You’re a DIY type of guy or gal, so when you decided you wanted solar panels on your roof, you were committed to installing them yourself. What you hadn’t accounted for was navigating the roof with half the panels already on. If you take a misstep and land on a solar panel, will you break it? Is walking on solar panels okay?
You can walk on solar panels if you truly wanted, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Each time you apply the pressure of your body weight on the panel, you could break the cells. Your solar panels will begin working poorly and eventually fail altogether.
Ahead, we’ll talk in a lot more detail about whether walking on solar panels is a good idea. If you already took a stroll across your solar-paneled roof and you’re wondering if you caused any damage, we’ll discuss some signs of broken solar panels as well.
Does Walking on Solar Panels Damage Them?
Few people decide to willingly walk on their solar panels. As we touched on in the intro, it’s usually more incidental. You could be on your roof setting up DIY solar panels. You’ve installed the panels all around you except for where you’re standing.
You need to move from the spot you’re on to install a panel there too, but that will mean stepping on another set of panels. You see the issue here?
So what happens if you step on a solar panel? Well, the panels are covered by a layer of protective glass. The glass shields the layers underneath, which include the ethylene-vinyl acetate module encapsulant, the phosphorus-doped N-layer silicon, the boron-doped P-layer silicon, the metallic conductors, and the polyvinyl fluoride film back sheet.
The glass is designed to withstand quite a lot, so you kneeling or stepping on it doesn’t always break it. What happens underneath the glass is an entirely different story.
Inside your solar panel, in between all those other layers, are crystalline silicon cells. The atoms interlock to develop a crystal latticework. That latticework serves a critical function, as it allows for light conversion that becomes electricity.
In other words, when the crystal latticework is broken, your solar panel is as good as useless.
It’s not like solar panels plug in though, so there’s no way for you to tell that you damaged the panel’s cell. Sometimes the cracks in the crystal latticework are so microscopic that even if you knew where to look, you still probably wouldn’t see the damage.
Even one broken cell in the crystal latticework of a single solar panel is enough to reduce performance, and that will become more apparent year after year. With time, that panel will be rendered ineffective, necessitating a replacement.
If you stepped on and broke the cells of several solar panels, you might be convinced that solar panels don’t work at all since yours are not saving you much money on your monthly utilities.
What really transpired is an installation error.
Are Solar Panels Safe to Walk on?
The damage to the panels notwithstanding for the moment, what about your own safety when ascending your roof and installing solar panels? If you step on one, are you going to feel a jolt of electricity?
No, you aren’t. You’re at no risk of electrocution when installing solar panels simply because they haven’t absorbed any sunlight yet. Your panels just came out of the box or package, and there’s no sunlight there.
Now, that’s no longer the case if your solar panels have been installed for a while. Let’s say you climb up to your roof for some routine solar panel maintenance. Ever since you installed them, your panels have absorbed solar energy to produce direct current or DC electricity.
Now let’s say one of the panels is broken, or it’s gotten wet, such as from recent rain. If you got too close to the panel, you could potentially be electrocuted. That can also happen if the company you bought the solar panels from didn’t wire them correctly.
Installation errors can even lead to electrical shock. Solar panels must be earthed, which means you have to bury the copper wire into foundational rebar (or the ground) to prevent appliances from receiving electrical currents from a thunderstorm.
If you didn’t earth the panels the right way, then when you go to clean them, you become the source of the earth for the panels and thus a conduit for electricity to pass through.
We should note that DC electrocution is not like being electrocuted by other power sources. Those who have survived the ordeal report that you can’t easily pull away. This means you’re receiving the brunt of the shock and prolonged exposure that could lead to more serious injuries or even death.
Signs Your Solar Panels Are Damaged
As we’ve established, visually ascertaining that you cracked a solar panel cell is not always easy. You don’t want to wait until your solar panels begin working badly to determine if you need to replace one or several. How else can you tell if the panels are damaged or broken?
