Your Detailed Guide on Detecting and Fixing Solar Panel Problems

May 21, 2024

Harnessing the sun’s power through your solar panel system gives way to energy independence. However, to keep solar panels working, you should monitor them regularly to ensure they operate at peak performance.

In this guideline, SolarPowerSystems provides you with easy steps that will help you prolong the system’s initial productivity for decades! Add it to your bookmarks to prevent the most common problems with solar panels. If you have more questions about solar energy, visit our solar blog or ask our industry experts for a personalized solar quote.

Popular Myths About Solar Panels Busted 5

What Causes Solar Panels to Degrade: Common Contributors

There are plenty of factors that negatively affect the solar panel durability. Most can be divided into three categories:

  • Environmental factors
  • Manufacturing defects
  • Installation errors

We’ll examine each of the common problems with solar panels in detail to provide guidelines for detecting possible issues at the earliest stage.

Environmental Solar Panel Damage

Solar panel cracks

It’s the most common cause of broken solar panels. While they are built to be durable and weatherproof, they are still not immune to extreme environmental factors.

  1. High temperatures (more than 130°F) can negatively affect the system’s efficiency, leading to long-term solar panels overheating. Meanwhile, extreme cold (lower than 10°F) can cause the glass to crack or trigger further damage.
  2. Strong winds can pull panels loose from their mounting, tear wires, or even cause entire arrays to collapse. If you live in a windy area, check that your future panels are rated for wind speeds expected in your region. Otherwise, you may get solar panel damage faster than expected. Ask the installer team to add a few extra mounts to the system to ensure additional safety.
  3. Hail is another major cause of stress for solar owners. Large hailstones can crack the glass and damage the underlying cells. It causes solar damage, significantly reducing efficiency and performance.
  4. Debris is another common reason for a cracked solar panel. We highly recommend you preventively cut branches that can fall on panels after the strong wind. That way, you proactively avert the most common problems with solar panels.
  5. If you live in the northern part of the U.S., beware of heavy snow and ice buildup. Snow accumulation can block sunlight and reduce the panel’s efficiency. Additionally, extreme ice buildup can overload panels, causing structural solar panel damage. Clean your panels thoroughly after each snowstorm.
  6. Accumulated dust and sand can block sunlight, impacting performance. Regular cleaning is vital in dusty environments. It’s one of the easiest ways to protect solar panels.
  7. Those who live in coastal areas should look for panels with extreme corrosion resistance. Saltwater spray corrodes the frame and electrical components way faster than unsalted water. System cracks due to water damage are among the most common problems with solar panels.
  8. If you live in an area with many birds, check your panels for droppings every 10-15 days. Bird feces are acidic, causing the solar panel damage over time. If you notice the drops a few days after the incident, your panel will be fine. But if you let them stay for weeks, it can cause solar damage.

Manufacturing Solar Panel Damage

While modern manufacturing processes are constantly improving, solar panels can still develop defects during production. These common solar panel defects can impact performance, longevity, and safety.

The first group of defective solar panels is related to cell issues that are easy to notice even before installation. You could witness cracked cells if your panels faced mishandling, inadequate stress testing, or thermal stresses during production. This issue impacts efficiency and can lead to hot spots, which are known as common problems with solar panels.

If your cells mismatch, you may see slight performance variations between them. Manufacturers should meticulously sort panels to reduce mismatch to the minimum acceptable level. Otherwise, your solar panels will lose their performance faster than expected.

Burned solar panel 1

If the panel’s layers start to separate, the system faces a delamination. It mostly happens due to inadequate bonding or exposure to moisture. People on forums often ask, “Do solar panels break easily? Can I use delaminated panels, or will it cause further damage?”. We recommend you call the installer team to fix this issue immediately. This damage type compromises weatherproofing and can damage electrical components.

Microcracks are one of the common problems with solar panels, as they disrupt panels’ output while being typically small. To determine whether your system has solar panel cracks, look for hairline fissures under the angled light, and check for slight discoloration and a white, web-like snail trail pattern.

Installation-Related Solar Panel Damage

Even if you buy the perfect solar panel and place it on a suitable roof, you are not immune to solar panels breaking. Installation errors can significantly affect your solar system’s performance, safety, and longevity.

If your installers ignore wind and snow, change the team immediately. Mounting panels without considering local wind and snow load can lead to solar panel problems.

Installation-Related Solar Panel Damage

Beware of shading when installing solar panels. Even partial shading from trees, chimneys, or other structures can significantly reduce energy production. It’s one of the common problems with solar panels related to improper installation.

Not accounting for seasonal changes in shade patterns can lead to unexpected performance drops, especially with static mounting systems. It also can lead to the solar panels overheating since those parts exposed to the sun will be much hotter than shaded ones.

Once the chosen team installs the panels in dry and warm weather, check the installation quality. Panels must be securely fastened to withstand wind, snow, and other forces. Using insufficient fasteners, improper spacing, or failing to account for roof type and materials can lead to panel detachment, roof damage, and even personal injury.

Double-check the wiring and grounding, as faults with them can lead to power loss, voltage drops, or electrical fires. Ensure your panels have enough natural airflow around them to provide proper ventilation. That way, you can prevent installation-related common problems with solar panels.

Ensure workers use suitable hardware, as slightly mismatched inverters and connectors are a common installation issue. People on forums often ask, “What causes solar panels to degrade?”. Mismatched hardware is one of the main non-obvious reasons, as it provides power mismatch and electrical stress to all system components. In the long run, it leads to the system’s degradation.

Beyond the Obvious: Other Factors Causing Solar Panel Damage

While environmental, manufacturing, and installation issues threaten solar panel health, several less conventional factors can lower solar panel durability. We’ve gathered non-obvious yet common problems with solar panels in one place so you can determine which one may damage your system.

