Solar panels maintenance: it’s a question that comes to mind when you’re thinking about adding a solar energy system to your home. You’re worried about the maintenance required with solar panels on your home’s roof. Not to worry. A solar energy system is not like a household appliance or an automobile with moving parts and the kind of wear that you’ll experience driving your car on the highway.
Solar panels are fixed in place. The only moving part is the sun, which spins in place an average of 93-million miles away from the earth. A car’s tires are rolling, starting and stopping on the pavement. That’s why most tires are warrantied for between 30,000 and 100,000 miles. Your solar panels won’t travel miles unless you count the rotation of the earth. That’s a significant number since the earth turns about 1,000 miles every hour, 24,000 miles in a day and about 8.76-million miles in a year.
But, the miles that the earth spins really don’t count because your home, and your solar panels, are spinning with the earth. Most of the potential friction comes from the air, rain, snow and occasionally hail. The first three have a very low friction coefficient. With hail, you have repeated impacts on the solar panels. It’s not really a matter of friction. Without friction, solar panels maintenance is not a major factor.
Fortunately, solar panels are built to withstand the impact of hail. They’re even designed to withstand the impact of golf balls, if you happen to live near a golf course. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), from 2009 to 2013, approximately one-tenth of one percent of solar panel systems suffered some sort of damage due to hail and even hurricanes (depending on the quality of installation).
So, you really don’t have to worry much about maintaining your solar energy system. You should monitor production of electricity as a sudden drop in output, while it may relate to the weather, could indicate a problem where you should call in a professional to take a look. Otherwise, you really don’t even have to clean your solar panels.
(Sept. 10, 2018) Can your roof handle the weight of solar panels? Years ago, in this area of Northern Illinois, storms piled so much snow on roofs that a few roofs actually collapsed. People were taking shovels up onto their roofs and shoveling the snow to alleviate the weight. What does this mean to you as you consider putting solar panels up on your roof? Do you need to worry about the weight?
Rest assured, the answer is, No. You don’t have to worry about the weight of solar panels on your roof.
Solar panels, including all the mounting equipment, weigh about 2- to 4-pounds per square foot. That’s the one-square-foot equivalent of putting one of the following up on your roof:
- A pineapple
- A small cat
- A two-slice toaster
- A two-liter bottle of soda
- A one-quart carton of soy milk
- A medium pumpkin
- A Pomeranian
- A bowling pin
You can put any of these items up on your roof and not worry, even for a moment, that they might plunge through the roof. But, how much weight can your roof hold? Of course, a solar energy array weighs more than a pineapple. But, the weight is distributed or should be.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), your roof should be able to support 20-pounds of snow, per square foot, before the roof is ‘stressed.’ The IBHS goes on to explain that “10-12 inches of snow is equal to … about 5 lbs. per square foot.” However, if you have “2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow” (4-feet total or 60 pounds per square foot), you could have a problem since the old snow is packed and heavier. But, when is the last time you saw 4 feet of snow on your roof?
Since you don’t have to worry about the weight of your solar panels, it’s nice to know that the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says that snow can actually help to clean your solar panels (rain does the same thing). Of course, snow isn’t a big concern this time of year.
The real key to the question of the weight of solar panels is the distribution of weight. Properly installed, the weight is distributed across your roof to the extent that weight is never an issue. If, however, someone doesn’t install your solar panels correctly, then all bets are off and you could have trouble with your roof someday.
(August 28, 2018) Can you say that solar pays? How does a home with solar energy compare to a home without solar energy? Here’s a hypothetical example of how that comparison looks.
John and Liz live on the same street. Joe and Laura live on the other. It’s a new subdivision and they live in identical models that the developer offered when the subdivision was first built. They both have Northern exposures. With both houses, trees were planted to the sides of the backyard leaving the Southern exposure of their roofs without obstruction for the foreseeable future.
When one couple decides to have a solar energy system installed on their roof the clock starts running on a comparison that will last until the other couple decides to follow suit. They can compare their energy costs over time and see the benefits of adding a solar energy system or not – they can see if solar pays.
Initial cost: The homeowners who choose to stick with the electricity provided by the utility company will not have the initial investment required to add solar panels to their home. This expense can be significant. However, there are also state and federal incentives to defray the costs.
Cost of energy over time: With continued dependence on ‘the grid,’ one couple’s electric bills will continue unabated and, in fact, will increase over time. That’s inevitable. With a solar energy system on the roof, the other couple will short circuit the monthly electric bill and replace it with a diminishing expense (should they finance their solar panels). Eventually, they’ll have electricity with virtually no electric bill at all.
Net metering offers electric savings account: On days when the sun shines brightly, the couple with the solar panels are liable to use less energy than their solar panels collect from the sun. With net metering, they will receive credits for the extra electricity that is contributed to the grid. They can use those credits on days when the sun doesn’t shine as brightly.
Safer and greener energy: The couple dependent on the grid and utility company for their electricity will also, most likely, depend on coal or nuclear power for their electricity. The couple with the solar energy system will reduce the need for coal and nuclear power. They’ll have the peace of mind knowing that they’ve made a difference.
Property value: The couple with the solar energy system will enjoy a greater resale value of their home when it’s time to move because they offer a home with virtually free energy. The other couple won’t have that benefit. This is another way that solar pays.
The only benefit to not installing a solar energy system is that you avoid shelling out that initial cost. But, both couples would probably agree that’s a short-term, and short-sighted approach. In the long run, it’s clear that solar pays.