Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Today, modern solar panels are built to withstand harsh weather conditions and generate continuous renewable electricity for decades. Unfortunately, like with all electronics, internal and external conditions may cause a solar energy system to fail and temporarily halt electricity production.
Apollo Energy is a locally owned solar company based in Denver, Colorado. We have seen and fixed our fair share of solar panel problems for both our customers as well as dozens of orphaned systems from defunct out of state solar companies.
In order to provide our community with the best information available, we have put together this list of common solar panel problems. Although not every system is going to experience these issues, this article is designed to prepare system owners for when things go wrong.
The 6 Most Common Solar Panel Problems
Before we dive into the most common solar panel problems, we'd like to express the importance of choosing a solar company who offers repairs, warranties, and quality customer service.
Whereas it may be tempting to choose the cheapest installation possible, if something goes wrong with your system, you can always save time, money, and energy working with a reputable, local solar installer.
One of the most common problems with solar energy systems doesn’t actually have to do with the panels at all. Instead, solar inverter failure may cause an entire system to shut down, temporarily blocking the panels from producing any usable electricity.
Whereas solar panels are built to last for decades, inverters still have a bit of catching up to do. Depending on the manufacturer, high quality inverters typically come with a warranty from anywhere between 8 and 25 years. We offer comprehensive 25 year warranties.
No matter the quality of the parts and installation, inverter failure is still one of our most common issues with our customer’s solar panel systems. For this reason, we offer comprehensive warranties and service on any inverter issues caused by device malfunctions.
Next, damage to a solar energy system's wires can cause one or more panels to stop producing electricity. Most commonly, wires can be damaged from being exposed to too much sunlight, being cut by birds or critters, or rubbing continuously on rough edges and surfaces.
To prevent wires from being damaged, we take the extra step to install Critterguard on all of our solar panel systems. This protective fence helps stops birds, squirrels, and other animals from biting the wires or making a home underneath the panels. Beyond this, we ensure that all wires are properly encased and installed to withstand the sun and weather conditions.
Loss in Solar Panel Efficiency
Another one of the most common solar panel problems is a loss in efficiency and electricity generation. For those monitoring their system's performance, this can be noticed overtime, whereas other system owners may not notice until a surprise electric bill comes in the mail.
Whereas solar panels naturally lose efficiency slowly overtime, there are a few factors that can cause them immediately to drop in performance. This includes the build up of dirt and debris, packed snow on the panels, or an accumulation of slugs and other insects.
If your system's efficiency has dropped considerably, then a professional solar panel cleaning may be in order. Otherwise, the next rainstorm or even the garden hose should do the trick, no problem.
Loss in Communication
While we're talking about tracking solar panel performance, occasionally malfunctions in a system's components may cause communication to completely fail. With system failure, there may be no way to know whether or not your solar panels are producing electricity if the signal has been lost between the inverter and the panels.
If one of our solar energy systems goes offline, we help our customers immediately troubleshoot the issue over the phone. Often times, the problem is a quick fix. If necessary, we work to get the solar system back online as soon as possible through service or replacement.
Circuit Breaker Trips and Blown Fuses
Although this is less common in high quality installations, occasionally overloaded PV systems sending large amounts of electricity will cause a home's circuit breaker to trip. Beyond this, improper installations can even cause fuses to melt like a grilled cheese sandwich.
To avoid things like this from happening, a master electrician, utility, and local government approval are required to activate a solar energy system. Even with this in mind, loose or faulty wire connections can still cause electrical problems for the home.
What is important to understand here is that solar energy system's are never going to be one-size-fits-all solutions. If you have an old circuit breaker, a panel upgrade may be required to safely accommodate your rooftop energy system. With that said, electrical panels are usually replaced every 25-40 years, and bundling your upgrade with a solar energy system has the potential to lower total costs and increase tax rebates on the value of the project.
Total Solar Panel Replacement
Lastly, in rare cases, a damaged solar panel may need to be replaced if it is no longer producing electricity. With over 2 MW of solar electricity installed in the Front Range, it may come as a surprise to our customers that we have only ever had to replace one single solar panel in all of our years of business.
Whereas melon-sized hail may leave an enormous mark, more often than not, a solar panel will be damaged with several micro-cracks which cannot be seen by the naked eye. No matter how rarely solar panels break, it is still highly recommended to seek options with long warranty periods. Without a performance guarantee, solar panel replacement can end up costing a system owner hundreds of dollars down the line.