Solar panels are a great way to generate clean and renewable energy for your home or business.
But what if you need to maintain, inspect, or clean your solar panels on the roof? Is it safe to walk on solar panels without causing damage or compromising their efficiency?
The short answer is that walking on your solar panels can potentially damage them and it’s not safe. However, this brief response only scratches the surface of a more complex issue.
In this comprehensive blog post, we'll delve deep into whether you can walk on your solar panels, how much weight they can hold, the potential damages involved in walking on them, and discuss how to care for your solar array while avoiding unnecessary dangers.
Read on and discover more!
How Much Weight Can a Solar Panel Hold?
Standard PV modules, which typically feature a glass top, can withstand additional loads from snow, hail, and even the strong winds from hurricanes—without breaking. They can hold weights that generally correspond to around 20 to 50 pounds per square foot (psf).
However, this doesn't mean you should walk on solar panels without risking damage. You could still scratch or crack them by applying uneven pressure or stepping on vulnerable areas, even if you weigh less than the panel's maximum load capacity. Moreover, walking on solar panels might void their warranty or diminish their efficiency.
It's also crucial to recognize that there are various types of solar panels, and not every module is constructed with the same level of durability. For instance, bendable CIGS thin-film solar panels and fiberglass solar panels can hold much more weight than rigid glass Monocrystalline solar panels due to their sturdier and tougher construction.
Is It Safe to Walk on Solar Panels?
The short answer is no. Walking on solar panels is not safe for you or your panels. Here are some of the reasons:
You may slip and fall. Solar panels are smooth and slippery, especially when wet or dusty. If you lose your balance and fall from your roof, you can get injured or damage your property.
You can electrocute yourself. Solar panels produce electricity when exposed to sunlight. If you touch any exposed wires or connectors while walking on them, you can get a shock or start a fire.
You can damage the wiring or mounting system. Solar panels are connected by wires and attached to your roof by racks and bolts. If you step on these components, you may loosen or break them, affecting the stability and performance of your system.
You can create hot spots. Solar panels work best when they receive uniform sunlight across their surface. If you block or shade any part of them with your body or feet, you can create hot spots that reduce their output and lifespan.
Although you may have seen some solar panel installers carefully walking on the solar modules during installation, skillfully avoiding pressure on the center of the glass to prevent damage to it or the solar cells, there is a risk of cracking the solar panel glass and damaging the modules.
What Happens When You Walk on Solar Panels?
When you walk on solar panels, you risk damaging or reducing the solar panel efficiency in several ways. Here are some common damages that will occur caused by walking on the solar panels:
Scratching or Breaking the Solar Panels
Walking on solar panels can cause scratches or cracks, especially if excessive pressure is placed on their fragile glass. If the solar panels have severe scratches and breaks, they will suffer up to a 15% efficiency loss, reduced power output, and vulnerability to moisture and debris. In this case, they may need to be repaired or replaced by a technician to regain panel efficiency.
Cracking Solar Cells
If you apply too much weight to your PV module, you might break a solar panel cell. Broken solar cells can result in reduced voltage and power output.
Additionally, without optimizers or microinverters, this decrease in performance could affect the entire system's energy generation and delivery. Consequently, you may need to replace the broken solar panel.
Busbars In-Between Solar Cells Breaks
Busbars facilitate the flow of electrical current between cells within solar panels. Damaged busbars can significantly impair a PV system's performance. A single broken busbar may lead to overheating, while multiple breaks can result in a complete disconnection of the entire string.
Imagine this: If you're living off-grid and the busbars in your solar panels break due to excessive weight, you could be without electricity for several days until the problem is fixed. That would be painful!
Solar Panel Delamination
Solar panels are crafted using layers of materials that are bonded together with adhesives. If you bend or twist them, for instance by walking on them, you might cause these layers to separate, or delaminate. Delamination can potentially lead to reduced performance, moisture ingress, overheating, and even electrical hazards.
What to Do if Your Solar Panels Break?
If your PV solar module breaks due to walking on it or for any other reason, here are some steps you can follow:
1. Turn Off Your System
First, disconnect your system from the grid and turn off the inverter and breaker. This will help prevent further damage or safety hazards, such as fire risks.
