Springtime in Texas means two things: bluebonnets and hail storms. While the state flower of Texas is a welcome sight in Central Texas, spring hail often wreaks havoc on our homes. Fortunately, most solar panels are built to withstand hailstorms, but roofs are not always as tough. (We’ll walk you through the steps of solar inspection after a storm later in this post.)

When Does Hail Hit in Texas?

Hail season spans from March to June in Central Texas, with peak activity in April and May. Through a phenomenon known as “updrafts,” high winds during a severe thunderstorm can carry rain to a higher altitude where colder temperatures freeze the rain drops. When they fall back down to earth, the resulting hailstones can be nuggets of destruction.

Will Hail Damage My Solar Panels?

The good news is that hail does not typically damage solar panels. Manufacturers put solar panels through a battery of harsh weather tests to ensure they can withstand high winds, hail as well as heavy snow loads and extreme heat. But with extreme weather becoming more common over the past several years in Texas, we have seen more larger hailstones across all Longhorn service areas.

Sadly, most people’s roofs aren’t as tough as solar panels. Every year, Longhorn gets calls from roofing companies and homeowners seeking to remove and reinstall perfectly functioning solar systems to repair a roof. It’s important to note that most insurance policies cover the removal and re-installation (and potential replacement) of your solar array, but it’s always smart to have a conversation with your insurance carrier to make sure.

How to Inspect your Solar System for Hail Damage

Step One: Visual Inspection

If you can see your solar panels from the ground, or safely from a ladder, a simple visual inspection will determine whether or not your solar panels were damaged.

Example of hail damage to solar panel

There was only one damaged panel in this array.  Look closely!

Aerial view of hail damage solar panels

This is what 4″ hail stones will do to a solar array.

Severe hail storms can bring severe damage. Not to worry though, the damage to these arrays were covered 100% by the owners’ insurance carriers as part of the claims they were filing for their roof replacements.

Step Two: Check your Online Monitoring Portal or Mobile App

If your solar installation has monitoring capabilities such as Longhorn’s SolarEdge or Tesla apps, you can compare your current usage curve to data from another recently confirmed sunny day to see if your system’s output has changed. Damaged solar systems will show a noticeable drop in production, or not be producing energy at all. If you’re not sure of what you’re looking at, call your installer. They should have access to your monitoring system via a master service portal and can usually tell right away if there’s an issue.

What if you don’t have monitoring and you can’t see the panels from the ground to inspect them?

If you can’t see your solar panels from the ground and don’t have monitoring capability (common for systems installed before 2014), consider turning your system off temporarily and contact your solar installer. If that’s us, you can reach our Service Department by phone at 512.837.4800, or via email: service@longhornsolar.com. Even if your solar installer is no longer available, we can help. We perform removal and reinstallation services on any solar system.

We can either walk you through the process of viewing your system’s vitals on the inverter display (if you are comfortable doing that), or we can schedule a technician to come out and perform a visual inspection.

Step 3: Turn Your Solar System Off

Damaged solar panels can pose an electrical risk if the hermetic seal on the protective, tempered glass is compromised in any way. Since Texas weather can be unpredictable, you may want to go ahead and turn your system off until damage to your panels has been ruled out, and before more rain comes through.If you see or suspect damage, definitely turn your system off and call your installer.

So, how do you turn your system off?

Every solar system has a levered AC (alternating current) Disconnect. Below is a photo showing how to turn off your AC Disconnect.

How to turn off your solar system graphic

The AC disconnect will be located next to your solar inverter. It is typically a grey rectangular box measuring roughly 10″h x 6″ wide, with a black or red handled lever on the side of it. The one in the photo above is in the “OFF” position. Yours should be in the top “ON” position right now. Simply lower the lever to the lower “OFF” position and your solar system will shut down.

There are several safety features integrated into your solar system. Under most circumstances, turning off your AC Disconnect is completely safe, posing no threat of electrical shock. If touching your electrical components makes you nervous and you want to speak to someone first, call your installer.

You can also open your main distribution panel (breaker box) and move the solar system’s breaker to the off position.  It should have been clearly labeled by your solar installer. Recent changes in the National Electric Code have made this a requirement. If your system is less than 10 years old, there’s a good chance both your AC Disconnect and your solar breaker have distinct labeling on them.

My solar panels are fine, but my roof is going to have to be replaced. What’s the process?

We know how stressful the process of replacing your roof and/or solar system can be.

The good news is your homeowner’s policy should cover the cost associated with replacing damaged components and/or removing/reinstalling the rooftop portion of your solar system as part of the overall roofing damage claim, even if the solar system is functioning fine.

This means the deductible you pay for your roof will cover the solar costs as well.

Longhorn Solar, as with most seasoned solar contractors in Texas, has a wealth of experience navigating this process with homeowners throughout the years.

We have completed hundreds of solar removal and reinstall projects and are well versed in working with insurance companies and roofing contractors. That being said, we recommend you contact your original solar contractor first.  If they are no longer in business or unresponsive, we are here to help.

IMPORTANT: As you begin the process of dealing with a damaged roof, please do not allow anyone to tamper with your rooftop solar array unless they are a certified solar installer.

At first glance, it will seem convenient to have your roofing company take down your solar system and put it back up when they’re done, but solar is a very specialized technology.  If it’s not removed and re-installed properly, it can cause problems ranging from significant drops in solar production to major electrical system damage. Solar DC voltages in your rooftop array regularly exceed 400V (which can be fatal) and should only be handled by an experienced, solar industry professional.

If you need help finding a roofer, we have a working list of reputable, local roofing contractors who have experience working with solar contractors. We would be happy to offer a referral. These roofers understand the logistics of working with solar as we remove/re-install your solar array as part of the roofing replacement process, which can greatly diminish downtime.

If you’re a Longhorn Solar customer, please note that allowing anyone other than Longhorn Solar to remove/re-install your solar system will void your workmanship warranty with us, and could void individual manufacturer’s warranties on components as well. Please don’t allow anyone to remove your solar system without contacting us first.

We hope you never have to deal with hail damage to your home, vehicles or property. If you do, and you’re a solar owner, we hope this helps.

Contact us for more information about scheduling service for your home or commercial solar system.