Advances in technology have made solar panels a great investment for home and business owners, especially for those in sunny climates—helping you reduce your power bills, increase your property value, and live a greener lifestyle.
For the most part, solar panels require little maintenance, especially if you opt for a mid-to-high quality system, which will offer durability, high performance, and a decent warranty. Of course, nothing is foolproof and solar panels can be susceptible to certain performance issues, especially when you shop at the cheaper end of the market.
We’ve put together a list of the most common solar panel problems, and the actions you can take to help avoid them with your own solar array.
Solar panels are fragile. Because of that, they can be susceptible to surface micro-cracks, usually caused by poor handling during shipping or installation, or harsh weather like hail. Micro-cracks can be hard to see, but if they grow to the point of becoming visible they may affect your solar panel’s performance—disrupting the flow of energy and decreasing your electricity production.
Unfortunately, there aren’t easy fixes for micro-cracks so the usual remedy is to replace the unit. This is why we advise our customers to avoid cheap panels, which use lower grade—and less durable—components.
Not only are solar panels fragile, they’re also complicated. Your solar array is a network of panels, batteries, inverters, and monitoring units—all connected by a series of wires. This means there are lots of places for those wires to come loose, which can take some troubleshooting.
Solar panel wiring problems are usually a relatively straightforward fix. However, we suggest hiring an expert who will need the right meters and tools to safely detect the issue, disconnect the unit, and then fix the problem.
Hot spots occur when energy concentrates in certain areas of your solar panel—usually because the areas around it are covered or blocked (e.g. by shade or dirt)—causing those cells to overload and overheat. Those overloaded cells can cause your panels to short-circuit, stopping their ability to send energy from the panel to the inverter.
Hot spots are hard to fix, but there are ways to prevent them occurring, like ensuring your panels are installed at the correct angle, removing dust, dirt and obstructions, maintaining good airflow, and using panels with bypass diodes to ensure electricity flow.
Roof damage is understandably a common concern for homeowners looking to install solar panels. This is why we always recommend you work with a certified solar panel provider who has a qualified installation team and offers a decent warranty on their work.
Arranging regular maintenance and monitoring of your solar panels will also help you spot other roof issues that your solar panels may be hiding, for example, damp or deterioration. In many cases, however, solar panels can be a great addition to your roof, offering an extra layer of protection against harsh weather.
Easily mistaken for their namesake, snail trails are caused by two things: localised heat buildup reacting with moisture in your panels (which often enters the panels as a result of micro-cracks), or because of defective conductive paste used during the manufacturing process.
Snail trails can reduce your solar panel performance and again, the best way to prevent them is to work with a reputable solar provider and installer, and by choosing high-quality solar panels with durable components and decent warranties.
Solar Inverter Issues
Your solar inverter plays a key role in your solar array, converting the DC current from your panels into usable AC electricity. While your panels should last up to 20 years, inverters usually last between 10-15 years, so at some point, you will likely need to replace your inverter at some point.
Again, this is where we recommend avoiding the cheapest solar panel deals, and instead, buying a higher quality inverter that will have a longer lifespan and a better warranty.
Rust is another issue that can happen when moisture gets into your solar panels, causing corrosion to metal conductors and significantly reducing performance.
This is why it’s so important for your panels to be air and water tight, which is achieved by the glass, cells, and back sheet being properly vacuum laminated during manufacturing. Should this not happen—again, a risk you run buying cheaper panels—the laminated components may detach during operation, allowing water to enter the unit.
Potential Induced Degradation (PID) Effect
Potential Induced Degradation occurs when there’s a voltage difference between your solar panel and the earthing, generating a voltage which is partly discharged in the primary power circuit. If this happens, your panels are likely to suffer a performance loss, while reducing their overall lifespan.
Like most solar panel issues, PID is a result of the design choice and component quality. Frameless PV modules generally reduce the probability of PID, but we suggest you talk to your solar provider for more information on the cause and effect—and how you can avoid potential induced degradation.
How to avoid the most common solar panel issues
As you can see, the same common causes—poor build quality, poor installation, or poor maintenance—often lead to the same common issues, from water entering your solar panels, to dirt build up, to general component damage.
Most of these issues can be avoided by doing your due diligence before purchase, particularly in how build quality affects the lifespan and performance of your panels. This is also why proper, professional installation and ongoing maintenance is so key, helping you maximise the performance of your solar array—while maximising your return on your investment.
Renew Energy has over 30 years combined experience in the solar industry. As a family-owned and operated business, we focus on providing genuine, impartial, and expert solar power advice to help you make the best decisions for your home and business.
Contact our expert team today for more help choosing the right solar solution for your needs.