Protecting solar panels is an important but often overlooked step for homeowners switching to sustainable energy. Birds nesting under solar panels will inevitably increase the amount of bird droppings on the panels rendering them ineffective over time and costly to clean and maintain.
More awareness is needed to keep solar panels clean and functional. Just as most home pool owners will naturally add a pool cover to stop the leaves, debris and birds from entering their pool making the water filthy.
According to the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, “Australia has the highest uptake of solar globally, with more than 30% of homes with rooftop solar PV. As at 31 January 2022, more than 3 million rooftop solar power systems have been installed across Australia”. Many homeowners are unaware that the gap between the roof and the panels is an ideal space for pigeons to nest. Moreover, it is often a case of, out of sight out of mind, because this problem is rarely seen until baby birds hatch under the panels.
Prevention is better than treatment, which is the case when it comes to keeping solar panels functioning efficiently. Let’s look deeper into why solar panel bird proofing is important and how to protect roof top solar systems from pest birds and rodents.
Why is bird proofing solar panels important?
When homeowners invest several thousands of dollars into a solar energy system, it’s important to protect their investment from risk of damage by pest birds and ensure their system is working without diminished efficiency. Bird proofing solar panels is important because:
- Prevents Bird Nesting
Solar panels that are installed on pitched roofs sit on a raised aluminium frame creating a gap between the roof slope and the solar panels. This gap provides a comfortable nesting zone for pest birds protecting them from the elements. Especially during this cooler time of the year, panels provide warmth and shelter to pigeons or rodents. When left exposed, pigeons will find these safe havens to build their nests to breed more birds.
- Prevents damage and fire hazards
When birds nest under panels, both their nesting material and movement can lead to inverter electrical wiring damage and therefore pose an electrical or fire hazard. Moreover, it becomes a place for birds to roost around the panels during the day, covering the panels with their droppings, which reduces panel efficiency significantly.
- Maintains productivity and output
In Australia, most domestic solar systems are fitted with a central inverter system (some newer systems are fitted with newer individual micro inverters). Conventional solar panels are connected in series before they are fed into a central inverter. This means if one panel is shaded or covered with bird droppings reducing its output by say 30%, the output of the whole system is reduced by 30%, even if other panels are unaffected. As such it is important to keep all panels clean and free from droppings or debris to ensure the system is able to reach its full potential.
Benefits of bird proofing solar panels
- Ensures the system runs efficiently to produce energy that delivers the return on investment and pay itself off sooner.
- Prevents the build up of debris or nests under the panel that can increase the temperature of the invertors and reduce it’s output. Nesting material can also become a fire risk over time if not removed.
- Prevents noisy birds inhabiting just above the roof which can lay eggs and create even more annoying chirping. Movement of birds under the panels may damage the wiring.
- Reduces the amount of cleaning required to keep panels functional and safe. If bird eggs are found under panels they cannot be removed. By law, eggs must be allowed to hatch before nests can be removed. By this point, bird have heavily imprinted their pheromones in the area such that they’re likely to come back next breeding cycle unless entry is excluded.
How to bird proof solar panels
To protect solar systems from nesting pigeons, the principle is to exclude all points of entry under the panel.
It is vital to note that all viable solutions should not mark or damage the panels in any way to void warranty. As such, using screws of glue to fix a deterrent such as mesh, would not be suitable as this would void manufacturer’s warranty.
There are various products in the market that all effectively achieve the same result. A complete kit containing a roll of wire mesh that is typically coated with PVC is used to border the perimeter of the panel array. This mesh is secured using fastening rods that clip on the L bracket of the underside frame and securely tightened with the fastening disc.
There are other DIY options such as using chicken wire and zip ties however specifically designed clips will make the installation process much simpler, faster and more secure.
There are also various solar mesh guard products online. The difference in the range of products comes down to three key factors. Durability – mesh and fasteners need to withstand UV exposure. Ease of installation – fastening rods should penetrate through the mesh to hook onto the frame. Secureness of the fasteners – fastening discs should not slide off in the wind or can come loose when nesting pigeons try to push against the mesh.
Some products use galvanised steel instead of stainless steel, over time this will likely result in corrosion of exposed ends and leaching of rust onto the roof.
Some brands use a metal J hook with a metal disc over nylon fasteners, however these J hooks do not fasten securely as the locking discs can slide off with wind vibration. UV protected nylon fasteners outperform these metal hooks as they do not loosen in strong winds.
To install solar mesh around the solar panel system, measure the total perimeter of the solar panel array, then roll out the mesh section by section, aligning the top edge of the mesh along the side of the solar panel. Allow the mesh to curve and flare out along the roof. This ensures that rodents and birds cannot push their way through the mesh.
Insert the fastening rods every 30 to 40 cm along the underside of the solar panel frame and pull back to hook the panel frame. Attach the fastening discs and push firmly to the end to tightly secure the mesh.
When going around corners, cut a small relief at the bottom of the mesh to allow the mesh to flare out.
Cost of bird proofing solar panels
It’s possible to purchase solar panel mesh kits in lengths of 30 metres in Australia for under AUD$200. Those able and willing to do it themselves can save on installation costs.
Where panels are installed on two-storey homes, it would be safer to request professional pest controllers or solar panel cleaning services to install the protective mesh. Some may quote between $60 to $80 / panel to install. Other factors will also affect the price of the service such as, ease of access, the total number and layout of panels, the degree of cleaning necessary.
VEXO solar panel kits are made with 304 stainless steel mesh coated with PVC, offering even greater durability. Its profiled fasteners are both easy and secure to install and are made from UV-resistant nylon.
VEXO products are designed to outlast and outperform the market, making the installation process easier, faster and more secure than other products in the market.
Can I get the mesh installed when I install the solar panel system?
Yes it is far easier and simpler to install the solar mesh around the panels during the installation of roof top solar. Once on the roof it the installation process does not take long but prevents the need for regular cleaning and stops birds from day 1.
Do bird droppings damage solar panels?
While bird droppings are considered corrosive, generally they won’t damage solar panels. The problem is the build-up of bird droppings can cause the solar panel system to work inefficiently and not generate electricity.
Does solar panel mesh damage the solar panels or roof?
Solar panel mesh protects the solar panels without marking or damaging the panels as it does not use screws or adhesives to fix them against the panels. The mesh can be removed for cleaning or maintenance.
How long does a solar panel mesh last?
Solar Panel Mesh kits are warranted against defects in materials for 6 years. As they are made from 304 stainless steel and PVC coated, they should last well beyond their warranty period.