When shopping for a solar panel brand, the issues at the forefront of people's minds are usually topics such as efficiency and wattage. An often overlooked issue is glass and the type of glass used on a solar panel really does matter. Buying a solar panel, is a long term investment, it should serve well for decades. Energy Matters have outlined the dangers of cheap solar panel glasses.
According to them, cheap glass can cloud over time and clouded glass reduces solar panel efficiency. Broken glass, aside from being a general safety issue and even if the glass only cracks, can allow water to penetrate and create a fire hazard, water and electricity simply do not mix.
When selecting either a monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous solar panel, Energy Matters request users to check out the type of glass being used. They need to look for panels that utilise tempered glass and this should be clearly stated in the panel specifications.
Tempered glass: Tempered glass, also known as safety glass or toughened glass, is anything up to six times the strength of normal plate glass. It is created by thermal or chemical means. Energy Matters have witnessed panels using tempered glass flip over onto rock strewn ground with some force without breaking. Energy Matters does not recommend trying out this, but it goes to show how strong the material is. When tempered glass does break, it shatters into small pieces rather than creating long and razor sharp shards.
Flat plate glass in solar panels: This is most often found in cheaper brands of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, however it can also be found in well known brands in amorphous (thin film) solar panels that have a glass plate component. Most amorphous panels can only use flat plate glass due to the way they are constructed.
Amorphous panels are usually created by applying special silicon rich gas called silane at high temperatures directly to the back of a glass plate or to a steel plate. Some manufacturers get around the comparative weakness by using thicker flat plate glass, but this is still not as strong as using white tempered glass.
When buying solar panels, users need to check on the product specifications as to the type of glass used as it is an important feature.