Suppose you have spent time and money setting up your solar panel system, and they are working well. However, it is now dead in the winter, and there were reports that a snowstorm may be coming within the next few days.
At this point, you may be thinking about protecting your solar panels. You could even be considering storing them somewhere. However, is this something common? Can you actually remove and store solar panels? If yes, how to store solar panels when not in use?
After removal, you should clean your solar panels and let them dry in the open air. Then protect the panels using bubble wrap or soft cloth. Place the panels flat to prevent them from warping. You can also store them standing up, with the front panels facing each other. Keep in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature.
This article discusses how to store solar panels when not in use. Aside from that, it will also look into when you should store away your solar panels and how you can remove your solar panels safely.
When Should You Store Solar Panels?
You should remove and store away your solar panels when you will not be using them for a long time. This could be during the winter or if you will be away from your home for a long time.
You can also remove and store your panels if you are going to perform roofing work or move out of the house.
Many people, including you, may think removing solar panels is odd. This is because you do not really hear or see people doing this.
However, you can remove your solar panels and store them away if necessary. In fact, there are many situations that make removing your panels a great decision.
QUICK TIP: Generally, people remove solar panels when they are not using them, if the panels may be harmed, or if they would be away from the house for some time.
This helps to protect solar panel systems from overcharging, damage, or in unfortunate circumstances, theft. Solar panel thefts do happen these days.
Winter is when the sun is distant, and the sky is cloudy and overcast. As a result, solar panels do not generate much electricity.
The cold temperature may stress the panels. If you live in areas with heavy snow, they may add additional weight to the panels, potentially damaging them. The excessive moisture from the snow may also rust the supporting brackets and frames.
When you add up both factors, removing and storing the panels away may make sense.
Extreme Non-Sunny Weather
Suppose you do not live in a place with a winter of heavy snow. Perhaps your place may be those that have dry and rainy seasons. If that is the case, it may rain day and night, and there may not be much sun.
As a result, your panels may not generate much electricity. The constantly pounding rain should not damage the panels. Still, the humid and wet conditions may be bad for your panels’ framing or supporting bracketing.
It may make sense to remove the panels since they are not making much power anyway.
Roof Surface Work
If you have solar panels set up on your roof and you will start to do some roofing work, it may make sense to remove and store the panels away.
This is because roofing is serious work and may expose your panels to damage. For example, suppose you plan to pressure wash your roof and then reapply some tar to improve its waterproofing.
Imagine if you accidentally pushed the pressure water to your panels or dropped some tar on the panels. You may either crack the panel or leave a heavy stain that is hard to remove.
You Will Not Be At Home For A While
If you are going to leave your home for an extended period, it may make sense to remove your panels. This is because you will not be using the energy generated; in some ways, get yourself some peace of mind.
It may be possible to shorten the life of your battery if you keep charging it but do not use it. If you are away for several weeks or more, it may make sense to remove it.
Another reason is if you remove the panels, you avoid worrying if your panels will be stolen. Thieves may notice this and remove your panels if you are away from home for some time. They can do this easily since the panels are hanging on your roof.
You Are Moving Out
Finally, if you are going to leave the house, it may make sense to remove the panels and store them away. This could happen if you are to sell your house and the new owner is not interested in keeping the solar panels.
Another is that the house is a rented property, and since you paid for the solar panel installations, you want to take them away with you.
How To Remove Solar Panels?
To remove solar panels:
- Prepare tools, equipment, and safety gear.
- Shut off the system. You usually do this at the main switchboard.
- Remove the mounting hardware.
- Disconnect the wire from your panel to your inverter.
- Remove the solar panels.
Removing solar panels is not rocket science. You can do it yourself. However, considering that you are going to work with electrical systems, you want to have some protection.
Also, check with your installer about shutting down the system and if they have instructions. You also want to prepare some tools and equipment to complete the job.
Step 1: Prepare Tools And Equipment
Prepare some basic hand tools for this job, such as a screwdriver, a wrench, and a ladder. You may also want to prepare safety equipment such as hand gloves, sunglasses, and a helmet, since you will be working up on the roof, under the sun.
Step 2: Turn Off The Solar Panel System
Start by going to the main switchboard, and locate the switch for your solar panel system. Turn that off, usually by pushing the switch down.
Suppose your solar inverter is more than 3 meters (about 10 feet) away from your switchboard. In that case, locate a ‘Solar AC Isolator’ switch on your switchboard. Turn that off too.
Next, go to your inverter, and look for a switch named ‘PV Array and DC Isolator’ and ‘Inverter Isolator.” Turn these off as well.