Here are some signs.
If the surface of your solar panels looks darker or yellower than usual, pay attention to those panels. The laminate of the panel has likely corroded. This will reduce the energy output of the panel and cause the temperature distribution to become wonky.
The best thing to do if you have a corroded solar panel or two is to replace it.
Microfractures in the solar panel glass increase the risk of damage from external forces such as strong winds, pelting rains, and mountains of snow. If water seeps into the solar panel, it’s as good as done.
Decrease in Power
If your solar panels are relatively new, then you might not have a full picture of what their electricity output looks like. That said, there’s a relatively easy way to test if your solar panels are performing to their full potential.
Wait for a stretch of sunny days, at least several in a row. Then measure the output of your solar panels. Do some digging around to find what the base solar panel output should be in sunny weather according to your panel manufacturer.
If your power output is drastically lower than the baseline, you should go up to your roof or hire a professional to do an inspection. You’re checking for loose connections and parts of the setup that were installed incorrectly.
Yet if everything was done right and you’re still having a decrease in power, then you can reasonably assume it’s due to broken or damaged solar panels.
Here’s a dead giveaway that your solar panels are damaged: sudden power shutdowns. This could be a manufacturer defect or an issue with the wiring, but if enough of the panels are damaged such as by you stepping or walking on them, that can also contribute to these power drop-offs.
Are Solar Panels Even Worth It?
Although you have to go to a lot of trouble to ensure you don’t damage any solar cells when installing the panels, it’s all worth it. Here are some benefits of solar power that you can enjoy now and in the years to come now that your home is equipped with solar panels!
Solar Panels Are More Inexpensive Than Ever
It used to be that equipping your home with solar panels was quite the pricy endeavor. This put off many homeowners who were interested in the technology. Now that solar panels have become more commonplace, their prices have fallen, dropping by sometimes as much as 70 percent according to some experts.
Solar panels might become more affordable still, but right now is a great time to add them to your house if you’ve been thinking about it!
All The Incentives and Tax Breaks
Who doesn’t love saving money or getting free money, especially around tax time? If your home has solar panels, you’ve opened the door to a variety of incentives and tax breaks that can put more cash in your pocket.
The tax breaks vary from city to city and town to town throughout the United States and neighboring countries, but might include the following:
- Performance-based incentives: A PBI earns you credits when your solar panels produce enough electricity.
- Federal Investment Tax Credit: The ITC mandates that you receive a federal tax credit for purchasing a home solar system. Due to this credit, you could cut down on the costs of your solar panel installation if hiring a professional.
- Net metering: As a solar panel owner, you should familiarize yourself with net metering. Whenever you produce more electricity through your solar panels than your home requires, that power becomes available to your local electric company, provided they’re willing to buy it from you.
Better for Our Planet
We only have one earth, and it’s clear to many people that our planet is in peril. Burning fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources on a global scale contributes to and continues to worsen global warming. This is already impacting our generation in the form of droughts, heatwaves, cold snaps, and other extreme weather events. Future generations will be even more impacted.
Solar panels take energy from the sun to produce electricity. Sunlight is free energy, and even better, it’s renewable. The sun’s energy is infinite, so what you take today will be available tomorrow, and the day after that, etc.
Anytime you can use renewable energy in your home, especially over fossil fuels, you’re making big strides in bettering our planet.
Could Increase Your Home Resale Value
Are you thinking of putting your home on the market in the next couple of years? Even if you aren’t, it’s always wise to keep your home in phenomenal condition.
Solar panels can boost your home’s resale value, says the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. For every dollar your solar energy system saves you, your home’s resale value could jump $20.
Walking on solar panels, whether when you’re installing or inspecting them, is not a wise idea. If you cause microfractures in the cells beneath the layer of tempered glass, you’ll reduce efficiency in your solar panels not only now but more gradually over the years to come as well.
Solar panels can benefit our planet and make your home more valuable, so it’s worth it to step carefully.