We don’t often get asked about critter guards because for over 95% of installed systems there is typically no need. Critter guards do effectively solve a very real problem, it is just that this problem does not exist for the majority of people’s homes. That said, when we are asked, we do provide a straightforward answer.
For those homes prone to friendly neighborhood animals, roof-mounted solar panels are the ideal environment for pests such as squirrels, raccoons, pigeons, and other roof-top critters to roost and nest. The high vantage point on the roof and the narrow opening under the panels provide shade from the hot sun, security from predators, and an easy means of ingress/egress. These critters can wreak havoc on a system by gnawing through wires or corroding the electrical components with droppings. When you have a critter living under a system, it’s best to address the problem as soon as possible.
A critter guard, also known as a solar screen, is designed to prevent animals from accessing the area underneath an array of panels by providing a protective barrier around the edges. The barrier is often a mesh lining composed of metal that limits access from animals but allows ventilation for the system to perform properly without alterations.
It is not essential for a system to have critter guard installed (in fact many systems, if not most, do not have it) but it is a feature to consider. Once nestled into their new home, these pesty critters are often persistent and difficult to remove, especially if the nest has been there for a full season. Not only do you have to contact pest control service, but you also have to contact a solar service provider to fix the solar system (as mentioned, the animals can do serious damage). The product does come at an additional price, but so does an additional site visit from your installer. It’s best to consider the options carefully.
As the product itself is a commodity, there are various companies that sell critter guard. There is no brand that has a more superior product than another. While installable by most contractors/roofers, it is ideal to contact a solar installer (such as EcoMen Solar) to order, deliver and install the critter guard for you. A solar installer knows the rules on how the system should function and can ensure the system is left in an operational state. We would not just install the product and leave, but instead assess the damage and put together a plan to bring your system back to running condition.
Critter guards can be installed either at the time of original installation or at some later time. If your system is under a lease or PPA, it would be wise to inform them of the need for critter guard as they likely have some obligations for you to follow to maintain the warranty. If you have a loan or cash purchased system, you have more freedom in how you chose to move forward.
The best feature is that critter guards are aesthetically appeasing. When installed properly, critter guards are difficult to see from ground level and do not cover the array. Just be certain they are indeed installed properly. The guard should only be on the edge of the panel and not on top of it, otherwise it may affect production. There should only be a few inches of the guard laying on the roof or none at all. Your panels should not look like they have a cape!
That’s all you need to know about critter guards. With this information you should able to consider the pros and cons and then make a decision whether or not to have critter guards installed on your system.
Solar Solutions for New Jersey, New York, and Eastern Pennsylvania