Step-by-Step Guide on How to Repair Cracked Solar Panels

Generally speaking, cracked solar panels are not a common problem for solar owners in New York and New Jersey. However, if you have solar panels, chances are you might face this problem sooner or later. To help you deal with this problem, this article will explain the reasons behind the cracking of solar panels in New York and New Jersey and how you can repair cracked solar panels.

Factors Leading to Cracked Solar Panels in New Jersey and New York

Thermal Cycling

Thermal cycling is one of the most common factors responsible for cracked solar panels in New York and New Jersey areas. In the afternoon, when the sun is at its peak or close to it, the solar panels heat up due to the intense heat of the sun causing the solar panel material to expand, inducing thermal stresses in the material.

As the sun draws closer to the horizon and your solar panels begin to cool off, the solar panel material starts to contract. This recurring cycle of expansion and contraction induces micro-cracks in the glass layer of your solar panels, which eventually grow into larger full-scale fractures.

The effect of thermal cycling becomes even more intense if you wash and clean your solar panels during midday because splashing water on your already hot solar panels will force them to rapidly cool down. This sudden change in temperature will induce even greater stresses in the glass layer causing it to crack sooner.

Dynamic or Cyclic Pressure Loads

Dynamic or cyclic pressure loads are often the result of windy or stormy weather. The high-speed winds that accompany such weather conditions can force your roof-mounted solar panels to twist or bend slightly or exert a pressing force on their surface. All of which work to induce mechanical stresses within the glass layer of your panels.

Since glass is already a brittle material, the twisting, bending or pressing of the glass, and the accompanying stress will encourage the formation of cracks in the solar panel glass layer.

Hail Storms

All solar panels use reinforced glass for their top layer which makes them extremely durable and resistant to cracking. However, the recurring hits inflicted by hail during hail storms will gradually diminish the strength of your solar panels and eventually cause the glass surface to crack.

Unsuitable Transportation Methods

When transporting solar panels, from the manufacturer to the supplier or from the supplier to the buyer, it is important that the solar panels are securely held in their place inside the transportation vehicle and do not shuffle around as they are being moved. If this happens, the panels will crash into, and damage, one another.

Additionally, the driver must also be careful to avoid any sudden maneuvers and braking that could potentially cause the panels to move out of their place and crash into other panels or the vehicle walls. Both of which could damage the panel glass.

Handling refers to the loading and unloading of solar panels from the transportation vehicle as well as hauling the solar panels onto your roof. Incompetent handling would mean that you, or the person carrying the panels, drop or bump them while carrying on your roof or loading or unloading them from the vehicle. For instance, if you were to drop your solar panels while carrying them onto the roof, the impact would most likely cause the solar panel glass layer to crack and shatter.

Installation on a Non-Planar Surface

Installing your solar panels on non-planar surfaces means that you’ll have to position your panels at awkward angles. This can cause your solar panels and mounting equipment to bend or twist slightly, inducing mechanical stresses in them.

Furthermore, since the panels will be permanently installed in this position, the induced stress will be constant and will, therefore, encourage the formation of micro-cracks in the panel glass, which will progressively grow into larger cracks.

Manufacturing Fault

The use of poor-quality materials or a lack of process control protocols can often lead to faults in the solar panels; micro cracks being the most common ones. Considering that microcracks are undetectable to the naked eye, faulty solar panels plagued with microcracks can be easily shipped off to the consumer market if the proper quality assurance measures aren’t in place.

When these defected panels are purchased, environmental factors such as thermal cycling, high-speed winds, hail, or any other external factor can aggravate the pre-existing faults and lead to the formation of full-scale cracks and fractures.

Why You Should Repair Cracked Solar Panels

The primary function of the top glass layer of solar panels is to protect the internal circuitry and components of the solar panels, especially the solar cells. However, if this glass surface gets cracked, the top glass layer can no longer properly protect the internals of your solar panels in New Jersey and New York.

Here are the two main problems associated with cracked solar panels that you may have to face:

1.      Compromised Water and Moisture Resistance

Water and moisture are one of the biggest threats to solar panels. This is because the moisture can provide the electricity generated by the solar panels with a low-resistance pathway leading to short circuits. This means a higher current will flow through the solar panel which can severely and permanently damage the solar panel components.

