solar panels

By: Megan Ray Nichols

Are you thinking about installing solar panels on your home? If so, you’re probably aware of the many benefits they provide, but you might be less informed about the potential safety issues associated with solar panel installation.

The installation process can be dangerous, so you should always have a qualified installer do it — don’t try to go the DIY route. All states have different laws when it comes to who can install solar panels, so make sure you read up on those before hiring someone for the job.

A correctly installed solar panel system is perfectly safe, but taking shortcuts or doing something wrong can lead to significant safety risks. Here’s what to watch out for when admiring your new solar panels.

  1. Adequate Leak Protection

Installing solar panels requires putting holes in your roof for the bolts that hold the system in place. If they aren’t properly sealed, those holes can let water into your home.

You should always use flashed mounts with a secure seal. Flashed mounts are metal tiles that are placed over the hole, completely covering it. You can use sealant to create an even stronger seal, but sealant alone won’t be strong enough. Some installers will attempt to use sealant alone, but you should insist on flashed mounts. Under many conditions, using them is even required by law.

  1. Proper Attachment Spacing

Leaving the correct amount of space between the hardware used to attach panels to the roof is crucial for a safe installation. The panel’s manufacturer has requirements for how far apart to space the attachments you should always follow.

Placing them too far apart will put too much weight on the spot where the panels connect to the roof, which can cause damage to your roof. Following the requirements spread the weight out evenly, so no part of your roof is subject to an excessive amount of pressure.

  1. Concealed Wires

Wires left exposed to the elements will lose their protective insulation over time, creating a dangerous electrical hazard. Wiring should always be protected and hidden.

Ensure that the installer tucked wires underneath the panels where possible and covered them with electrical conduit, an enclosed channel that protects wiring from damage. You also need to use a correctly sized pipe made of a material that’s up to code. Concealing and protecting your wiring will not only look make your system look more attractive, but it will also help it last longer and prevent safety issues.

  1. Secured Panels

Panels that are entirely on the roof are much more secure than those that are hanging over the edge. Solar panels that extend over the edge of your roof are more likely to get damaged and may cause safety issues.

Strong winds may even tear your panels right off of your home, damaging and exposing the electrical wiring. Solar panels flying through the air are also, of course, dangerous. The damage to your system will be expensive to fix, as well.

  1. Panels Free From Pressure

You should never stand on solar panels or place heavy objects on solar panels. This is not only dangerous, as you could slip and fall, but you’ll also cause tiny fractures in the panel that may eventually turn into more significant cracks. Solar panels can withstand some pressure, but they aren’t designed to hold the weight of a person.

If you see your installer walking on your panels, they either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care that they’re damaging your panels. Either way, you may want to reconsider the company you hired or at least ask them to replace the panels they damaged.

Solar panels can reduce your energy costs and the number of emissions you create through your energy use. They offer many benefits, but installing them also has its risks. Lots of companies say they’re solar experts, but this claim is sometimes less than accurate.

Always check that an installer is qualified and certified before you hire them. Read customer reviews and see if they’re part of any trade organizations. And be on the lookout for these common issues, so you ensure your solar panel system is installed safely and correctly.