good news is it's something that doesn't happen often. Usually, a panel glass becomes broken because something happens beyond our control such as a stray baseball landing on the roof, or a heavy tree branch falling during a windstorm.
Whatever the cause of the damage, do not leave a broken solar panel connected in the array for long, as the moisture that inevitably enters the broken area will corrode your wiring and could possibly cause a short in the system.
Some PV panel owners try repairing cracks in the tempered glass using the same resin that auto windshield repairers use, but it's usually not possible to apply the resin under proper pressure, so such repairs attempted are temporary at best.
Others try fastening a cut-to-size sheet of replacement glass on top of the cracked glass using a silicon sealant beaded around the edges, but the tempered glass and silicon sealants are expensive, and the light refraction caused by the double layer of glass lowers the potential power output.
In both repairs, moisture that entered the panel when it lay broke is difficult to remove entirely, and it often becomes trapped within the unit to eventually compromise the integrity of the panel and its power output.
If it were mine, I would simply replace the broken unit with a brand-new panel. When you factor in the cost of the repair and the inevitable loss in power output over the coming months and years, there's little, if any, cost advantage to be gained from repairing a solar panel.
If you have a grid tied system, you will have an inverter as part of your solar power system. The inverter converts the DC current generated by your PV panels into AC current that your household appliances can use. Though it contains no moving parts, the inverter is an important component and should be inspected regularly. Check that the connections are clean and dry.
If you have an off grid system, it will include a bank of storage batteries and possibly a backup generator. These components will require monitoring and maintenance. Regular inspections of your solar power system are recommended to ensure the entire system is running properly and at its optimum efficiently.
Be sure to check your homeowner's insurance policy to make sure your solar installation is properly insured against damage and loss, preferably at replacement cost. Carefully read the fine print of your homeowner's policy and consult with your insurance agent to be sure.
Many insurance policies cover PV panels along with the rest of the house, but some do not, so you might have to add the extra coverage to your policy. As well, a photovoltaic power system can significantly add to the insured value of your home, so you might need to increase your coverage and premium rates.
Hopefully, these comments and solutions to solar panel problems will help to relieve your concerns about choosing to install a PV power system for your home or business.
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