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Saw another question on solar panels and it reminded me of one big thing that always made me hesitant to consider them.

We get several hail storms each year and having an expensive glass covered(?) panel facing almost straight up seems like it is asking for trouble. How do people who have solar panels mitigate this risk?

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Easy, just put plywood over them (sorry, couldn't resist) –  Eric Petroelje Aug 7 '10 at 0:00
    
I'd expect the glass to be constructed to mitigate any risk. If the hail is bad enough to (say) break a car windscreen then you may have problems, though. –  Jeremy McGee Aug 7 '10 at 5:30
    
Seems like maybe someone should invent some kind of sacrificial plexiglass layer or something that would be inexpensive to replace if needed. –  JohnFx Aug 7 '10 at 15:17
    
I guessed from the "several storms per year" that he could live in Austin, and it appears I'm correct. For those that don't know, we get at least one storm per year that will drop 3+" hail over some random section of the city. Very scary, and often nothing you can do to prevent significant damage to anything left outside. –  280Z28 Aug 8 '10 at 1:56
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@280Z28 Exactly, I've given up on making insurance claims for dents in my car every other year. I just live with them now. –  JohnFx Aug 8 '10 at 15:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Smaller panels are one way to go; see this article Hail Damage and your Solar Panels:

If you decide to install photovoltaic modules and worry about hail damage, there are a couple of things to consider. One of the most important concerns the size of the modules. If the region you live in is subject to frequent or serious hail storms, smaller modules are easier and less costly to replace. Also if a large module sustains damage, it will seriously reduce the power output, or even cause the system to fail completely. The drawback with using smaller modules is that they are often more expensive to install.

But of course there is not much that would withstand very large size hail but then your home insurance should cover the damage (just like the damage that would happen to your car and/or house during one of those hail storms). I do not think it is very expensive to get your solar panels added onto your home insurance policy (if they are not covered already). See this answer too: Do roof solar panels and hail mix?

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chicken wire, mounted mounted high and secured on four sides to keep it from bending and touching the glass. This will cut efficiency by a few percent.

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Most panels are designed to withstand most ordinary hail. Modern panels rarely use glass.

For such large hail, one option might be to pole-mount the panels, then tilt them up to full vertical when serious hail is predicted (takes about 5 minutes, 2 people and a wrench). This will put the faces out of harms way. You could add some kind of a rail at the top end of the array to protect the top edges from damage.

Of course, if you're getting that kind of hail, you're probably also under a tornado watch or warning.

Be sure to talk to your insurance company, no matter what you do. It is NOT the case that solar panels (or any other major addition) are automatically covered - since they add value to your home. Your insurer will need to increase the value in the policy. In addition, the type of installation makes a difference in whether or not they're considered part of the dwelling or need a separate rider attached to the policy. We just did this, so it's fresh in my mind - part of our system is included in the dwelling portion of the policy, and part is a separate rider.

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Almost every modern PV module has glass on the front. But they are designed to withstand hail impact: The IEC 61215 test subjects modules to impact from 25 mm ice balls at 23 m/s. –  ArgentoSapiens Jul 12 '12 at 17:55

Mount 1 inch thick Plexiglas cut 1 inch larger then the panel dimension, over the top of the panel with space between the two. Do not mount the panel to the Plexiglas.

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3  
1"x48"x96" sheet only $1248.05 eplastics.com/Plastic/… Thast seems a little pricey for the purpose. –  Wayfaring Stranger Feb 5 '12 at 3:45
    
One inch thick seems a little excessive. I'd go for something thinner and plan to replace it if hail damages it too much. –  Kris K. Feb 5 '12 at 19:36

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