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Can You Walk on Solar Panels?

Find out how whether you can walk on top of solar panels or not

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Last updated:
Reviewed by
Carlos Huerta
Guide

There are several times when you might find yourself asking if it is possible to walk on top of solar panels. This may occur if you are installing equipment on your roof where your panels are, if you are performing roofing work, or if you are cleaning your solar panels. So, can you walk on solar panels? In short, yes. However, while walking on solar panels is possible and safe for you and the panels, it is not always recommended.

Person on top of solar panel

Figure 1: Solar pavers fuel electric cars with clean energy – Source: Platio’s YouTube Channel

To help you understand more about it, in this article, we explain how resistant solar panels are, how to walk on top of a solar panel properly, and what will happen if you do it the wrong way. We also provide you with tips to clean your solar panels without damaging them.

How Much Weight Can Solar Panels Handle?

First off, it is essential to understand that there are several types of solar panels, and not every module is as robust as the next one. For instance, a thin-film portable solar panel will never be as tough and resistant as a regular crystalline silicon panel.

The glass installed on top of standard PV modules is designed to protect it, manufactured with specific parameters to withstand damage. This glass can withstand several pounds of snow, impacts from dust particles or hail, and even withstand fast winds from hurricanes.

Most solar panels withstand a maximum weight distribution of 75 pounds per square inch (psi). Since the average PV module has dimensions of 65 x 39 inches (2,535 sq. in), a PV module can roughly withstand 190 pounds, which is a little under the average person’s weight, making it safe to walk on top of it without damaging it. People that weigh over 190 pounds should not walk on top of a solar module as there is a higher risk of breaking the glass.

Is It Safe to Walk on Solar Panels?

While some solar panel installers walk on top of modules when performing an installation, there is still a danger of glass breaking and the module getting damaged. Most installers walk skillfully and do not put pressure on the middle of the glass to avoid damaging it or the solar cells.

If you walk on top of a PV module the wrong way, there is a chance of breaking the panel or even endangering yourself. Two things can make walking on top or around a solar panel installation dangerous:

  1. Risk of electric shock and electrocution.
  2. Damaging the PV module.

While just walking on top of a PV module will not get you electrocuted, bad wiring around a PV installation or at the back of the modules still represents a DC Danger Zone during daylight hours. This is the name given to the exposure of lethal amounts of DC current around PV installations.

Moreover, walking on top of the solar panel can also damage the PV module. Technicians performing a solar panel installation or maintenance walk very skillfully to avoid damaging the modules, and yet, this does not mean that the PV modules are 100% danger-free.

How Can Solar Panels Get Damaged by Walking on Top of Them?

There are several ways to damage a panel or reduce its output, which considering the solar panel cost, is not worth the risk. This section explains the different damages you can cause to PV modules when walking on top of them.

Smudging the Glass

In some cases, a power reduction from a PV system after walking on a module can mean scratched glass. Depending on how deep and extensive the scratch is, you will see a reduction in the power output of your solar panel.  To fix this problem, you need to call a technician to repair the damage and change the whole glass of the module.

Scratch the Glass

In some cases, a power reduction from a PV system after walking on a module can mean scratched glass. Depending on how deep and extensive the scratch is, you will see a reduction in the power output of your solar panel.  To fix this problem, you need to call a technician to repair the damage and change the whole glass of the module.

Breaking a Solar Cell

If the weight you put on top of your PV module is too much, you might scratch or break a solar cell. In 60% of the cases where a solar cell gets damaged, there is a significant reduction in the PV module’s output power performance, causing a voltage reduction or power reduction in general. If the system is wired with no optimisers or microinverters, you may see a constant decrease in the entire system’s power output.  Your home insurance might cover this damage if you are lucky; if not, you will have to replace the panel.

