Typically, the relationship between solar panels and Mother Nature is harmonious. But just like any relationship, there is always the potential for things to turn sour.
If you're contemplating installing solar panels onto the roof of your home so that you can reduce your electricity costs, increase the value of your home, and enjoy tax credits, but live in an area that has finicky weather, you may be wondering whether solar panels can survive natural disasters.
Here, we cover common natural disasters and how solar panels stand up to them.
Interested in solar panels for your Florida home? Or maybe you live in Texas or Louisiana. If you do, you're no stranger to hurricanes, as these three states are the most common for hurricane landfalls.
So how will a renewable energy system literally weather the storm? Solar panels are extremely wind-resistant, with most being able to withstand gusts of up to 140 mph. Based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which can be found here, solar panels have a fighting chance even when faced with a category 4 hurricane with wind speeds between 130-156 miles per hour.
What about rain? Since solar panels are waterproof, rain associated with a hurricane will likely not cause any damage. In fact, it may give your panels a good rinse, removing any dirt or debris that has built up over the years.
If you live in an area that frequently experiences hurricanes, your local government may have policies that help protect solar panel owners, like mandating that panels be able to withstand winds up to 170 miles per hour. That's why it is important to go through a reputable solar installer, as they'll know the specific regulations for your area. Easily connect with solar companies now!
Are you in a state that's part of Tornado Alley? Then you, too, may have concerns when it comes to strong winds and solar panels. Since tornados usually occur over land, they can generate some of the strongest wind speeds.
Given these intense winds, proper solar panel installation plays a big role in the survival of your system. Because panels are attached to the roof of your home, there is space between the panels and the roof. Wind can travel between the panels and the roof and create an uplifting force that could, in theory, blow the panel off its mount.
That's why it's important to select a reputable, experienced installer when you go solar. Ensuring proper mounting of the panels could be the difference between them withstanding a tornado or not. Of course, if the house itself is unable to withstand the tornado, the solar panels aren't likely to either.
Hailstorms are no joke. A dime- or quarter-sized piece of hail can cause serious damage because a piece of hail could have a fall speed of 25 to 40 mph during a storm. Any property taking that kind of repeated, strong hit, is likely to suffer damage. But what about your renewable energy system, since panels are exposed to the elements? Can solar panels withstand a hailstorm?
Good news for consumers: Yes, unless you're going through a record-breaking storm, your solar panels will likely pull through. That's because manufacturers test them against hailstorms, and generally speaking, solar panels can endure hailstones of up to an inch in size traveling at a speed of 50 mph. Since that's smaller than the average hailstone, you are in good shape.
Where solar is soaring and why
You don't need to be in an area that gets frequent blizzards to know how snow can severely hamper your day. But what about your panels? How do they handle heavy snowfall?
Since your roof-mounted solar panels are waterproof and typically installed at an angle, snow slides right off of them. Depending on the snowfall, it can actually increase the system's output, thanks to sunlight reflecting off the surrounding rooftop. A panel might absorb up to two times the light it normally would when it's surrounded by this light-reflecting snow.
Of course, that's only if the panels themselves aren't buried under snow. Since the panels are at an angle, that's unlikely to happen. But if your system does get covered in a blanket of snow, wait until it is safe to go outside, and simply brush the snow off using the proper equipment. Don't risk injury by going up onto the roof!
Are you a Californian or Alaskan interested in solar panels? The west coast of the United States is particularly susceptible to earthquakes, so you may be concerned about how solar panels will stand up to seismic activity.
When it comes to earthquakes, it's not the solar panels you need to be worried about so much as the roof itself. If the roof can survive the shaking, it's likely that the panels will too. For that reason, be sure to have your roof carefully inspected, ensuring it is up to code, before beginning solar panel installation.
Since solar panels are lightweight and made of tempered glass to reduce the risk of injury in the unlikely event they break, your solar panels aren't likely to sustain damage in an earthquake. Of course, that depends on the strength of the earthquake.
According to information analyzed by Michigan Tech and UPSeis, there are an estimated 900,000 earthquakes worldwide with a magnitude of 2.5 or less, and 30,000 with a magnitude of 2.5 to 5.4. The estimated occurrence of earthquakes drops significantly the higher you move up the magnitude scale, so it's not likely that your solar panels will be hit with an intense earthquake that is capable of affecting them.
Many wildfires are indeed caused by humans. But they can still start on their own and are classified as a natural disaster by the Environmental Protection Agency. The ash and smoke that fires produce will impact your system's efficiency. That being said, having a renewable energy system to power your home reduces your dependence on the electricity grid, which helps lessen the risk of fire.
If you're having to deal with the worst-case scenario and lose your home in a fire, the panels will be destroyed as well.
Not all policies are created equal! If you live in an area that deals with frequent run-ins with Mother Nature, it's likely that you will need to purchase a separate insurance policy to ensure adequate coverage and protection.
Be sure that your new policy or homeowners insurance extends to your solar panels. That way, in the rare event that your renewable energy system is damaged by a natural disaster, you will be covered.
It's important to be realistic when it comes to solar panels. If your home itself won't withstand a storm or fire, it's unreasonable to think that solar panels would.
Panels May Benefit You in a Disaster
If you opt for panels and a solar battery, your renewable energy system may benefit you during a storm or fire, as you won't be dependent on the electricity grid. Should the power go out around you, you will still be able to power your home, assuming the panels are getting the exposure they need.
You don't have to be completely grid-based or dependent on a battery; there may be hybrid options to explore. Discuss your needs with your solar installer to ensure you're getting the setup that best complements the area you live in and common natural disasters. Connect with a solar panel installer today!