Can You Walk on Solar Panels?
There are many instances where you might need to walk on solar panels such as cleaning or access to other parts of your roof.
While it is safe to walk on solar panels, it is not recommended. Although you won’t get electrocuted while walking on solar panels, there is the possibility you may fracture the glass or damage some internals of the panels, so try to avoid it.
A solar panel can hold about 50 to 75 pounds per square foot area. An average man weighs about 200 pounds, which is way beyond what a solar PV panel can handle.
That said, you can only lean on the panels lightly but not put your whole weight on them.
However, it is important to note that there are different types of panels, and some can withstand more weight than others.
Is it safe to walk on solar panels?
While it is not always unsafe to walk on solar panels, it is not recommended, especially if you have no skills or knowledge about the handling and maintenance of the panels.
Most solar panel installers can skillfully walk on the panels without putting pressure on the middle area to avoid damaging them.
However, walking on the panels can be risky as you may endanger yourself and even damage the panels.
Here is what can happen if you walk on solar panels:
Risk of electrocution
Walking on solar panels will not get you electrocuted. However, if by any chance there is bad wiring around the panel or at its back, the panel’s surface is a DC Danger Zone. DC currents are potent and extremely dangerous. So, walking on a faulty panel can expose you to the electric shock caused by the DC currents.
Damaging the panels
Putting excessive weight on the solar panels can damage the frame, grass, or solar cells. This reduces the efficiency of your solar system. If the module cracks, weather fluctuations can cause the crevices to widen due to thermal expansion and contraction, and the materials will eventually separate, rendering the panel useless.
How can solar panels get damaged by walking on them?
Solar panels are engineered using the toughest materials that can withstand harsh weather, debris, and twigs from trees. With proper care and maintenance, they can serve you for two or three decades. However, walking on them can drastically reduce their efficiency.
Here is how your solar panels can be damaged by walking on them.
Smudging the glass
If you walk on your solar PV modules with dirty shoes, you risk smudging them. The dirt can block the potency of the sun rays hitting the panels, which can eventually reduce their efficiency and power output. Cleaning the solar panel will restore its efficiency.
Scratching the glass
If you walk on a solar panel with your regular shoes, shards, and small stones that may have been stuck in the sole can scratch the panel’s surface.
Scratches reduce the efficiency of solar panels, and if they are deep and extensive, the panel can be completely damaged. It is paramount to call a solar technician to repair or replace the panel in case you notice any scratch marks.
Breaking solar cells
Solar cells cannot handle a lot of weight. While the tempered glass may protect the cells, putting too much pressure on the panel’s surface can damage them. You will notice a significant reduction in the panel’s power output that can result in power reduction. And if you don’t have optimizers or microinverters, there will be a constant decrease in the output of your entire system.
Breaking busbars of the solar cells
Walking on solar panels can also break the busbars located in between the solar PV cells. Busbars ensure electricity passes smoothly from one solar cell to another and from one solar panel to another.
If your solar system is off-grid, you will have to stay without power for several days until you fix the issue.
A broken busbar causes the panel to overheat. You can fix the problem by disconnecting the panel and replacing it. If more than one busbar are broken, the entire solar panel string might disconnect due to a disruption of current flow that causes an open circuit on your solar PV system.
What should I do if my solar panels break?
If you walk on your solar panels and they happen to break, you need to resolve the problem immediately to prevent further damage to the crystalline cells.
Here is what you can do if your panels break:
Call your insurance company: If your panel breaks, contact your home insurance company to find out if they cover damages caused by walking on the panel’s surface. You will not need additional insurance for your solar system as long as it is attached to your roof.
Your insurance can cover damages caused by natural calamities such as thunderstorms, windstorms, and fires. However, they may refuse to cover the damages, depending on what caused them.
It is best to call the company that installed the system to inspect the extent of the damage.
Repair the panel: If the damage is minimal, like minor cracks or scratches, you can repair them yourself in case your insurance refuses to cover the damages.
Replace the panel: Extensive damage to the panels can cause the entire system to fail. If the panel is beyond repair, the best solution is to replace it.
Can I be electrocuted by a solar panel?
Generally, solar panels are safe, provided they are earthed and installed properly. However, like any electrical equipment, a broken or malfunctioning solar panel can electrocute you.
As long as the solar panels are exposed to direct sunlight, they are powered. To be safe, always put on protective gear like eye protection, helmets, and goggles when handling solar panels.
Do I need to walk on solar panels to clean them?
Throughout this article, we have established that it is not wise to walk on solar panels as they can get damaged.
So how can you clean them?
Before you clean the panels, check how much weight they can handle per square foot. If you must walk on the panels, you should use lightweight aluminum walk boards that can span across several panels, reducing the weight load on a single panel. Even then, you still risk damaging your solar panels.
Besides, you risk falling from a great distance as solar panels are very slippery. Also, due to the direct exposure to the sun for long hours, the panels can be too hot to touch with your bare flesh.
Yes, walking on solar panels will void their warranty. Your insurance provider will not cover damages caused by negligence or carelessness, like walking on the panels. Also, hiring unlicensed solar technicians to repair or clean the panels will void their warranty.
Author: Ben McInerney is a renewable energy enthusiast with the goal of helping more Australians understand solar systems to make the best choice before they purchase. Having an accredited solar installer in the family helps give Ben access to the correct information, which allows him to break it down and make it easily understandable to the average homeowner.