Home Solar 101: Protecting Your Solar Panels With Critter Guards

Today’s best solar panels can handle almost anything mother nature throws at them.

Snow slides off. Hail doesn’t even leave a mark. But wild critters, specifically squirrels and birds, have proven to be a worthy adversary. Squirrels are actually one of the top causes of power outages in the United States and can cause hundreds of dollars in damage and lower power production when they nest under solar panels and chew on wires. This can be a serious problem for home solar owners but luckily there is a relatively simple preventative solution.

Enter the critter guard, a simple but effective solution to protect your solar investment from birds and squirrels that are just hankering for that warm, protected nesting real estate underneath your rooftop installation.

WHAT IS A CRITTER GUARD?

A critter guard—sometimes called a squirrel guard or animal barrier—is a metal or plastic mesh covering the gap from solar panel to rooftop around the complete perimeter of your installation. While this gap ordinarily ensures proper ventilation under the solar panels, it also makes for an appealing home for wildlife, potentially leading to more severe issues with your system.

By using a critter guard, squirrels, birds, and other forms of wildlife are prevented from accessing the underside of the solar panels. While it should be noted that they are called critter guards and not critter guarantees, this simple component of a solar power system has proven effective in deterring all manner of creatures from setting up shop underneath the panels. They also stop the accumulation of leaves and other debris from building up, which could ultimately reduce the panels’ efficiency.

WHY INSTALL A CRITTER GUARD?

So what’s the big deal with squirrels nesting under your panels? Baby squirrels are cute; we are all in agreement. However, adult squirrels have a propensity to chew on the wires coming from the panel backing, which can potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage or worse.

But don’t blame the squirrels. It’s not entirely their fault that they’re the bane of electrical equipment everywhere. Their front teeth continually grow (up to 6 inches a year!), so they have to keep chewing. However, this chewing fixation can ultimately result in a drop in system efficiency or even the complete loss of solar panel generation if your system falls victim to these mischievous, albeit adorable, devils.

Birds offer a slightly different threat. Their nests build up dirt and debris that obstructs proper ventilation. This leads to higher temperatures around the panels, which leads to lower efficiency. The accumulated leaves can also pose a fire hazard or encourage roof rot.

In both cases, installing a barrier around the system’s edges can reduce the chances of these critter-caused problems.

Solar animal guard

WHERE AND WHEN TO GET CRITTER GUARDS?

Most solar installers have critter guards as an option for any new rooftop solar installations. If you are getting a rooftop solar system installed, it’s usually as simple as asking that they be included in the solar quote.
Independent Power Systems recommends critter guards for all its residential installations.

Having an issue with critters or want to add the critter guard to an already installed system? Give us a call today or fill out a service/maintenance request on our website, and we can look at solutions for your system. While self-installation may be tempting, we always recommend getting a professional that is trained in how to safely work with solar panels.

RIP “SPARKY”

Costly repairs and inconveniences aside, squirrels and other critters can pose a serious threat to electrical equipment, and solar power systems in particular. One such critter gained some infamy when it chewed through a transformer and postponed a basketball game at Delaware Valley University and was later memorialized by the graduating class. Rest in peace, “Sparky.”