Solar PV panels are exposed to the elements year in and year out. Depending on where in South Africa they are installed, they have to withstand extreme heat, strong wind, hail and torrential rain. Before we talk about how they survive the weather, let us first take a look at how they turn sunlight into electricity.
Image 1: The three main types of solar PV panels on the market.
A solar panel comprises electric wiring and solar cells housed in a protective metal casing. The solar cells are usually made from silicone and convert sunlight (photons) directly into electricity (voltage). When the sunlight hits the solar cells, it interacts with the silicone, which sets the electrons into motion and starts the flow of electricity. There are three main types of solar PV panels on the market, namely thin film, mono silicon and poly silicon panels.
It goes without saying that solar PV panels are most efficient when they receive maximum sunlight, which is why in South Africa they are generally positioned on the north-facing side of a roof. This location leaves them most exposed to the elements. However, they have been designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and can last for years. Here are a few examples of how solar PV panels brave the elements:
Image 2: Poly Silicon solar PV panels installed on a north facing roof by Energy Partners Home Solutions
Wind load is the pressure that the flow of the wind exerts on the roof, and therefore on the solar PV panels. It differs from region to region and is one of the factors that solar PV installers have to take into account.
A solar PV panel that is not secured properly or placed incorrectly could cause considerable damage when it buckles under a heavy wind load. For example, how far away the panel is placed from the edge of the roof, and how close it is to the roof’s surface, influence its ability to withstand wind load. Before installing panels, solar PV experts first take the relevant wind load per square meter and the strength of the roof into consideration.
One also has to look at how the solar PV panels are fastened to the roof. Surprisingly, many solar PV panel installers do not take wind load into account when they design the mounting structures. Energy Partners Home Solutions, for example, have invested considerable time and effort in researching the fittings that connect the panels to the roof. Their state-of-the art solutions tightly securesthe panels without damaging the roof and is made from high-grade, durable materials. It conforms to European standards in terms of quality and waterproofing.
Premium mounting structures can add up to 5% to the cost of a solar energy system, but it is well worth the investment. They will last as long as the panels themselves, whereas cheaper fittings will often corrode and break during the panels’ lifetime.
Image 3: Energy Partners Home Solutions’ high-quality mounting structures provide additional support against wind load.
Holding up in extreme heat.
According to Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions: “It sounds counterintuitive, but the hot summer sun baking down on your solar PV panels is not ideal. Solar panels actually become less efficient the more the temperature rises. As a precaution against overheating, we leave a gap between the panel and the surface of the roof to allow for natural ventilation.”
Braving hail and rain.
Solar PV experts recommend placing the panels at an angle of five degrees or more to allow rainwater to run down the panel. This keeps the water from building up on top of the panel, which could affect its efficiency and cause water damage in the long run. At the same time, placing the panel at an angle makes it self-cleaning: As rain and dew glide down the panel, it washes dust and debris away.
It is also important to ensure you purchase solar PV panels and mounting structures that are made from waterproof materials.
Many people who are considering installing solar PV, are worried about whether the panels will be able to withstand hail. We have all seen the destruction that these icy orbs can cause, but solar PV panels are not as easily dented and smashed as car bonnets and windows. Most quality solar PV panels have a weather-resistant covering that provides protection against moisture, dust and hail. Energy Partners Home Solutions’ solar PV panels can withstand hailstones up to the size of golf balls. Take a look at this video to see how solar panels hold up against hail damage.
Will your panels hold up, come rain or shine?
It is important that you only work with reputable suppliers to ensure that your solar PV panels will last a long time. They can give you the assurance that their products have been quality-tested, comply with safety regulations and are made from durable, weatherproof materials. It is equally important to have your system professionally installed, because how the solar PV panels are fitted and positioned affect their efficiency and weather resistance.
Energy Partners Home Solutions only installs Tier 1 solar PV panels, which is the official ranking for the highest quality panels. They offer both thin film and poly silicon technology and their panels typically carry a 25-year guarantee. Furthermore, when Energy Partners Home Solutions install their panels, they consider the optimal panel layout, shading analysis, expected yield and unique weather conditions of the particular location. That is how they ensure their panels will last longer and give clients optimal energy savings, whatever the weather.
To find out more, contact Energy Partners Home Solutions today on 0861 000 606 for a free, non-obligatory home energy assessment or visit www.poweryourself.co.za.
Energy Partners, part of the PSG group of companies, has been helping some of South Africa’s most well-known businesses save on their energy costs for over seven years. Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of Energy Partners, brings the same award-winning solutions to the residential and SME markets by combining state of the art energy efficiency technology, solar PV systems and expertise with Energy Partners Home Solutions’ own advanced products. By partnering with Energy Partners, clients can reduce their monthly electricity bills by up to 70%. For more information visit http://www.poweryourself.co.za/ or contact 0861 000 606.