Breaking the Busbars in-Between Solar Cells

While a broken solar cell will reduce the performance of the PV system, if you damage the busbars of the solar cells in-between within a PV module, your system will be substantially affected. This will become a big issue in an off-grid solar system since you will spend several days without power until you fix this problem.

Busbars connecting solar cells ensure that electricity flows from one cell to the next and from one panel to the next. Most modules have several conductors to ensure the proper flow of electricity without overheating the module.

If you break one busbar interconnecting the solar cells, there is a possibility that the PV module might start to overheat because of this. You need to disconnect the panel or the whole string and replace the module to solve this. If you break several busbars, the entire PV string might disconnect due to the current flow interruption causing an open circuit on your PV system.

What to Do if Your Solar Panels Break?

If you risked walking on top of a PV module and this one broke, it is time to face the consequences. Under this circumstance, there are several things you can do:

  1. Call your insurance
  2. Repair it with a professional service.
  3. Replace it.

A good starting option is to check if your home insurance can cover the damage to your solar panel. The good news is that you do not need additional insurance to cover the solar panel system as long as it is installed and attached to the roof. They generally accept damages coming from windstorms or fires; however, depending on the cause of the damage, they might refuse to cover the damage of your solar panel. If the insurance does not cover the expenses, the next option is to try to repair the module with a professional or, if it is beyond repair, replace it with a new one.

Do I Need to Walk on the Solar Panels to Clean Them?

If you are looking to perform a solar panel cleaning and get some advice, this section is for you. Here we list some tips to help you perform maintenance and cleaning on a PV system without endangering the PV modules or hiring a professional service.

First, you need to get the right solar panel cleaning tools. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Lint-free cloth.
  • Soft pad with an extended pole.
  • Non-abrasive cleaner
  • Low-pressure hose with water supply

Now that got your tools out to clean your panels, what now? Follow these steps to clean your PV modules:

  1. Clean your solar panels only during mornings or evenings, when they have cooled.
  2. Pour water on the panels to brush off loose debris.
  3. Spray non-abrasive cleaner and use the soft pad with the extension pole to clean the glass.
  4. For the borders, use the lint-free cloth since they are quite delicate.
  5. Finally, use the hose to pour water over the panels and clean off debris.
  6.  Check for cracks.

Conclusion

While solar panels can withstand a lot of weight and you can walk on top of them, this is never recommended. Many variables could cause damage to the modules at your PV system, and the risk is never worth it. While you can clean your solar system yourself, we only recommend walking around the PV system and hiring certified professionals to perform any repairs or maintenance on the roof to avoid damages to it.

Frequently Asked Questions


Will Walking on Solar Panels Void Their Warranty?

One aspect that many homeowners ignore is that walking on top of a solar panel under any circumstance will void the warranty of the PV module. The same goes for hiring unlicensed workers since they do not mind walking on top of a PV module, making the warranty of your module to be void.

Can I Walk on a Tesla Solar Roof?

You should always avoid entirely walking on a Tesla Solar Roof. The Tesla Solar Roof is a particular type of solar shingle that is highly durable because Tesla installs an extremely resistant glass on it, so it will not break, but it is not safe for you. Tesla Solar Roof is extremely slippery, making it dangerous to walk on since you can slip and cause an accident, which is why we recommend avoiding this.


Is There a Way to Walk on Solar Panels Without Damaging Them at All?

Yes, there is a way (actually two). One method used by most solar installers is to walk by stepping only on the metal frames of the PV modules. This does not cause any damage to the solar cells and, in most cases, no damage at all to the PV module.

A second alternative used in the solar industry is using solar panel walking shoes (as seen in the figure above). These shoes are designed for solar installers, distributing the weight over a wider area, reducing the impact on each solar panel, and making it safer for modules to walk on top of them.

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Author Bio

Electrical Engineer with background in solar PV designs for residential and commercial projects as well as power systems development. Fan of renewable energy topics and projects. Technical writer for papers, articles and research in related topics to sustainability and especially solar power.

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