Birds seeking shelter under panels can build nests, blocking sunlight and potentially causing fire hazards due to flammable materials. It slowly but surely causes solar panel damage over time. Bird-proofing measures like netting or deterrent spikes are crucial. They can prevent from birds walking on solar panels, which scratches the material.

Beyond the Obvious: Other Factors Causing Solar Panel Damage

Squirrels and rabbits might chew some wires or cables, causing solar panel damage, such as electrical problems and safety risks. To keep your panels safe, you should implement rodent exclusion and protection strategies.

While uncommon, thieves or vandals can focus on your solar panels as their future target. Set security cameras and alarms as anti-theft measures. You can also use solar tiles that look just like traditional shingles to hide the fact that you are using this method of producing eco-friendly energy. Tesla’s Solar Roof is one of the well-known examples of those shingles.

How to Detect Damaged Solar Panels

You should visually inspect your panels every few weeks to quickly detect potential damage. Most warranties cover common problems with solar panels. So, it will be easier to fix issues when it’s free for you.

Regularly climb onto your roof (safely, of course!) and give a thorough visual examination of common problems with solar panels. Inspect your roof for visible signs of damage, including cracks in the glass, hot spots, scratches, discoloration, or staining. Also, check for delamination on the back sheet.

Ensure that your panel doesn’t have loose or corroded frame components. It’s a relatively common solar panel damage even on freshly installed systems. While you’re up there, watch for roof leaks or water damage near the panels. With an infrared camera, you can detect hot spots early, increasing your chances of preventing solar panel degradation.

Run performance monitoring by tracking the system’s output. Look for significant drops in energy production compared to historical data or benchmarks. If your panel produces suspiciously less than expected, you should be concerned. It may catch some of the common problems with solar panels.

Use specialized monitoring tools for tracking. Most manufacturers have official mobile apps where you can monitor detailed performance data. You will also get timely alerts about solar panel damage.

If you have multiple panels, check if one underperforms. This comparison helps you understand whether the current performance issues are weather-based or caused by something wrong with one of your panels.

Don’t ignore strange noises like crackling or buzzing coming from the panels. They could indicate electrical arcing or loose connections. A burning odor near the panels is a red flag, signaling about solar panel damage. Don’t delay investigating the source of the issue. If it’s one of the minor common problems with solar panels, it can even be covered by warranty.

What To Do if Your Solar Panel Is Damaged

If you suspect your panels are broken, inspect the system, but don’t touch it. Panels can still have residue voltage. In rare cases, solar panel damage can cause hot spots or arcing, posing a fire risk. Disconnecting the system through the inverter minimizes the possibility of fires originating from the solar panels.

Call the installer team and explain your situation. Provide as much information as possible about the solar panel damage, including suspecting sounds, performance drops, or error messages. The expert team will use specialized tools like thermal cameras to assess the extent and nature of the damage.

What To Do if Your Solar Panel Is Damaged

What To Consider While Picking Between Repair or Replacement

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for what to do when you catch common problems with solar panels. You are the only one responsible for deciding in this situation. It should depend on several factors, including the following:

  1. The extent of solar panel damage. If a system has minor damage, like a single cracked cell, consider repairing it. However, if your panels have severe damage, replacing them might be more cost-effective.
  2. Age of the panels. Repairing younger panels (less than ten years old) might be more lucrative than replacing the entire system. Older panels might be less efficient than newer models. Replacing them with more efficient options could yield higher energy production and offset the replacement cost.
  3. Warranty coverage. If the solar panel damage is covered by warranty, choose this option to save money. If the warranty has expired or doesn’t cover the damage, the choice is up to you.

Proactive Steps to Prevent Solar Panel Damage

After all this information, you may ask yourself questions like “How to protect solar panels?”. We understand your concerns. That’s why we provide a short guideline for proper maintenance.

  • Provide environmental protection such as shading and heat control, debris management, and weatherproofing. Choose a solar system that suits your climate. Trim nearby trees to prevent shading and possible solar panel damage from debris.
  • Protect your panels from birds and rodents. Avoid spraying any chemicals near panels, including pesticides with ammonia. Choose safer pest control methods to avoid solar panel damage.
  • Implement security measures like cameras even if you live in a relatively safe area. That way, you’ll have additional evidence for warranty in case of the broken solar panel.
  • Monitor the system’s performance for sudden drops. Keep that record for as long as possible. If you notice production degradation faster than expected in warranty, a manufacturer may replace your panels with a completely new one.

Safeguarding Your Solar Investment

Navigating the complexities of solar panel ownership can be daunting. However, you need to do only one thing to eliminate most of your worries about solar panel damage — choose a reputable installer. Luckily, SolarPowerSystems is here to guide you.

The wealth of information about solar installers doesn’t always simplify the decision-making process. With numerous technicalities involved, much of the information provided by installers themselves is often unverified in user reviews, and pricing policies can be misleading. SolarPowerSystems has developed a solar installer search tool that generates a list of optimal installers in your area. This tool uses the largest installer review dataset, which our professionals constantly update and verify. Simply answer a few questions, and our competent team member will assist you free of charge!

Here at Solar Power System, we understand the value of informed decision-making. Our team is dedicated to connecting homeowners with trusted installers who share our commitment to quality and exceptional customer service. Take the first step towards sustainable energy today.

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Andy Worford
Andy Worford

Andy is a Founder, Chief Content Officer, regular contributor, and idea generator behind Solar Power Systems. He is well-versed in various aspects of solar energy, including photovoltaic systems, solar policy trends, and green technology innovations.

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