You don’t hear of solar panels breaking very often, but it can happen. Most solar panels are manufactured to withstand some pretty heavy beatings from the elements: hail, high winds, etc.
But there are a few big no-no’s that may compromise the integrity of your panels, so don’t try this at home:
Cold water on hot panels (or hot water on cold panels)
Let’s go back to 6th grade science on this one: it’s called thermal downshock. Rapid temperature changes with materials like glass results in fracturing. This is why you never throw hot water on your frozen windshield in the winter time.
So, say you want to clean your panels with your garden hose – just make sure you only do it either in the early morning or evening to avoid cracking your panels. Cracked panels may still work, but being that electricity is involved, it would be a huge hazard on your rooftop.
Rocks, tree branches, and baseballs, oh my!
Your neighbor’s kid is training to be the next Barry Bonds. A giant redwood towers high above your array. There is always a risk that something could hit the face of your panel just right and crack it. Hey, I chipped my diamond ring somehow and aren’t diamonds supposed to be the strongest natural material on earth? Accidents happen.
Other things like stress
My house moves sometimes. I can hear it settling at night, with little groans and creaks. And being a Bay Area native and living practically on the Hayward fault line, I have experienced my fair share of earthquakes. Could a shifting rooftop stress an array out enough to break a panel? Or can an earthquake jiggle the panels enough to crack them?
It’s possible, but not very likely. Unless we have The Big One…but since they say California is going to fall into the ocean anyways, damaged solar panels will probably be the least of your worries.
I’m sure you can think of other creative ways to break a solar panel, if that’s your goal. Stepping on them could even do the trick.
But the most important rule regarding solar panels, broken or not, is: DO NOT TOUCH! Always have a licensed solar contractor inspect your panels and perform the repair or replacement, if necessary. Also, make sure you understand the details of the warranty on your system.