Damage to your solar panel system can come in many forms, mainly chipped, cracked or broken glass from a variety of sources, like hail or rocks. Other damage can come in the form of a simple thing like a loose solder connection. Whatever it is, it’s possible to fix it yourself and avoid the high cost of replacing the panel or a professional repair.
One of the most common solar panel repair that people need to do is to replace the glass. The glass can get damaged fairly easily—it is glass, after all. Excessive heat, a fall, hail and rocks are among the most common culprits; but fortunately, glass is a fairly easy fix. Most of the work involves making sure that you don’t get water condensation under the pane of glass after you replace it, since it’s more likely to have moisture underneath. This could cause damage to other components of the panel, so you’ll want to watch it carefully.
Loose solder connections are somewhat harder to fix. Some cells are intermittent cells—they turn on and off as the panel heats and cools. You might be able to notice a cell cutting out if you knock on it sharply. That’s one of the signs that the cells may need repair. The best way to do this is to carefully cut through the silicone backing so you can access the cells to solder.
In order to hold things in place, the best thing to do is to invest in some glass tape to hold the cells in place while you solder on the back. Some people use conductive epoxy in place of solder, but others haven’t seen any success with this approach. Most epoxies cost about $20, so even if you have to try a couple different brands to get the right results, you’ll be saving money in the end. The reason these epoxies work is because the chemicals contain silver, and that medium is able to conduct the electricity and heat just right.
Fortunately, not all fixes are this intensive. If your solar panel isn’t working as effectively as it used to, there are a few things that you can check before you start working to replace the glass or soldering connections. Loose electrical connections, dirty glass and obstructions are frequent culprits. Make sure that everything connected to your panels is secure—a loose connection can not only cause less-than-peak productivity, but it can also be a safety hazard. It’s certainly something you should keep your eye on. If the panel is dirty, less light will be able to make it into the panel, and will reduce efficiency. And you should also check, hopefully before installing solar panels, to make sure that the panels are in a position where they can get the most light and be away from things that might obstruct them, like trees.
Some fixes will take a little time, but most of the things you need to do to maintain or repair your panels are simple and cheap enough that you can do it yourself.