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How to transport, ship, carry and move solar panels around

One out of five shipments contains broken solar panels, statisticians say. Unfortunately, the protocol for transporting PV modules that would become a standard for everybody hasn't been developed yet. Solar industry is still young, and panels from manufacturers around the world are all different. However, some lessons have been learned and general guidelines for moving solar panels around are already worked out.

Pressure causes microcracks in panels

What solar panels fear is mechanical pressure. Improper handling or bad placement can cause microcracks in PV modules which immediately lower their power. Crystalline modules are especially fragile, while thin-film panels are usually more sturdy. In fact, some manufacturers claim that you can even step on certain thin-film panels, though we wouldn't recommend doing it anyways. 

Visual inspection of a module might sometimes help to find microcracks. Cells that suffered the pressure change their color and become darker. 

Are microcracks all that bad? Consequences may differ: 

• If you are lucky, the performance of your panel won't be affected at all.
• If microcracks don't cause electrical separation inside a panel, they still can bring down the power output of a module by 2.5%.
• If cracks cause electrical separation, it makes a cell or even a part of a solar panel inactive. In this situation power losses are large.
• Microcracks can also create hot spots: a damaged cell heats more than others under the sun. It decreases the lifespan of a panel in the long run.

Transporting solar panels is a delicate process

So what do manufacturers do to ship panels without damaging them? Usually, to transport solar panels, a pallet is used. Here is how a good company packs it: 

• First panels go on the pallet bottoms up and the last one is placed front side up.
• Corner protectors and foam pads across the frame are added.
• Usually a piece of cardboard or plastic is placed in between every two panels.
• Panels are strapped near the corners, never in the middle.
• The whole shipment is often covered in foil.

Not everybody treats the package this good, but these safety measures should give you an idea of how a solar panel is supposed to be shipped.

Alexey Kruglov
A1SolarStore CEO

When solar panels are packed horizontally, unpacking the pallet is straightforward: cut the safety ribbons and take panels from the pallet one by one. Some manufacturers pack the panels horizontally though. In this case, if just remove the ribbons, the stack may just fall. Our advice: put a pallet against the wall first and then cut the safety ribbons.

Prepare for the pickup ahead

65 x 39 inches – average size of a solar panel

Let's say, you've purchased panels and decided to pick them up at one of our warehouses instead of ordering a delivery. You can simply take the panels or get them properly packaged in a pallet – for this, leave a note "palletized order" in request comments. Keep in mind that the pallet is a couple of inches bigger than a panel, and might not fit in the back of every car. 

If you opt for taking panels as they are, prepare some sort of solar panel packaging to minimize the risk of cracking the module. Foam pads, bubble wrap, and even blankets – anything soft will do. Don't put anything on top of the panels, especially if you know there is a bumpy road ahead.

It's a tough question, whether you should stack panels horizontally or vertically. As a rule, most companies place crystalline panels horizontally, while vertical stacking is more сommon in flexible solar panel packaging. Frankly, there is always a risk of cracked panels regardless of stacking type.

When carrying a panel, don't apply pressure

40 lbs – average weight of a solar panel

Now that you've arrived home with your order, you might need to store the panels somewhere until the installation. If you choose to carry panels in your hands to your garage, try not to apply too much pressure in one spot of a panel. It's best to distribute its weight across your shoulder, arm and back. 

The installation of solar panels is usually handled by professionals. Normally, they would use a mechanical lift to get your panels up on the roof. Some workers, however, opt for a ladder instead, and it's fine too.

All in all, transporting and shipping solar panels should be delicate. Surely, you aren't always in control of the delivery. If your solar panels have arrived and some of them appear to be broken – don't paniс. Just document all the damage and contact us right away. It's no use crying over broken glass!

Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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