RV solar panels are subject to the changing weather, just like any type of outdoor equipment. Depending on what part of the country you live in, or where you travel, the solar panels on your rig can experience hail, high wind conditions, and heavy rainfall. How to protect RV solar panels from hail can be a real concern if you’re dealing with golf ball sized hail, or basically hail that’s larger than one inch in diameter. Want to learn how to keep your panels safe, protected, and intact? Read on.
Want to find out how to protect RV solar panels from hail? Fortunately, you don’t even need to worry about extra protection for your solar panels in the event of a hailstorm or other types of serious inclement weather conditions. Most solar panels have a high wind rating and have undergone testing to ensure that the solar panels can handle hail up to one inch in diameter. This means you don’t need to buy expensive covers for your solar panel setup. However, if you’re still concerned about hail damaging your solar panels, you can always make your own hardcovers. Just keep in mind that doing so will probably negatively impact the solar panel’s ability to absorb sunlight.
Solar panels are designed to handle hail and high winds. But even knowing this, many solar panel owners are still concerned regarding the true durability of their solar panel setup and want to know exactly how much wind and impact damage their solar panels can really handle.
Continue reading to find out!
Can RV Solar Panels Withstand a Hailstorm?
The best RV solar panels are very durable and designed to withstand most types of inclement weather. Most manufacturers actually perform tests to ensure that their solar panels are able to withstand a hailstorm and most systems are certified to easily take on hail that’s around one inch in diameter and falling at a rate of fifty miles per hour. But not all solar panels will make it out of a hailstorm unscathed. Hail that’s larger than one inch in diameter can cause significant damage to the panels. However, this size of hail can basically cause severe damage to most structures. In order to protect your solar panels, a protective cover is recommended.
Generally speaking, most types of RV solar panels can actually hold up very well in a hailstorm, much better than most roofs. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted testing to determine solar panel durability in this specific type of inclement weather situation and found that the average solar panel, whether it’s designed for home or RV use, can easily hold up in most hurricane force winds and hailstorms. Working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy, the NREL claims that most solar panel brands maintain the same level of durability. Through their testing, they also found that solar panels continued to function and provide the same level of power even when put in these harsh inclement weather situations.
This organization continues to test solar panel durability. In some testing, they actually fired ping pong sized hail at solar panels at speeds up to seventy miles per hour in order to determine the panel’s durability.
Their testing not only consisted of impact and pressure based tests in hailstorms they also tested the panel’s durability and performance in extreme cold, heat, and humidity.
High Wind Conditions
But for many RV owners, hail isn’t the only concern. Hurricanes, high winds, and heavy rainfall can also pose a threat. In windy conditions, solar panels are at risk of damage caused by high volumes of water, or they can even become dislodged. Fortunately, many solar panel systems come with a wind rating. These wind ratings were awarded during standard testing, in which the product designers tested the solar panels in order to determine how much wind the panels could withstand before becoming dislodged or severe damage occurred. Some solar panels on the market have an impressive wind rating and can handle one hundred and forty miles per hour winds. Additionally, most solar panels have glass casings and aluminum frames that make the panels extremely waterproof even in the event of heavy rainfall.
Damaged Solar Panels
If your solar panels are damaged in a hailstorm, the panel may be repaired or it may be necessary and more cost effective to replace the panel.
Before you buy an RV solar panel kit, read the product warranty information. Most brands will insure the solar panels against high winds (based on the solar panel’s wind rating) and hail up to one inch in diameter.
Solar Panel Covers
Most manufacturers produce some type of waterproof cover that’s made out of durable cloth, for solar panels on RVs and homes, but none seem to offer hard solar panel covers, which is what would be needed in order to prevent damage caused by hail. Many RV enthusiasts tend to take the DIY approach and make their own plexiglass covers. This allows the sun to penetrate the panels and doesn’t inhibit their efficiency. But in all honesty, making your own plexiglass covers may be overkill. Considering the high safety rating all solar panels have, the panels are pretty safe, even in the event of a hurricane or hailstorm, however, damage is still possible, in severe conditions.
What Can Damage a Solar Panel?
There’s no doubt that solar panels have come a very long way in terms of technology and durability, but while they’re designed to withstand a hurricane or hailstorm, they are still susceptible to damage. In most climates the RV solar panel is designed to last around eight to twelve years, depending on the type of solar panel.
In terms of vulnerability, the solar panel is at risk of cracking due to falling debris, and water damage.