Furthermore, since water is a conductor of electricity, it can cause the entire solar panel to go live resulting in the electrocution of anyone who touches the panel. In fact, the penetration of water into solar panels can even lead to electrical fires.

Normally, out-of-the-factory solar panels are completely sealed and therefore, waterproof. However, in the case of cracked solar panels, the cracks can provide a potential entry point for moisture to seep through the minute fractures and into the solar panels where it can damage and destroy your module from the inside. As such, moisture penetration is one of the biggest threats posed by cracked solar panels in New York and New Jersey areas.

2.      Glass Surface Flaking Off

The second biggest problem of cracked solar panels is that they can cause the entire top glass layer to flake off eventually. Considering that the purpose of the glass layer is to shield your solar panel internals from physical and environmental threats, losing the glass layer means you lose a vital line of defense and that the internal components of your solar panel are no longer protected. 

This happens because glass is a brittle material. As such, any existing cracks on the glass layer can easily grow larger and propagate across the panel even when just a little amount of force is applied. Eventually, the cracks will spread across the entire panel, and glass pieces will begin to flake off from the surface.

How to Repair Cracked Solar Panels

Generally, there are two primary ways to repair cracked solar panels in New Jersey and New York. While both of these ways do not actually repair the cracks, they do help alleviate the two main problems mentioned above: penetration of moisture and flaking off of the glass surface. These repair methods are:

Covering the Panel with a Laminating Film

This is one of the easiest and most affordable solutions for repairing cracked solar panels. All you need is a transparent laminating film, a heat gun, and a squeegee, or squiggle tool. Here are the three simple steps you need to follow:

  1. Spread the film over the cracked solar panel.
  1. Use the squeegee to uniformly spread the film and remove any bubbles or fold between the panel surface and laminate film.
  1. Use the heat gun to fuse the laminate film to the panel surface.

The laminate film is completely transparent and waterproof. As a result, it does not block out any light and will not allow water to penetrate into the panel. Additionally, it will also hold the glass pieces together and prevent them from falling out.

Paint the Panel with Polyurethane

This is another low-cost and easy solution for repairing cracked solar panels. All you need is a can of quick-drying polyurethane and a squeegee. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Pour the polyurethane over the cracked glass surface.
  1. spread it evenly across the surface using the squeegee tool.
  1. Leave out the panel to dry for a few minutes.

This transparent liquid adhesive will flow into the cracks and crevices in your panel, seal them off, and fuse the cracked glass together. This means moisture will no longer be able to penetrate through the solar panel surface and the cracked glass won’t flake off.

Is Repairing Cracked Solar Panels an Effective Solution

The two remedies explained above can be effective solutions depending on the extent of damage your solar panels have sustained. If your solar panels bear only a few minor cracks, then any of the two methods mentioned above would make for an ideal remedy for the problem.

However, if your solar panels are covered with cracks to the point that shards of glass have already started to flake off, the methods outlined above wouldn’t be much useful. This is because while the aforementioned remedies can prevent moisture penetration and flaking of glass surfaces, they do not repair the cracks themselves.

If left unaddressed, these cracks will disperse much of the sunlight incident on the solar panels, thereby reducing the performance and efficiency of your solar panels. In such a case, a better approach would be to replace the panel entirely. While it is also possible to replace the cracked glass layer, it is not an advisable solution.

This is because replacing the glass layer is a very expensive and complicated solution and it would, in fact, be more economical to replace the entire solar panel than replace just the top glass layer.

Conclusion

Cracked solar panels jeopardize the performance and lifespan of your solar system and the safety of your home and your loved ones. Two easy and cost-effective remedies for this problem are to cover the cracked surface with laminate film or coat the cracked surface with polyurethane solution. However, these remedies are only viable for minor cracks.

One of the best ways to protect your panels is to have them proactively inspected for micro-cracks and take appropriate measures to ensure that the micro-cracks do not widen or deepen. Repairing, inspecting, or replacing your solar panels is a job that requires skill and expertise. That is why you should enlist the help of a professional solar installer to ensure that all your solar panel problems are properly resolved.

Our team at SolarMedix.com has served the New York and New Jersey region for over 19 years. We’ve completed nearly 6,000 projects. Put that experience to work for you.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. Or, if you like, we can give you a no-obligation quote on your project. Call us at 732-785-4814 or book a consultation online. And we’ll get in touch within 24 hours.

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