You’ve started to notice more of your neighbors getting solar panels installed onto their roofs and are contemplating getting them yourself. However, you can’t help but worry about all that metal racking on your roof potentially attracting lightning to your home. Fortunately, this is not something you have to worry about.
While solar panels can be damaged by lightning, just having solar panels installed on the roof of your house does not increase your home’s risk of getting hit by lightning.
However, just because they don’t increase the likelihood of your house being hit by lightning doesn’t mean there is no chance that your house will be struck. That said, there are ways that homeowners can protect their homes from lightning should a strike come their way.
When Lightning Strikes
When you think about lightning, you probably think about the times when the grey rain clouds above you suddenly light up the night sky for a moment before returning to darkness. Perhaps you even think about the epic strikes painting pictures across the sky somewhere safely in the distance. While these types of lightning are more common than not, some lightning may come a little too close to home – literally. If proper precautions are not in place, your solar panels may suffer damage. The amount of damage inflicted on your panels will correlate with how direct the strike is.
The most uncommon type of damage comes from when the lightning bolt directly strikes your system. When this happens, your panels or inverters may melt, which would destroy the entire system. And that’s just the damage it would cause to your solar panels.
If you know that your house has been directly hit by lightning, you need to immediately call the fire department. Fire poses the greatest danger to a house that has been struck by lightning. Chances are many electronics and appliances in the home may also become damaged by the resulting power surge.
Please recognize that even when you have added protections to your home and solar panel systems, a direct hit can still cause many destructive problems. However, with them installed, you can minimize the overall damage caused.
Fortunately, direct strikes are very rare. A more common strike that may affect you would be an indirect lightning strike. These strikes are likely to cause a high voltage surge that will break down conductors, panels, and other components, as wells as causing dangerous sparks. And as we all know, sparks may very well lead to fire.
If your solar panels have suffered from this type of damage, you should be able to get these fixed as opposed to replacing the entire system.
Protecting Your Home and Solar Panels
So now that you know the risks that await you should there be a lightning storm that strikes your home or near your home before you go running to prevent against such a disaster, perhaps you’d like to know the likelihood of your house being struck in the first place, that way you can determine whether or not it would be worth installing protections.
On average, 1 in 200 houses are struck by lightning a year – that’s a 0.5% chance likelihood of one of those houses being yours. This may be a little higher or lower depending on the climate of where you live, so evaluate as you need.
A home lightning protection system may cost anywhere from $435-$2,515 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, so you’ll need to really evaluate if this would be a worthwhile investment for your home. Perhaps it would be better to just risk it and allow for insurance to cover any damage should worst come to worst and lightning does in face strike.
Something else to consider is that it is a requirement for your solar panels to be grounded already, so unless you have any other components on your roof that you would like to protect, you may not even need any additional protection.
Your area tends to have a lot of lightning and you still want to protect your home from lightning? Great! Below we’ll explain the general process of protecting your home and solar panels, but please note that in general, this is not a DIY project and you should get professionals to help.
The most important part about protecting your solar panels from lightning is by grounding them. Grounding is the way to provide a safe and effective route for excess electricity to the ground.
The first thing that will be done in this process will be to interconnect all the metal components together. These will all be connected to grounding rods, usually made of copper, that will be buried in the earth.
When thinking about protection from lightning, many people think about lightning rods. While this is not necessary in most cases, there are cases where also having a lightning rod may not be a bad idea. These include being in an area that has dry or rocky soil, when the wires grounding wires run longer than 100 feet, or if your home is on high ground where severe lightning storms are common.
Indirect strikes, while not as high voltage as an indirect strike, still have relatively high voltages. For example, a direct lightning strike at the point of impact may have up to 75 kV (kilovolts) of energy, whereas nearby the indirect surge may have bursts up to 25 kV. To put that into perspective, the average microwave and refrigerator are 120 volts and an average car battery is 12.5 volts.
Because the most common type of damage that can be caused by lightning is through an indirect strike, a wise way to protect yourself is by using a surge protection device. When installed, these devices protect against voltage surges that can happen when lightning strikes nearby. It’s important to have both AC and DC surge protection.