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Today, solar energy is growing more popular than ever. It’s no surprise as to why; this renewable energy source is relatively easy to get and users can save thousands of dollars on electric costs. That said, if you’re a solar panel owner or looking to use solar panels, you may have some questions.
Should solar panels be covered when not in use? Solar panels don’t need to be covered when not in use, although they can be covered when not in use if the owner wishes. Covering solar panels when not in use comes down to personal preference.
In this article, we’ll break down the do’s and don’ts when it comes to covering solar panels when not in use so you can determine which method is best for you and your sources of renewable solar energy.
What you need to know about covering solar panels when not in use
As the introduction above indicates, you don’t need to cover your solar panels when they’re not in use. However, if you wish, you can cover your solar panels when they’re not in use. Why is that? What are some of the reasons solar panel owners want to cover them?
What are the benefits, risks and rewards associated with covering or not covering your solar panels when they’re not being used? We’ll go over all these points in detail, starting with the basics: a brief background on solar panels.
The basics about solar panels
When it comes to solar panels, their main purpose is to generate solar energy. In order to harness and generate solar energy, a solar power system is needed.
Solar power systems are made up of a few different components you may not recognize, like inverters, racking, batteries, and charge controllers. However, it’s pretty likely you recognize one main component of solar power systems: solar panels.
Solar panels are generally and primarily made of silicon, because of silicon’s conductive properties. When silicon is exposed to light, its chemical characteristics change, which in turn generates an electric current.
While solar panels are primarily made of silicon to generate electric currents, solar panels also have a protective back sheet and a protective glass casing on the front. This protects them from the elements and other things they’re exposed to in order to be used.
Reasons for considering covering solar panels when not in use
Now that you know a little more about solar panels, we can discuss some of the reasons why solar panel owners may want to cover them when not in use.
As an overview, some of the reasons for considering covering solar panels when not in use are:
- Extreme weather
- Exposure to sunlight and generating too much energy when not in use
Extreme weather concerns
The first of these reasons is more general and can be applicable to solar panels that are still in use. First, solar panel owners may be concerned about extreme weather or other elements damaging their solar panels.
Sure, this may not apply to you if you live in an area that has relatively mild weather, or only experiences weather like seasonal rain or snow. However, being concerned about extreme weather damaging solar panels is especially applicable in areas like Texas that experience storms of golf-ball sized hail.
Energy overload concerns
Next, solar panel owners think they may want to cover their solar panels because of the potential to generate too much energy when not in use.
Technically, when solar panels aren’t in use, they can still generate energy. Owners have been concerned that the batteries of the solar panels could become overcharged while exposed to sunlight although they aren’t in use.
Solar panel owners have also been concerned that the sun itself can damage the solar panels when the solar panels aren’t connected to anything.
There are some solutions to both of these reasons for wanting to cover solar panels when not in use, which we’ll discuss below.
Reasons why you might not need to cover your solar panels when not in use
Exposure to extreme weather and the potential for overcharging or short circuiting solar panels are both valid reasons for wanting to cover solar panels when they’re not in use.
However, there are actually some solid solutions to both of these reasons, and because of them you may decide you don’t need to cover your solar panels at all when they’re not in use.
Solar panels are durable and can withstand the elements
First, solar panels are durable and built to withstand the elements. Solar energy needs to be harnessed outdoors, and naturally, solar panels are placed outdoors.
Because of this, solar panels are manufactured to be durable and withstand the elements. They have protective outer layers that shield them from damage and the elements. Additionally, most solar panels are warrantied for 25 years – that’s a long time to be able to use them!
That being said, since solar panels are durable and typically withstand the elements, you may not need to cover them . Routine maintenance and cleaning of the solar panels can also ensure that you don’t need to cover them.
If you live in an area like Texas or Oklahoma that does get extreme weather conditions like storms of golf ball-sized hail, and are concerned about your solar panels being damaged, there are actual solar panel covers that can be purchased.
However, there is another solution too, which we’ll get into in the last section below!
Having charge controllers and/or disconnecting solar panels can help avoid power overload
We talked about how some solar panel owners have been concerned that their solar panels may generate too much energy while they’re not in use, and that an overload of power could harm them.
That makes sense, but there are a few solutions for this. First, as long as you have charge controllers (which is highly recommended) there’s no big reason to cover your solar panels when not in use.
With charge controllers, once the battery is charged, they stop charging. The batteries will retain their full charge until they are used and ready to charge again.
Additionally, if you have completely disconnected your solar panels while they’re not in use, there shouldn’t be any damage to them since they have nothing to connect to. However, it’s imperative that you disconnect your solar panels correctly and don’t let any wires touch once disconnected.
If you still feel like covering your solar panels while they’re not in use, you can cover them with a legitimate solar panel cover, a tarp, or even a sheet of ply. However, we’ve got some other alternatives in the next section below.
Alternatives to covering solar panels when not in use
By now you can see why solar panels don’t need to be covered when not in use, but also why they can be covered when not in use.
As it turns out, there are actually some alternatives to covering your solar panels while not in use. So, if you don’t feel like you want or need to cover your solar panels, but still feel like you want to offer more protection to them, there are some other solutions. Let’s get into it!
Insure your solar panels
This goes especially for those solar panel owners who live in an area that gets extreme hail. You can insure your solar panels! This is often a service that is connected to your home insurance, but can also be a separate service.
Look into insuring your solar panels in case of the event that any damage is done to them. That way, if you don’t cover them and something happens, you’re likely covered.
Look into getting portable solar panels
If you haven’t purchased your solar panels yet, you may want to consider portable solar panels – especially if you think you’ll need to cover your solar panels once you have them.
Portable solar panels generally fold up and can be moved when they’re not in use. That way, you don’t have to cover them at all; you just need to take them down and move them.