Falling debris, such as branches, twigs, and rocks can cause large and micro-scratches in the panel’s surface. These scratches can lower the panel’s energy output dramatically by decreasing the amount of energy the panel is able to absorb. This is because the scratches can prevent the sun from shining directly on the cells in the panel. Larger debris including rocks or branches can lead to serious damage, completely destroying a panel.
The best solution to this problem is ensuring that there are no trees in close proximity or directly overhead, however, falling debris can still be a big problem in high wind conditions.
Proper upkeep is also necessary. Allowing debris to build up on the surface of the panel can also decrease the panel’s efficiency, lowering the energy output. To clear away small debris from the panel’s surface, rinse of the panels using buckets of water or a hose and dry them off promptly using a microfiber cloth.
As we mentioned earlier, solar panels are also very susceptible to water damage, in the event that the panels are scratched or chipped. Water damage can also occur when the seals on the panels deteriorate as the panels age. As the sealant gets older, it tends to become less effective, which is how water can enter the solar panel. Once this occurs, it can degrade the solar panel’s components or it can lead to short-circuiting the panel. In order to avoid serious water damage, make sure you have the panels resealed once every three years. If you’re not sure about the condition of the seals, find a local licensed solar panel contractor. This pro will be qualified to assess the condition of your solar panel setup and can recommend proper treatment.
Can You Fix a Solar Panel That’s Cracked?
If your solar panel system’s warranty is expired and you notice cracks after a massive storm, unfortunately, there’s no way you can fix the crack on your own. Where there are many sites that feature tutorials on how to fix a cracked solar panel yourself, the cracked panel doesn’t stand a chance. The chemical reactions that take place inside the solar panel require completely sealed cells in order to function correctly. The second moisture is able to enter the panel after the initial damage, the moisture cannot be removed completely. Additionally, this can also result in corrosion of the interior of the solar panel at some point down the line. Both of these scenarios will severely compromise the integrity of the panel and may even be potentially hazardous.
Can Golf Balls Damage Solar Panels?
No. These panels are built tough and can withstand hail of the same size, with an impact force of seventy miles per hour. However, that’s not to say that getting hit by a golf ball won’t potentially nick, chip or scratch the panel. If this is a real concern, you can purchase waterproof covers for the panels, which can add a little extra protection against impact and inclement weather conditions.
What is Solar Panel Maintenance?
Proper solar panel maintenance and preventative measures are both keys to maximizing the benefits of your solar panel system and avoiding any permanent damage. Make sure you keep the panels clean in order to ensure that they can absorb light more efficiently. The more debris and dirt on the panels, the less power the panels will be able to provide. Light is everything when it comes to solar energy.
Spraying down the panels with a hose can be the best and fastest way to clean them off and keep them working correctly. However, be careful to avoid spraying cold water on hot solar panels that have been sitting in the sun for hours.
Can Solar Panels Break?
The Go Power! Weekender SW Complete Solar and Inverter System is one of the toughest solar panel systems on the market, but it’s still susceptible to damage. Solar panels often undergo testing that ensures the durability of the panel in certain weather conditions and how they can handle impact at different speeds. But it’s definitely possible for a solar panel to get damaged if you’re driving on the freeway and a huge rock hits the surface. In this case, we recommend getting the panel repaired ASAP. Doing so can prevent potential water damage. Panels can bounce back after they’ve been nicked or chipped, but if you’re dealing with serious cracks in the surface, you’ll probably need to have that particular panel replaced. If you hold off on repairing or replacing the panel, there may be a dip in the amount of energy the system produces. If you’re not sure where to take the solar panel for repairs, contact the manufacturer. You may get lucky and this type of damage may be covered by the system’s warranty.
Are Inverter Generators Safer to Use in Inclement Weather than Solar Panel Systems?
No. Even the best camp generator is not designed for use in the rain. This can actually totally destroy the generator and may lead to serious personal injury. Models like the Wen PowerPro 56101 Inverter Generator are designed to supplement power when your solar panel system fails you, but it cannot be safely used in rain or snow.
If you’d like to learn more about inverter generator safety, click here to read our article can a portable generator be used in the rain.
If you’re concerned about how your RV solar panels will stand up against a hailstorm, lightning, or even a hurricane and want to learn how to protect RV solar panels from hail, rest assured that your solar panels are designed to withstand these conditions, with no intervention on your part. Before you buy a new solar panel system, check the wind rating and what size of hail they’re designed to handle. You’ll find that most solar panels these days are designed to withstand hail up to one inch in diameter. If you’re still concerned that your panels will become damaged if you end up caught in a serious storm, it is possible to make your own plexiglass covers, but in most cases, this type of protection is not necessary.