If you’re thinking about going solar or have already done so, you may be wondering how solar panels will fare in less-than-fair weather – especially if you live in a region vulnerable to hurricanes and hailstorms.
Good news: Solar panels are much more durable than you may think.
In fact, a look back at some of our nation’s most catastrophic storms in recent history illustrates this point well.
New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of single-family homes with solar panels in the country. So, when Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the Jersey Shore in 2012, thousands of solar customers in the area understandably prepared for the worst.
Although this region saw devastation on an unprecedented scale, most of the state’s solar panels were unaffected - only a very small number of solar panels sustained damage.
Most solar panels even withstood the havoc Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico in 2017. The massive storm slammed into the island with winds exceeding 150 miles per hour.
But when it was all over, a veterans affairs (VA) hospital with a large 645-kW solar system was left operating at 100 percent – in San Juan, one of the most heavily affected areas.
As you might imagine, wind, rain and hail are typically the biggest concerns when it comes to damage during a hurricane. Let’s take a deeper dive into these three weather phenomena to see how each one affects solar panels.
Do Solar Panels Work When it's Raining?
During a hurricane, it’s perfectly normal to worry about rain and flooding. But solar panels are waterproof and, as a result, are usually able to continue generating energy when it rains.
Solar panels convert both direct and indirect sunlight into energy. Although they’re more effective when they receive direct sunlight, they can still produce up to 25 percent of their optimal capacity on cloudy or rainy days.
You might even be surprised to learn that rain is actually good for solar panels. It’s not unusual for them to operate more efficiently after a storm because the water washes away dust, dirt, pollen and other airborne particles that can build up on the solar panels over time.
Effects of Wind on Solar Panels
Wind is another factor that may contribute damage in a hurricane. High winds blowing from all directions can wreak havoc on even the most well-built of homes. Since solar panels are positioned slightly above the surface of the roof, uplift may be a concern.
Uplift can happen when wind forces its way between the roof and the solar panels, causing the solar panels to lift up or come loose. But, generally, with proper installation of quality solar panels, you won’t have to worry about uplift except in the case of very extreme weather.
Reputable manufacturers put their solar panels through rigorous testing to ensure they’re built to withstand uplift. In addition, properly installed solar panels, in most cases, account for wind patterns to make sure your solar panels are well secured on your roof and that all wires are safely stowed.
If you live in an area prone to high winds, your solar installer will be able to make informed recommendations based on their experience. And, in all likelihood, your roof will go before you lose your panels.
Can Hail Damage Solar Panels?
Have you ever left your car out in a hailstorm only to find it had more dimples than a golf ball afterward?
Then, you know firsthand the damage these little pieces of ice falling from the sky can cause. But, fortunately, when it comes to hail, most solar panels are certified to stand up against one-inch hail falling at approximately 50 miles per hour.
When damage from hail does occur, it’s usually caused by concentrated impact in small areas. And it’s rare, a point well illustrated by recent severe weather in Denver.
In May of 2017, the Mile-High City was pelted with baseball-sized hail that injured many. The hailstorm provided the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) located in the city with the perfect opportunity to test the durability of the more than 3,000 solar panels on its rooftops.
Despite the size and force of the hail that hammered down on the lab, only one solar panel was damaged, a true testament to the fact that today’s panels are built to last.
Before a Hurricane
Many homeowners take photos of their valuables and other treasured belongings as proof of the condition of these items, should they need to file a claim with their insurance provider for future damage to them.
This is also a good strategy for your solar panels.
We recommend you take photos of your solar panels before a hurricane or hailstorm and store hard copies of the pictures with your insurance policies and other important documents. It’s also a good idea to keep digital copies of the photos as well, in the event you need them as backup for your hard copies.
The good news for Sunnova customers is that you’re covered by our 25-year Sunnova Protect™ warranty - it covers the equipment and labor to repair the system due to damage, theft and loss, including damage from a hurricane.* You can find all our warranty information in your Sunnova service agreement.
Finally, but not least, you should contact your homeowners insurance company for specific information about their coverage for wind and storm damage to your home. Make sure you do this sooner rather than later, so you’re prepared before a hurricane or hailstorm occurs.
After a Hurricane
After the hurricane or hailstorm has passed, you may want to assess any damage to your solar panels.
You should never attempt to repair or inspect damaged solar panels yourself. Do not get on your roof – it’s not safe for you and it could even pose a threat to your home. You should also be careful not to touch any loose, damaged or displaced panels or wires, as they could be still be energized and producing power.
Instead, take photographs of any sustained damage from a safe distance and notify your solar power provider. They can instruct you on proper protocol and send someone out to inspect your solar panels if necessary.
If you’re a Sunnova customer and your solar panels are damaged during a hurricane or hailstorm, you should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855.277.6379 right away. We will take care of your solar panels right away.
Preparation is Key
Your best defense for protecting your solar panels in a hurricane or hailstorm is to be prepared ahead of time. Following the tips provided can give you peace of mind, or a sense of direction, regardless of what Mother Nature brings your way.
*Some limitations apply. For example, the warranty does not cover damage caused to the roof as a result of the hurricane.