At this point, your solar panel system should be completely switched off. It is now safe to proceed with panel removal.
Depending on the installation and setup, you may have different ways to turn off your solar panel system. It is best to check with your installer how to do this properly.
Step 3: Remove Framing Hardware
The framing helps hold onto your solar panels and secure them against the main bracket. To remove your solar panels, you need to remove the framing first.
They are often secured to the main bracket using screws or bolts. Use your screwdriver and wrenches to open these up. If tight, consider a targeted spray or WD40 to penetrate the bolts, making them easier to open.
Step 4: Disconnect The Wire
Before removing the framing with the solar panels, check for any wiring. In many cases, most panels would be wired to an inverter, using some ‘plug and play’ connection.
Disconnect the wiring. Now, your panels and framing should completely detach from the main bracketing frame.
Step 5: Remove The Solar Panels
Now, you can remove the solar panels from the frame. Depending on how they are mounted, you may either need to slide the panels out or unscrew them. The key is to be gentle here, as you do not want to damage your panels.
How To Store Solar Panels Properly When Not In Use?
To store away solar panels when not in use:
- Clean the panels thoroughly, and dry them.
- Apply physical protection, such as bubble wrap on cloth
- Store the panels flat to avoid warping. Avoid stacking the panels.
- If you cannot store flat, store the panels standing, with the front facing each other.
- Keep in a cool and dry place with a stable temperature.
Solar panels are sensitive and, in some ways, fragile pieces of hardware. This means you do not want to stack them somewhere in the corner of your garage, like your stack of unused firewood.
Instead, there are steps you can take to properly store your panels. This way, they are nicely protected and good to go when putting them on again.
Step 1: Thoroughly Clean Them
The first step before storing your panels away is to clean them. This ensures any caked-on dirt and dust do not continue to cause issues such as scratches or damage to the panels.
You do not need specialized cleaners to clean your solar panels. In most cases, diluted household cleaners such as baking soda, toothpaste, and soft brushes are more than enough. For harder stains, isopropyl alcohol may work well.
Once cleaned up, leave the solar panels to dry naturally in the open air. This prevents you from being over-aggressive on the dry wipe, causing scratches.
Step 2: Apply Physical Protection
Now that the panels are clean, it is time to apply physical protection to protect them from physical damage and contaminants.
A simple, loose bubble wrap should be enough to protect your panels. When wrapping, avoid wrapping too tightly. This prevents additional stress on the panels, which may warp them. If you do not have bubble wrap, some cloth should work well too.
Step 3: Storage Arrangements
Your panels are cleaned and wrapped up. The next step is to store them away. Depending on your storage availability, there are two main ways to store your solar panels.
The first is to store them flat, with the front panels facing down. The advantage of storing your panels flat is that you do not place additional force that may warp the panel. However, this storage method can be space-consuming unless you have little shelves to keep every panel in place.
When storing panels flat, do not stack the panels. The bottom panels may be subjected to much weight and stress, which may either warp or damage them.
If storing your panels flat is impossible, you can store your panels standing up. Stand two of your panels with the front part facing each other. Keep repeating this until you have all panels stored.
Step 4: Storage Environment
Finally, store your panels in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature. This is because a hot and humid place may encourage mold or mildew to grow on your panels, so you need to clean them again before reinstalling them.
On top of that, a hot and humid environment may also damage the circuitry easier. Cold temperatures may stress the panels as well.
Avoid storing your panels in locations with huge fluctuating temperatures. This is because hot and cold temperatures may cause your panels to expand and shrink, making them more likely to be damaged.
Can You Cover The Solar Panels Instead Of Storing Them?
You can cover the panels instead of storing them. It makes the job easier, but you will not fully protect the panels. Plus, your panels may still be subject to thievery.
Some homeowners may not see the need to completely remove and store their solar panels. Instead, they use solar panel covering that protects the panels from cold temperatures and possible physical damage.
You may be thinking the same too. This option may work in certain situations, but you will also lose some effectiveness.
Using panel covers may help to protect the panels from physical damage or extreme temperature. Still, the protection will not be as good as if you remove and store them away.
The biggest weakness of this method is you are still leaving your panels outdoors. If you leave your house for a bit, you are still leaving the panels exposed to thievery.
Storing your solar panels is a good option if you need to remove them temporarily. It’s essential to clean and protect them correctly before storing them in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature.
Solar panels are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions so it’s not necessary to remove them unless you’re moving or undergoing maintenance work.
If you need to remove your solar panels safely but are not confident you can do it yourself, seek professional help.
Remember that solar panels are a long-term investment, and proper care and maintenance can help extend their lifespan.
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