Solar panels are wonderful sources of clean energy, but sometimes they need a bit of cleaning and maintenance. When that happens, you might wonder if it’s safe to stand on, kneel, or walk on top of solar panel arrays.
International quality standards dictate that solar panels should be strong enough to hold 113 lbs. per square inch, as well as withstand 50 mph. hail. This means it is technically safe to walk on panels without causing damage, but there are other potential dangers such as falls and burns.
Solar panels are built to last and they can withstand a lot of stress before breaking. However, that doesn’t mean we should tempt fate and host a dance party on top of our solar panels. For more information about solar panel durability and some potential hazards of walking on them, read below.
Weight Limits And Stress Testing
Solar panels are designed to hold up under extreme heat, harsh winds, and falling debris. They can be quite expensive to manufacture and install, so there’s a lot of pressure on the creators to make sure they meet rigorous strength testing standards.
Luckily there are regulations in place for solar panel production, and they all need to meet a certain threshold of durability and strength. As mentioned above, the usual standard for solar panels is to be able to withstand a weight of 113 lbs. per square foot and impacts from 50 mph. hailstorms.
These are fairly extreme examples and most solar panels won’t encounter conditions that are nearly that harsh. But this might be comforting to owners if they’re worried about the damage that a stray tree branch or foul ball could do.
Below is a video from SolarWorld, which is a leading name in solar panel technology. This demonstrates the strength of their solar panels and the kinds of conditions they can endure.
Fall Risk And Potential Equipment Damage
So now we know that solar panels can take quite a beating. They’re tough enough to take the weight of fully grown adults and even the weight of a car! But just because you can walk on solar panels doesn’t mean that you should.
The panels themselves are quite tough, but they are still electronic equipment. The top surface is the part that has been fortified against tough conditions and the undercarriage and electrical wiring can still be damaged fairly easily.
There’s also the question of practicality! There are very few instances in which you would need to walk on solar panels. Plus, in many cases, solar panels are installed on rooftops or in tilted arrays. This slope, combined with their smooth texture, makes it difficult to balance on them and could lead to a nasty fall where you end up hurting yourself or the equipment.
Most installers don’t walk on solar panels ether; not because the panels are fragile, but because it’s safer overall to avoid contact with them.
However, there are some cases in which your solar panels might need to be cleaned or fixed. 90% of the time though, it’s best if these situations are left to the professionals. These people are trained to safely navigate solar panels without slipping or breaking anything.
Another potential risk that comes from walking on solar panels is the extreme heat they produce. Solar panels that sit under the sun all day absorb that heat and then produce electricity. Both of these processes combined can make the panels hot to the touch.
If you live in a particularly hot area or try to walk on them during the middle of the day, your shoes and feet could get burned. In warm areas, this would be similar to walking on a hot stove!
Solar panels are often more than 30 degrees warmer than their surroundings, so even if it doesn’t seem too hot, don’t risk it during daylight hours. If you absolutely have to walk on solar panels, I recommend doing it in the early morning or evening.
For more information on solar panel heating and temperature limits, check out our article “Are Solar Panels Hot To The Touch?”
How To Safely Interact With Solar Panels
The main reason that you might need to walk on solar panels is to clean them. Luckily, solar panels stay fairly clean on their own and will usually only need to be maintained about once every year.
In many cases this cleaning can be done by professional solar panel cleaners. They are the best people for the job because they have the training and equipment needed to safely climb on roofs, do maintenance work, and avoid stepping on the panels.
However, it is possible for owners to do their own cleaning if they prefer to do this. Most solar panels can be cleaned from the safety of the ground and it’s not recommended for you to climb onto your roof.
You should also try to use a cleaning attachment that you can use while standing on the ground. Large sweeping equipment or spray extensions can be very helpful in cleaning hard-to-reach panels. Only climb on the roof if you have no other option, and always use a safe ladder and climbing equipment.
If you do want to clean your own panels, there are some guidelines and practices you should follow. These will keep you safe and ensure that both you and your panels stay in good shape.
First of all, you should turn off the solar panel inverter so they aren’t creating live electricity while they’re being cleaned.
Next, always clean your panels in the early morning or evening because the temperatures will be more mild. Spraying cold water on hot solar panels can cause them to steam and may damage the outer coating and other elements. You’ll also have to deal with hot water runoff, which can be dangerous in its own right.
Never use a garden hose to spray down your solar panels. These often draw on groundwater, which is usually hard water. You may clean off the surface dirt with a hose, but the hard water buildup can create lime scaling that will be a bigger problems in the future.
Instead, you can spray the panels with soft, deionized water to remove loose debris. Then you can use a safe, store-bought cleaner for solar panels and wipe them down with a soft cloth. Use only a small amount of soap to prevent chemical runoff.
Finally, rinse the panels with deionized water and use a squeegee to remove excess water. These cleaning steps will help you take care of your solar panels and improve their lifespan and overall efficiency.