How to repair broken solar panels

Broken solar panels

Solar energy is fast changing from an alternative source of energy to a regular energy source. And this is made possible because of the quick and easy installation of solar panels of different sizes. The panels themselves require minimal maintenance but when there is a breakage or loose connection, the panels need some repairs. Here is how you can repair broken solar panels yourself.

Difficulty level :

Moderate. This project requires some expertise and care.

Time required :

The time required for the project depends on the damage assessment for the project and the level of expertise of the person. It is thus variable but the maximum time required is 3-4 hours.

Resources required :

  1. Gloves
  2. Dustbin
  3. Soldering iron with special solder that contains 2 percent silver.
  4. Wires

Estimated cost :

This would be tough to say at the beginning of the project. It depends on the damage assessment done and the decisions that have been taken for repair. Whatever it may be, it will definitely be less than the cost of buying a new panel.

Instructions :

  1. We shall first look into the problem of broken glass. Observe the solar panel for any broken glass.
  2. Make an assessment of the damage. See how badly the glass has cracked. Observe if any glass has already fallen out or apart.
  3. Decide whether the glass needs to be replaced or whether the broken glass could suffice.
  4. If a replacement is required, gently start removing the glass. Take out the largest pieces first.
  5. Discard the broken glass.
  6. Measure the exact dimensions of glass required for the replacement.
  7. Order and purchase the glass.
  8. Remove the clamps that hold the glass in place. Fix the glass and clamp it back.
  9. Now we look into the second problem that could occur. This is the problem of loose connections which require soldering.
  10. Check which cells have become non functional due to loose connections.
  11. To repair the loose connections, you will have to access the backs of the cells. In order to do this, cut through the soft silicone at the back using a knife.
  12. Now, using a soldering iron and solder with 2 percent silver, connect back the loose connections.
  13. Check all the panels, which are usually in series, for loose connections and make the necessary repairs.

Frequently asked questions :

Q: Is it possible for me to leave on the broken glass? What are the circumstances in which I should do this?

A: If the glass is only cracked, due to a stone hit, hail, or objects dropping on the panel, then it does not mean that the solar panel is non functional. The broken glass edges will cast a shadow on the panel and this results in a reduced output. So check the output in case you have a panel with cracked glass. If the output is not reduced much, you can continue to use the cracked glass.

Q: How do I check which cells have the problem of loose connections?

A: There is a simple test to do this. With your hand, just rap the panels. You will be able to clearly observe cells cutting in and going out. Identify these as your faulty cells.

Q: How about using epoxy instead of solder to connect the loose cells?

A: Results of repair with epoxy have not yielded many positive results. Though there are some that claim it works, a majority have been disappointed. They state that even tough they use conductive epoxy, once it dries up, it no longer conducts. This defeats the purpose of the epoxy and the cells become defunct. However, among those who claimed that the epoxy worked, we noticed that this was when silver impregnated epoxy was used. We must mention the brand ‘Chemtronics’ in particular. It is also water proof and strong in its binding too. Few others reported positive responses when they used ‘SilverPrint’.

Quick tips :

  • Wear a pair of gloves if you decide to take down the broken glass on the panel.
  • Try to make use of the panel with the cracked glass itself as much as possible.

Things to watch out for :

  • Ensure the proper polarities ( + and – ) of the solar cells when you are soldering for loose connections.
  • Be careful while using the soldering iron. The rod attains elevated temperatures and may cause a severe burn if it comes in contact with the skin.

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