Solar panels and their components have emerged as a cost-effective and promising alternative to expensive and rapidly depleting energy sources. They convert solar energy into electricity and thermal energy, serving the needs of private consumers and industries alike. However, like all energy-producing devices, solar panel components are susceptible to breakdowns. Understanding potential issues with solar panels gives you an edge – enabling you to prevent breakdowns or know how to address them and where to seek help. Many common problems with solar panels can be resolved independently, provided you have a solid understanding of the system and are confident in your ability to handle the repairs professionally. It’s worth noting that replacing individual solar cells in a panel is possible, but not always cost-effective. When discussing solar panel repairs, it’s crucial to understand the type of damage.
Potential Causes of Solar Panel Breakdowns
If your solar panels aren’t performing optimally, there could be several underlying issues.
Microcracks and hot spots, as well as broken glass, can appear on the surface of glass solar cells. Over time, these can grow in size, negatively impacting the efficiency of solar cells. Despite these cracks, the lamination, panel frame, and waterproofing of the solar system may remain intact. Microcracks, cracks, and hot spots can occur due to various factors: during the production of PV modules, deformation/poor handling during delivery or installation, or due to changes in ambient temperature or other weather conditions. The decision to repair these microcracks and hot spots will depend on how the panels were installed in specific installations. For instance, if a crack has formed in a system built into the roof, it’s likely that it will have to be completely dismantled – even if only 2-3 panels have failed. Before repairing broken glass panels, it’s wise to clean the panels and assess the level of damage to the entire system.
Strong winds can damage the mounting frame. If this happens, inspect the bolts and cables holding the mounting frame in place. If some bolts and cables are loose, tighten them. If more serious damage occurs, contact a specialist. Sometimes, the accumulation of dirt on the panels can cause a breakdown – a simple cleaning of the panels can often resolve the issue. However, it’s better to clean them regularly to prevent such situations.
Potential degradation of solar panels, also known as the PID effect, often occurs due to voltage fluctuations that occur between the voltage generated by the panel and the solar panel ground. This leads to a different percentage of discharged voltage in the main power circuit and, as a result, to a decrease in performance from solar panels. In this case, it’s worth contacting maintenance companies – solar panel repair specialists can address the problem to stabilize the operation of the solar panels and prevent their rapid degradation.
Loose wiring in a solar power system can cause unexpected power generation problems. These are wires that connect individual photovoltaic cells to inverters and home solar panels. The slightest fault in the wiring can damage the connection. Installers experienced in repairing and maintaining solar panels use testers and other wire health tools to assess such problems and provide timely solutions.
Inverter failure can sometimes be resolved with a simple check by an accredited solar installer. It’s possible that the inverter was initially installed incorrectly, or it needs to be cleaned, or there is a broken connection. But it may also be that the inverter simply “by age” has lost its efficiency – in this case, it will need to be replaced.
Damage to the indoor module can be caused either by the selection of poor-quality cells or by faults in the manufacturing process. They result in snail marks, delamination, discoloration of solar connectors or cells, yellowing of sheets placed on the back side, darkening of EVA films, staining of photovoltaic cells, unwanted inclusions in photocell laminates, fading of the rear and/or front of solar modules, etc. In most of these cases, the technicians remove the glass from the solar panel so that it can be repaired or replaced. After determining the type and extent of damage, you can understand what kind of repair is required. It’s better not to analyze the cause of the repair yourself, but to trust special solar panel repair companies.
External factors can also cause module damage. Storms, hail, heavy snow, lightning, and other weather-related conditions can cause severe damage to solar modules. External damage can also occur due to fire, animals (rodents, birds), broken and fallen branches, icing, excessive heat or cold. These factors can lead to a violation of the integrity of the solar panel glass, breakage of the photocell, scratches on the module frame, microcracks, etc. For example, severe hypothermia or excessive heat can supercool the solar panel frames, leading to their deformation and breakage of the entire system. Very often, lightning and overvoltage become the cause of diode failure, burnout of junction boxes. In most cases, if solar cells and panels are exposed to fire, they cannot be repaired. Sometimes a shadow can be the reason for a decrease in the efficiency of a solar panel. Therefore, if you notice a decrease in solar system performance, check your system for possible obstructions, shadows, or materials that could prevent your system from working. Usually, shading tests are carried out regularly by service companies.
Repairing Broken Solar Panels
As we’ve discussed, there are many factors that can damage your solar panels. Things like hurricanes, high winds, and heavy hail can damage your solar panels. The first step is to assess the extent of damage to your solar system. Check everything including wiring, glass components, and the mounting frame. Make sure you inspect every inch so you don’t miss any broken parts.
What Can Be Fixed on the Solar Module?
If you’re not a professional, your ability to fix things yourself will be limited. It’s important to distinguish between on-site repair of solar panels and repair at a dedicated repair center.
Field repair is generally limited to the replacement of faulty bypass diodes in junction boxes. You can also replace broken and damaged cables and plugs. However, if the damage is extensive, it’s better to contact a special repair service.
Specialist Solar Panel Repair
Repair services specialize in the repair of photovoltaic modules. Among other things, burnt junction boxes can be replaced. The old box is carefully removed from the module and then the new box is placed on the back of the module.
Typically, there is also the possibility of replacing frames on modules. Old bent or broken module frames are simply replaced with new ones.
Another advantage of repair in the service is that after the repair the modules are subjected to extensive tests. In addition to the insulation test, a power measurement is always carried out after repair. With the help of the so-called flash test, the current power of the module can be determined in peak values. In addition to the flash test, an electroluminescent image is often created. During testing, this cell failure and microcracks in the modules can be detected.
Can I Repair Solar Panel Glass Myself?
There is a lot of advice on the net that you can fix the glass of the solar module yourself, especially when it comes to small chips or cracks. There are many hobbyists who repair broken glass modules by trying to seal surfaces with resin, silicone, stained glass tape, or other substances.However, professionals do not recommend using these tips, but contacting specialists instead. Glass is an integral part of the module, protecting its interior and the performance of the panel depends on the integrity of the coating. Improperly performed repairs can be a temporary solution, but not always a good one. Errors can affect after some time not only the failure of the module, but also more serious damage and even the failure of the entire system as a whole.
In principle, solar panels with proper and regular care and maintenance will work efficiently for a long time. When repair of solar panels becomes inevitable, it’s important to distinguish between tasks that can be performed on site, including with the involvement of specialists, and tasks that must be performed in a service center. While replacement of diodes, junction boxes, damaged solar plugs and cables, etc. can be done on site, larger damage requires specialized equipment and expertise. Service company engineers specialize in solar panel repairs and perform extensive automated tests to ensure optimal performance of solar installations. Repairs made with the help of professionals will significantly reduce the likelihood of a solar system failure in the future.