2. Contact Your Installer or Manufacturer
Next, contact the company that installed or manufactured your solar panels. They can assess the extent of the damage and advise you on the best course of action.
Depending on the warranty and insurance policy of your system, they may be able to repair or replace your broken panels for free or at a reduced cost. For instance, at BougeRV.com, we offer a 12-year warranty on our rigid Monocrystalline solar panels for homes and RVs.
3. Repair or Replace the Solar Panels
If your insurance doesn't cover the expenses, you'll need to have the module repaired by a professional or, if it's beyond repair, replace it with a new one.
4. Clean up the Debris
Finally, carefully clean up any glass or metal fragments that may have fallen from your roof. These could pose risks to people, animals, or vehicles passing by.
Is There a Solar Panel That You Can Walk On?
If you're searching for a solar panel that you can walk on without worrying about damage, you might be interested in some of the innovative products currently being developed.
For instance, BougeRV offers flexible thin-film solar panels made with CIGS solar cells and sem-flexible fiberglass solar panels protected by ETFE glass that can be walked on without breaking. These units are designed using advanced solar cell technology and sturdy construction to endure the weight and impact of vehicles, strong winds, hail, and footsteps during cleaning.
Even if you prefer traditional Monocrystalline solar modules, BougeRV provides rigid solar panels combined with resistant glass surfaces and strengthened backing capable of handling significant weight, impacts, and drops.
Nevertheless, we always recommend avoiding walking on solar panels unless you have the skills of a technician to step on them correctly. Otherwise, the solar panels could potentially be scratched, cracked, or deformed by your shoes, tools, etc.
Can You Stand on Solar Panels to Clean Them?
You may need to clean your solar panels to remove dust, dirt, bird droppings, or snow. However, as previously mentioned, walking on your solar panels is not advisable because it can cause damage and reduce their efficiency.
So how can you clean your solar panels without walking on them? Here we've listed useful tips for cleaning your solar panels without risking damage or spending money on professional help:
Use a Hose or a Spray Bottle
The easiest and safest method for cleaning your solar panels is to use a low-pressure hose or a spray bottle filled with water. Pour water over the panels to wash away loose debris. You can do this from the ground or a ladder, depending on the height and angle of your roof.
Apply a Soft Brush or a Squeegee
If water alone doesn't remove the dirt from your solar panels, consider using a soft brush or a squeegee with an extendable handle.
Spray a non-abrasive cleaner and gently wipe the solar panel surfaces with the brush or squeegee, taking care to avoid scratches or undue pressure.
When cleaning the edges, it's important to use a soft cloth.
Finally, use the hose to rinse the panels, washing away any remaining dirt.
By the way, it’s better to clean your solar panels in the morning or evening when they are cooler.
Using a Robot or a Drone
To completely avoid climbing on your roof, consider using a robot or a drone designed to clean solar panels. There are several products available on the market, such as SolarBrush, which can automatically detect and remove dirt from your panels using brushes, air jets, or water sprays.
In a nutshell, while solar panels are designed to withstand various environmental pressures, walking on solar panels is risky and can lead to damage, affecting efficiency, personal injury, and potential warranty voiding. To maintain your solar system's performance, use safe cleaning methods as stated above.
Still, you can opt for innovative walkable solar products, such as those from BougeRV, which provide a durable alternative!
1. What Happens When You Walk on Solar Panels?
Walking on solar panels may cause physical damage, including cracks, breakage, or delamination, all of which can reduce their efficiency and performance. Additionally, it poses a risk of personal injury from slipping or exposure to electrical hazards.
2. Is There a Way to Walk on Solar Panels Without Damaging Them At All?
If necessary, you can skillfully walk on wearing specialized solar panel walking shoes designed to minimize impact.
Alternatively, consider investing in solar panels equipped with sturdy aluminum backing and a thick, non-skid ETFE laminate surface. These panels are constructed to withstand foot traffic without damaging the internal solar cells, provided that the maximum weight capacity is not exceeded.
However, it's always best to consult the manufacturer's guidelines and to hire professionals when in doubt.
3. Will Walking on Solar Panels Void Their Warranty?
Many homeowners ignore the fact that walking on solar panels or employing unlicensed workers who might step on them can void the solar panels' warranty. In any case, it's important to consult the warranty terms and engage certified professionals for maintenance tasks if needed.