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Do Broken Solar Panels Still Work

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It is common to wonder if broken solar panels really need to be replaced? A solar system with a broken glass panel often continues to work. However, even though broken solar panels may still generate electricity, their efficiency is significantly compromised. Damaged solar panel glass can lead to reduced sunlight absorption, causing a decrease in overall energy production. This inefficiency can result in diminished performance over time and may ultimately impact the cost-effectiveness of the solar system. Most broken solar panels eventually fail completely, often causing the entire solar system to shut down.


Golf ball damage to multiple solar panels


Moreover, broken panels pose safety risks, especially if the damage exposes electrical components. Cracked or shattered glass can create sharp chards of glass that present hazards to both people and pets. Eventually the pieces of broken glass wash off the roof, and are deposited on the ground through the rain gutters. Additionally, exposed wiring may increase the risk of electrical fires or other malfunctions, posing a danger to the property and its occupants.


The need for solar panel protection 

The nature of solar production is sensitive to variations caused by weather changes, cannot be confidently predicted. For example, hail can damage solar panels through impact. When hailstones fall from the sky, they can hit solar panels with significant force, causing physical damage to the panels' surfaces. 

The hard impact can crack or shatter the protective glass covering the solar cells, leading to reduced efficiency or even complete failure of the panel. Over the short term, solar energy owners may not be able to determine if a broken solar panel is causing loss in energy production. 


An overview of solar energy systems 

Solar energy systems can be implemented using a string inverter or multiple microinverters.  The two different inverter types respond differently to damaged solar panels.  String inverters rely on strings of solar panels, all connected in an in-line arrangement.  Microinverters use only one or two solar panels per micro inverter.  


Mechanics of broken panels

The most common physical damage to solar panels is broken front-side glass.  It is common for the glass cover to be fractured by falling projectiles, like baseballs, golf balls, hail or rocks from lawn mowers.   


Solar panel glass damaged by golf ball


When the impact stress occurs, the glass may break immediately, or initially develop micro-cracks.  After repeated hot-cold temperature cycles the glass fractures completely. The entire solar panel glass weakens from the initial impact area, and often, the entire glass surface fractures. 


Broken upper glass leaves little protection for internal solar cells


Will a solar panel work if the glass is cracked?

Solar panel construction consists of a multi-layer stack.   Typically, an encapsulant (EVA) layer is immediately below the top-side glass. The encapsulant often adheres to the bottom of the glass.  When the glass breaks, the encapsulant tears. This is the start of performance degradation.

Broken glass and torn encapsulant make the internal wiring of the solar panels vulnerable to cold water and moisture.  Water is conductive and creates a path for electrical conduction between the high voltage wiring inside the solar panel and the metal frame of the solar panel. 


Power inverters have a Ground Fault Interrupt circuit that senses leakage current going from the internal solar cells to the solar panel frame.  This ‘GFI error’ in the inverter produces a safety shutdown of the inverter, halting some or all solar energy harvest.  

ground fault display on solar inverter

A GFI error in a string inverter interrupts energy harvest from the entire string of solar panels feeding the inverter.  A GFI error on a microinverter interrupts the energy harvest from one or two panels connected to the specific microinverter.


String vs microinverter


       Sting Inverter                                                  Microinverters



Broken Panels Cannot Be Cleaned

It is also worthy to note that cleaning solar panels with broken glass is not recommended.  Most solar cleaners use a water-fed scrub brush on the glass surface.  If there is fractured glass, the scrubbing action will force water into the solar panel, thus accelerating the GFI failure.

brush cleaning solar panel

The final answer to whether damaged solar panels continue to produce energy is clear.  Even if the panels continue to work for a while, they will eventually fail, causing part or all the solar system production to stop. 


Monterey GolfNet Installation


Get 24/7 solar panel protection 

Preventing the initial amount of damage is the best approach.  Installing protective barrier nets from SolarNets is the best way to protect solar panels and ensure continual operation with no lost solar energy production.

Solar Nets can be installed with the initial solar panel installation or retrofitted to existing systems. Net supports attach to the solar panel frame or the roof surface. 

Solar system owners looking for quick installation of protective solar nets often opt for direct-attach net support brackets. These brackets are securely fastened to the aluminum solar panel frame without roof penetration. 

The powder-coated net supports are affixed to the outer edges of the solar array. Positioned at an angle away from the active solar surface, these brackets are designed to prevent shading on the solar panels. Installation involves attaching the brackets to pre-drilled holes using self-drilling screws. 


Solar panel owners can opt for three types of Direct Attach Brackets: 

  • Corner Supports: Designed for outside corners. 
  • Side Supports: Intended for use at junctions where two modules meet. 
  • Valley Supports: Suited for inside corner angles. 


Custom design your solar panel with the online SolarNets Net Designer Tool  

Net Designer Screen capture 1a


The NET DESIGNER tool available on SolarNets.com allows users to create protective nets customized to the unique requirements of individual solar system arrays. 

Nets can be selected to protect against hail damage or golf ball damage.

With this tool, users can design nets that precisely fit their solar arrays and seamlessly place orders for nets, components, and associated services, all through our user-friendly online platform. 

SolarNet’s tailored netting solutions and specialized support hardware serve as dependable barriers, effectively deflecting golf balls and safeguarding solar panels and rooftops from potential damage. 


Protect your precious solar investments without worries! 

Homeowners can safeguard all solar panel modules or those most susceptible to damage. Should budget be an issue, nets could be placed solely on the array exposed to direct incoming threats. Solar panels experiencing only glancing impacts are less prone to harm. For complete protection, covering all solar panels with netting is advisable. 

So, are you ready to safeguard your solar investment? Contact us today for the best solar panel protectionsolutions. Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions – our team is here to help you maximize the lifespan and efficiency of your solar panels! 


Call us at 209-464-6100 or reach out to us at info@solarnets.com


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