If you are installing a solar energy system on your home or property, critter guard is one of the most important pieces of hardware to consider besides the panels themselves.
Mounted solar energy panels are generally raised between 4-7" above an angled roof, and critter guard can be used to close that gap and make the area beneath the array completely off-limits to unwanted intruders.
Without proper protection, solar energy systems are much more likely to experience damage caused by wild animals.
For example, pigeons and other birds like to nest in the shade below solar panels, and even worse, exposed plant-based wiring (which is common) may emit a vanilla-like smell when exposed to too much heat. This attracts mice, raccoons, and other animals to chew on the wires and cause damage to the system.
Unfortunately, panel and wiring malfunctions caused by critters are some of the most common solar panel problems for residential systems today. Worst of all, a small handful of solar energy systems have actually caught fire in Colorado due to related damages.
By installing critter guard, the chances of avoiding an incident are dramatically improved.
What is critter guard?
Also known as “solar screen,” critter guard is essentially a physical fence between your solar panels and the outside world. It is typically nothing more than a mesh barrier and is installed directly between the solar panels and roof.
Aside from squirrels, bats, raccoons, and birds, critter guards can also help prevent the build-up of leaves or debris beneath the panels.
Outside of the solar industry, critter guards (also known as line guards) are also used to stop rodents and other animals on power lines from accessing undesirable places such as live switches, transformers, homes, and attics.
Is critter guard necessary for solar panels?
With many homeowners looking to keep installation costs low, not every solar company will offer critter guard as a project standard. And although it may add up to a few hundred dollars for parts and labor, to protect a solar energy system, we believe that a critter guard is absolutely necessary to ensure ongoing performance without a hitch.
In addition to the solar panels, mounting, wiring, and inverters, critter guard is simply one of the essential components of a solar installation. In our eyes, a solar energy system without critter guard is simply too exposed to possible damage and is not a risk that we believe is worth taking.
As solar panels can generate electricity for 30 years and more, critter guard is an extremely worthwhile investment to prevent damage, malfunctions, and headaches throughout the long course of a system's lifetime.
How to install critter guard (the right way)
Of course, critter guard can only be effective in protecting a PV system if it is installed correctly. While some companies try to cut costs and labor without the proper parts and considerations, poorly installed critter guard can be both ineffective and an eyesore.
In the image above, that's not a shadow you're seeing, that is actually a string of poorly installed critter guard hanging below a set of solar panels. After the homeowner grew tired of looking at it, they gave us a call to prevent future damages.
When we got to the roof, it was hard to believe what the previous company had done. Despite the fact that the array was 10 solar panels wide, it appeared as though the original critter guard was installed with two singular clips and tucked beneath the racking system to provide a false sense of security.
With Colorado's infamously heavy winds, this system never stood a chance for long-term success! Below, you can see what a proper critter guard installation looks like, with three to four clips per solar panel providing an infinitely more secure system than two clips for an entire array.
As a local company, we try to do what is right for the long-term success of our community, which is why critter guard is always included in our residential and commercial solar energy installations and attached as securely as possible.
Over the years, we have received many phone calls from homeowners without critter guard who have had their systems damaged by a wild animal. As chewed wires and related malfunctions are some of our most frequent solar repair requests, and this simply reinforces the importance of proper protection.
For questions about critter guard, repair estimates, and more information about solar energy systems in Colorado, please contact us anytime at 720-582-8258.