Protecting Your Solar Investment: The Role of Critter Guards

September 6, 2023

Solar panels are built tough. After all, they have to be able to withstand all weather conditions for at least 25years. One of the things that can damage your solar panels are animals, specifically underneath the panels. Installing a critter guard, also known as a squirrel guard, on your solar system can help avoid that.

When switching to solar, your rooftop panels are open to the elements; be it sunshine, rain, or snow. However, one thing that often goes overlooked is that they are also vulnerable to local wildlife in your area. EmPower Solar has been installing systems since 2003, and critter damage is one of the most frequent problems we have seen over the years. We’ve recently made the decision to include a squirrel guard on every one of our eligible projects.*

What wildlife can affect solar panel installs?

From Bayside in Queens to Massapequa on Long Island, there is no shortage of birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other small wild creatures that are constantly on the lookout for new shelter. Seeking warmth and shelter from inclement weather, small critters often make use of solar panels as a home, which can lead to damage to your solar system.

Common culprits known to cause the most damage to solar systems are birds and squirrels by chewing through wires, creating nests, damaging shingles, and even leading to roof leaks. Animal damage not only causes concern for production of your solar panels but chewed wires can expose the copper interior causing a potential fire hazard. Additionally, when birds build nests they bring up sticks, leaves, dirt, and other objects into the array, which can create build up clogging your system and triggering roof leaks.

Non-EmPower Solar installation project with fire caused by critter-chewed wires

EmPower Solar installed client with roof leak caused by critter nesting and burrowing

While smaller critters can pose challenges to your home solar panel installation, larger animals like raccoons can cause even greater trouble. These larger critters can cause extensive damage under the array by tearing up shingles, resulting in severe water leaks, and tearing wires causing loss of production, resulting in costly repairs. Fortunately, in our region, raccoons are not as common due to the difficulty of accessing rooftops.

In light of these critter conundrums, we highly recommend the installation of critter guards for each of our esteemed clients.

EmPower Solar installed client with roof leak caused by critter nesting & burrowing.

How are critter guards constructed?

Critter guards are constructed from PVC-coated aluminum fencing and provide an effective protection against creatures large and small to ensure they don’t make your solar panels their permanent residence. These critter guards are securely fastened to the frames of the panel and bridges the gap between the roof and your solar array. The PVC-coated critter guard resembles robust chicken wire which is an excellent defense against even the most persistent animals.

These little critters may be cute, but they can cause big problems. Restoring power loss, patching up roof leaks, and removing unwanted animals can be a costly expense not typically covered by a solar panel warranty. With the insulation of a critter guard around your solar array, you will not have to worry about unexpected repairs caused by curious critters.

An EmPower Solar client with a critter guard installed around the panels.

At EmPower Solar, we’re committed to the longevity and performance of your solar system. As a result, in the last few years critter guards are included with every solar panel installation unless a client explicitly opts out and acknowledges the risks.

These guards serve as an extra layer of protection, but it’s important to note that they cannot guarantee complete prevention of animal-induced damage. Factors like wind, ice damming, and other external elements can impact guard effectiveness. If a client wants to add an alternative – a skirt, solatrim, or other product, they can purchase that as an add-on product separately. Clients are still 100% responsible for all damages, repairs, lost production, etc. caused by animal damage whether or not they have a critter guard installed.

If a client chooses to opt out of critter guard, they can do so but their system cost will stay the same. Clients who opt out of critter guards initially but later decide to enhance their solar system’s protection can do so. However, in such cases, the cost of installing critter guards at a later date will be based on the rates at that time. While material costs will be waived, clients will be required to cover labor expenses.

Critter guard owner FAQ

What if there are leaves behind my critter guard?

The critter guard is meant to prevent animals from nesting under your solar panels and causing havoc to your investment. The guard is not meant to stop leaves. Critter guards are a critical component of a solar system and may soon be mandated by NYS law. We can not prevent leaves from coming in through the cracks between panels and collecting under the guard. We understand that this may cause an aesthetic concern for some homes and we can offer a system cleaning inclusive of removing leaves and debris from underneath the guard. Please contact us at 516-340-1738 x3 to request a quote for this service.

Help! There are animals beneath my critter guard.

Give us a call! We are here to help relocate unwanted visitors and reinforce your system against future breaches.

What should I do if there is damage to my critter guard?

Critter guards do not fall within our workmanship warranty, but we would like to help! Please contact us at 516-340-1738 x3 with additional details so that we can assess the extent of the damage and figure out the cause.

Can I add a skirt to my system?

Skirts and critter guards do not coexist. If a client refuses a critter guard, they could opt for a skirt which comes as kits and is an additional cost. Although skirts may be more aesthetically pleasing, they offer little protection to your solar panels from critters, as shown in the first picture of this article.

Your next steps

If you’re interested in going solar, book your free solar appointment today to discover your potential savings.

*some roof types are incompatible with squirrel guard, including metal standing seam and some types of flat roof systems

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Protecting Your Solar Investment: The Role of Critter Guards