Last week I helped a friend of mine install solar panels on his roof. This morning I woke up to the sound of rain pouring heavily. I received a call from my friend worried about rain damaging his new solar panels. Based on my years of experience with solar panels, I answered all his concerns. Then I realized that many people interested in solar power might also have similar doubts. So I decided to write this article.
Can solar panels be damaged by rain? Most solar panels available today are designed to be waterproof, so rainfall by itself will not have any negative impact on them. However, if a storm or hailstorm accompanies rain, there is a slight chance of physical damage.
Even though the solar panels are waterproof, they are still electronic devices, and if water can somehow get inside the wiring, it can damage the system. Moreover, the effectiveness of solar panels is also reduced during rainfall. Let’s dive a bit deeper into it, so you know everything about solar panels and rainfall.
What makes the solar panels waterproof
Solar panels are always placed outside, and nature is unpredictable. These panels are designed to sustain harsh environmental conditions for over 30 years. There are several components in a solar panel that work in conjunction to make it waterproof
- The solar panels have a glass covering on the front to protect them from direct impacts
- There is also a back sheet made of composite plastic
- The panels also contain a durable metal frame
- Both sheets and metal frames are sealed using special glue to prevent water from entering.
- The junction boxes also have IP rating protection.
Under perfect circumstances, the solar panels do not allow water to enter inside; however, some defects can break their seal. In this scenario, the rain does cause damage.
But the good news is that warranties mostly cover such flaws, and the manufacturer will replace the defective cell.
How to keep solar panels safe in rainfall
As we discussed above that even though solar panels are waterproof, there are still some vulnerabilities that you can address. Let’s discuss the things you can do to ensure that your solar panels remain protected for years to come
1. Check Panel Sealing Regularly
A slight fault in the solar panel sealing can be troublesome. With time, like everything, the sealing in the solar panels can get weathered. You should check your panels once in a while for sealing faults. If you notice any issues, you should get them fixed quickly. It is recommended to use silicon-based sealants as they are pretty easy to use yourselves
2. Install retaining walls if your panels are on the ground
If your solar panels are installed on the ground, the rainfall can wash up the soil underneath them and eventually lead to the collapse of solar panels on the ground. An easy solution to this problem is installing retaining walls underneath your solar panels. These can last for decades without any significant maintenance. These walls are especially useful for commercial solar panels installation like solar farms
3. Prune the Vegetation
It’s highly unlikely that a tree will ever fall on your solar panel, but the fallen branches and twigs can still damage the panels. These stray pieces of vegetation can leave dents and scratches on your solar panels that can reduce their ability to absorb the sunlight.
You don’t have to get rid of any trees around your solar panels to protect them, but it would be really helpful to hire a professional to trim the trees.
What happens when it rains on solar panels?
Apart from getting wet, many things can happen to them when they are wet.
- Reduced efficiency – Solar panels need adequate sunlight to function at optimal efficiency. During the rain or cloudy weather, the sunlight is blocked by the clouds, and solar panels’ output is reduced. Solar panels could still work during this season, but they will work around 10-25% of their desired output.
- Cleaning – Believe it or not, rain can be beneficial for your solar panels. The water can wash off any dust or debris on the surface of solar panels. This can help in increasing their efficiency in the long run.
- For best results, keep your solar panels above the angle of 15 degrees.
- Net metering – If you have a net-metering arrangement with your utility provider, this is the time to enjoy its full benefits. As the output from your solar panels drops below the required levels, the electricity from the grid will kick in.
I will tell you what I told my friend. When the rain comes, enjoy the view and stop worrying about your solar panels. Really smart people design these wonderful pieces of technology after years of research. Rain is one of the first things that designers think about when they develop these panels. If you like, you can take some preventive measures to ensure your solar panels’ safety further; even without these, you have nothing to worry about.