How durable are my solar panels in extreme weather?

September 29, 2023

Solar panel durability in extreme wind, rain and hail

Solar panels, when properly installed, can withstand strong winds and continue to be a good investment. Homeowners across the country are turning to solar for clean energy and monthly utility savings.

Unfortunately, the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events impacts homeowners across the country. Extreme weather events are unusually severe weather or climate conditions that often lead to devastating impacts on communities.

Despite the financial and environmental benefits of solar panels, you may be curious about the durability of solar panels when facing the elements. Thankfully, solar panels are designed, built and tested to withstand the wind and hail to an extent.

It is always important for consumers to research products before purchase, so it’s a good idea to check for technical specifications, safety ratings and warranties before purchase. Additionally, check your homeowner’s insurance to ensure your solar system is covered.

Can wind damage solar panels?

Hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornadoes bring fast winds that can damage trees, buildings and power lines.  Before you buy a solar system, you might want to know if your solar panels can survive high speed winds. The good news is that most solar panels sold in the U.S. are tested to withstand winds of up to 140 mph.

When damage does occur to solar panels during heavy wind, it’s typically a failure with the racking system or from flying debris. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory report found 0.1% of 50,000 solar systems reported being affected by damaged or underperforming modules each year, between 2009-2013.

Most solar panels can survive into Category 3 hurricanes with a maximum wind speed of 129 mph. Some solar panels can survive Category 4 hurricanes, with winds between 130-156 mph. There are multiple stories of solar homes surviving hurricanes and producing reliable power after intense winds. It is important for homeowners to research solar panel durability before purchase.

Florida receives the most hurricanes that make landfall out of the U.S. states. The state of Florida requires solar panels to withstand winds of 160 mph, which can withstand Category 4 hurricanes.

Additionally, solar panels can withstand strong winds in areas that experience tornadoes. Tornadoes, while associated with central states — ranging from Texas to South Dakota, have occurred in all fifty states. Solar panels are able to withstand F0 and F1 tornadoes, with winds between 40-112 mph. F2 tornadoes have winds ranging between 113-157 mph, meaning solar panels could reliably survive some F2 tornadoes.

Can hail damage my solar panels?

Yes, solar panels are built to withstand hail to an extent. Quality solar panels are protected by a thick layer of tempered glass, which is able to sustain a substantial amount of impact.

Depending on the manufacturer, solar panels are built to withstand hail with diameters between one-to-two inches. Before you install solar panels, make sure to research solar panel models and look for industry-wide ratings.

You can look for two solar panel ratings, UL 61730 or IEC 61730, which refers to a solar panels’ durability in hail storms. Solar panels that pass either or both tests can withstand between one-to-three inch hailstorms traveling under 88.3 mph.

Hail can still damage solar equipment though, it is important to ensure your solar panels are covered either by your homeowner’s insurance or your installer warranty. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found the risk of hail damage to solar panels was less than five percent. Hail is particularly bad in parts of the country that don’t receive hurricanes, such as Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming — known as Hail Alley.

Do solar panels work during hurricanes or thunderstorms?

Solar panels generate electricity from sunlight, meaning panels are the most efficient on sunny days. However, solar panels can still generate some electricity on cloudy days, though less efficiently. During severe weather, it is not recommended to rely on your solar panels for electricity.

Your solar panels will not be able to produce enough electricity, which is why a storage battery is important. In the event of a power outage, most solar system inverters turn off, preventing you from powering your home with solar energy. This is to protect utility professionals working on down power lines.

Storage batteries allow homeowners to power their home using previous unused solar energy. In the event of continued cloudy days, nighttime or a power outage — homeowners can use their storage batteries to power their home and provide limited electricity.

Will my solar panels work in a power outage?

Most solar homeowners in the U.S. are still connected to the electric grid. Meaning you draw power from the utility company when your panels can’t generate enough electricity and send excess power to the grid. During a blackout, most grid-tied solar systems shut down for safety reasons.

If a blackout occurs during daylight, your system will not power your home. This is to protect utility workers, who need to safely fix power lines. There are multiple tools to provide energy for your home.

The best option is a storage battery — also called a solar battery — which stores electricity for later use. Storage batteries can either store unused solar energy, making the most of your solar investment, or draw from the electrical grid. In the event of a power outage due to storms or distant fires, a storage battery can provide some energy to power essentials.

Another option is purchasing an islanding inverter for your solar system, which would allow you to use your solar panels in the event of a power outage. An islanding inverter turns your home into an “energy island” in the event of a power outage, while still allowing you to be connected to the grid.

Want to go solar? Enact is here to help

There are multiple reasons to go solar, and Enact is here to help. Homeowners can see monthly savings on utility bills across the lifetime of their solar panels and get an accurate picture of their consumption and health of their solar system through our app, Enact Home. Solar panels harness sunlight to create clean electricity, which reduces your carbon footprint and reduces your reliance on the electrical grid.

Whether you want to save money or live a more sustainable life, Enact simplifies the solar process. Our home energy advisors create free estimated quotes for custom solar systems, designed specifically for your home. Consumers who chose Enact get access to a wide range of solar panel, inverter and battery options. From design to post-installation monitoring, Enact helps homeowners every step of the way.

Schedule a free consultation with our energy advisors and get a free customized solar quote for your home. All we need is some basic information about your home and energy usage. Then you can get started on your journey to solar savings.

Written by David Bartle, content marketing associate.
Edited by  Aisha Shaikh, product marketing manager.