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The Burning Truth: Can Your Solar Panels Catch Fire?

March 23, 2021

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Can solar panels catch fire? This is obviously a vital question to consider if you’re considering a solar panel installation, as property owners should always understand any risk to their home or business and especially something as dangerous as a fire hazard!

In short, properly installed solar panels do not pose a fire hazard. In the few cases where solar panels have been determined to be the cause of a property fire, those causes have been traced to improper wiring, insufficient insulation, or other incorrect installation.

It’s also vital to note that solar panels cannot start a fire themselves; they might overheat in some cases but not combust or burst into flames, and solar panel wiring should never short out and create sparks or other fire hazards. Solar panels are also rigorously tested during their manufacturing process, so that they’re very safe for installation and use.

If you’re still worried about whether or not solar panels can catch fire, note some added information about these panels and how they operate, and their overall safety. You can then discuss your concerns with a solar panel installer near you, and know that you’ll be making the best decision for your home or commercial property.

Are Solar Panels a Fire Hazard?

fire starting on roof with solar panels

While properly installed solar panels should pose little to no fire hazard, this doesn’t mean they’re always safe to handle and especially not by amateurs or during a house or roof fire! Consider some added details about proper solar panel handling and especially why caution is in order if you need to access those panels during a fire.

  • Solar panels have a conduit that attaches the panel to an inverter, which converts the electricity trapped by the sun’s rays into the electricity used by homes and other structures. That conduit can sometimes remain charged with live electricity even after having been disconnected from the main service or circuit panel.
  • During a fire, solar panels and any attached batteries might release toxic chemicals that are dangerous if inhaled.
  • Solar panels on the roof might block fire ventilation in certain points, so that the fire continues to spread inside the structure rather than dying out along the roof.
  • While solar panels are very lightweight, their added weight might increase the risk of roof collapse for structures already weakened by fire damage.
  • Firefighters unaware of solar panels in their path might slip on their glass faces or find that their racking system obstructs their access to the structure’s roof.

While the solar panels themselves are very safe and shouldn’t pose a fire hazard, it’s vital that solar power system owners understand these risks and ensure firefighters are aware of those panels in case of a fire.

Solar Panels & Overheating

fire destroying solar panels on a roof

Solar panels can overheat, but note that this doesn’t mean they will then catch fire or combust! When a solar panel gets too warm, it simply doesn’t operate as it should so that it collects and inverts less power than expected.

Do solar panels overheat?

To ensure that new solar panels collect and convert as much energy as possible, an installer will angle them in such a way that they will receive maximum sun exposure throughout the day. While this means more electricity from your panels, it also means they will get very warm and especially during the hottest of summer months!

An expert solar panel installer will ensure that the racking system on which panels attach sit above the roof, to ensure proper airflow that keeps panels as cool as possible. An inexperienced installer might not ensure that clearance for needed airflow, increasing the risk of solar panels overheating.

Can solar panels explode?

It's possible for solar panels to explode. But it's very rare. Solar panels are made of glass and metal, and they can overheat and catch fire if they're not properly ventilated. But the risk is low, and solar panel explosions are usually caused by faulty installation or maintenance. If you have a solar panel system, make sure it's installed correctly and that you regularly check it for any potential problems.

By having regular maintenance checkups, you can help prevent any potential problems that could lead to your solar panels catching fire or exploding.

Will overheating cause solar panels to break down completely?

While overheating will cause solar panels to work far less efficiently than they should, it shouldn’t cause permanent damage or allow the panels to break down completely. Once the panels reach a more moderate temperature, they will begin operating again as they should.

Are solar panels fire resistant?

Solar panels are fire resistant to some extent, but they are not completely fireproof. The material that makes up solar panels is typically flame retardant, meaning it will not catch fire easily. However, if the panel is exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time above 200 degrees, it can eventually catch fire. Additionally, if the panel is damaged, such as by a severe impact, the electrical wires within the panel can become exposed and create a fire hazard. Solar panels are typically tested to withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) for this reason.

The Maximum Temperature a Solar Panel Can Withstand

Solar panels are designed to withstand extremes in heat, cold, and humidity, as well as high winds, heavy storms, and other such risks. Most panels will withstand temperatures between 185 degrees Fahrenheit (or 85 degrees Celsius) to negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, without breaking or suffering permanent damage.

While this durability allows panels to withstand extreme heat and direct sunlight without failure, note that panels are not fireproof. Average house fire temperatures range between 1000 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, far hotter than solar panels are designed to withstand. Fires also damage roofs so that solar panel racking systems might bend, buckle, or outright crack, taking those panels with them!

Are Solar Panels Covered By Home Insurance?

While most homeowner insurance policies are similar, they do vary from policy to policy and are written according to your home’s value, special risk factors in your area such as tornadoes or other natural disasters, and other key details. Whether or not solar panels are covered by your insurance policy depends on the policy itself and your insurance provider!

However, most policies do cover solar panel installation and you might not need separate insurance coverage. Some installers or manufacturers will also provide guarantees or warranties for their product and work, so you’re assured that damage arising from faulty panels or improper installation will also be covered.

If you’re unsure of your homeowner’s insurance policy coverage, talk to your agent. He or she can review your policy in detail and then note if you might need added coverage for your new solar power system. In some cases, you might want to adjust coverage limits for costly, high-end panels, or lower that coverage amount for a smaller or older system.

Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail?

hail hitting solar panels on the roof of a home

Many solar panel installers will tell you that they are often asked if solar panels can withstand hail, and if hail can shatter or otherwise break the face of panels. The good news for property owners is that solar panels are designed specifically to withstand a wide range of weather conditions, as said, and this includes impact from hail, falling tree branches, and other such debris.

To demonstrate solar panel durability, ARE Solar noted that a particularly rough hailstorm moved through the Front Range, a mountain range in Colorado, in 2017. The storm was so destructive that the Colorado Mills Mall took a year to recover!

The National Renewable Energy Lab, just two miles from the mall, was hit by the same storm. However, of its 3,168 solar panels, only one suffered damage from the storm. ARE Solar also noted that the storm did slow down the solar panel system’s effectiveness but once it had passed, the panels began functioning effectively again.

Do Solar Panels Ruin Your Roof?

tile roof with solar panel installation

As with their fire risk, the biggest threat to your home’s roof is improper solar panel installation! Solar panel racking systems are mounted directly to a roof, often drilled all the way to the framing rafters and joists. If done incorrectly, this can damage roofing materials or allow for gaps that let in moisture and humidity, risking wood rot or mold in the home.

However, with high-quality installation, water damage risks are minimal. Also, note that solar panels actually protect a structure’s roof from heavy storms, high winds, and other damaging elements. Panels also block harsh sunlight which might otherwise dry out and damage shingles and clay tiles.

Some companies might suggest a mounting system that sticks to a roof surface rather than gets bolted onto the framing. However, this might limit your ability to remove the solar panel installation for needed roof repair. If you’re concerned about your home’s roof and want to ensure a safe installation, rely on a reputable solar panel company near you for your new solar power system.

How Much Weight Do Solar Panels Add to a Roof?

A fire-damaged roof might collapse under the added weight of solar panels, but most roofs in good repair can easily manage the added weight of solar mounting systems, even when balancing the weight of contractors on the roof as well. Most solar panel systems weigh between 2 and 4 pounds per square foot, and this weight is spread out over the surface of the racking system.

If you’re concerned about a roof’s condition and not sure if it can hold up a solar power system, ask an installer near you for a roof inspection. He or she can note any signs of roof damage and recommend a system that your roof can accommodate easily.

Do Solar Panels Last Forever?

While solar panels are durable and reliable and should provide you with excellent sunlight inversion for many years, most panels have a 25-30 year lifespan, after which time they might need replacing. However, this doesn’t mean that the panels will simply die or fail after that time.

Rather, solar panels begin to lose effectiveness and efficiency over the years. This is referred to as their degradation rate, and is measured in percentage of efficiency lost every year. As an illustration, a solar panel with a 1% degradation rate will have lost about 25% of its efficiency after 25 years, so it’s then only operating at 75% efficiency.

The older those panels, the more they’ve degraded so the less sunlight they trap and convert into usable energy. While these older panels won’t necessarily die or fail after this time, solar panel owners might find that they’re not inverting enough solar power for their use and may decide to swap them out for new panels.

Is It Harder to Sell a Home With Solar Panels?

On the contrary, homes with solar panels might sell for a higher price than those without! According to Zillow, a leading home selling website, homes with solar panels might sell for 4% more than those without panels; that adds up to $4000 more for every $100,000 you earn for your home, or over $9000 on average nationally.

A study by Berkeley Lab also said that buyers were willing to pay $15,000 more for a home with solar panels! If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market sometime in the future and would like to increase its value while also lowering your own utility costs, solar panels can be the best choice for your property.

The Main Disadvantages of Solar Power

While solar power systems offer eco-friendly power and typically pays for itself within a few years, there are some disadvantages to having a solar racking system installed on your property. The first is that solar panels require lots of sunlight to capture and convert power for your property. While solar panels capture light even in winter or on cloudy days, the less direct sunlight your property receives, the less power those panels create.

The other disadvantage is that the racking system might need to be dismantled and removed and then reinstalled when it’s time for roof repairs. While this is not necessarily a cumbersome job, it does require the services of a professional and often costs several hundred dollars.

If you’re considering a solar panel installation for your home, it’s vital that you consider the roof’s overall condition. Have the roof inspected for needed repairs or even a full roof replacement before your solar panel system installation, to avoid having to remove and reinstall that racking system unnecessarily. You’ll also want to add the cost of removal and reinstallation to any roof repair costs over the years.

Is Solar Power Worth It?

home with widespread solar panels

A solar power system might be one of the best investments you ever make for your property! Solar panels reduce and even eliminate your power bills, or allow you to invest in upgraded appliances at home and production machinery at your business without worrying about increased energy costs.

Solar power systems also mean not having to worry about energy rate hikes over the years, while potentially increasing your property values. Of course, one of the best advantages of solar power is that they create clean, eco-friendly energy, without fumes, emissions, or pollutants. To prevent fires on your solar panels, invest in a solar installer who knows what they're doing! To find out more, contact a solar panel installer near you.

Home Solar CT is happy to provide this information to our readers and we hope it helped answer the question, can solar panels catch fire. If you’re considering making the choice to go solar in CT, give us a call! We offer the most durable, affordable solar power solutions for home or office, and ensure high-quality installations that last. To find out more or get your FREE quote, call us today.

 

 

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