Solar Panels are surprisingly tough. Manufacturers know that solar panels will be out in the elements and need to hold up to high winds, heavy rains, and hail. So they design them to take the punishment, with durable transparent shielding that lets the sunlight through but can withstand golf-ball-sized hail. But what about an actual golf ball?
If you live close to a golf course or a driving range, off-target golf balls can be a real problem. Fortunately there aren’t that many homes that have this problem. But if you happen to live in one of them or are thinking about moving into one, I have four tips to keep in mind.
Golf courses can make for lovely scenery, and if you enjoy golf being able to walk across the street to play can have a lot of appeal. But golf balls are extremely hard, and depending on the club they were hit with they fly in very fast. They can do considerable damage to your property, including your solar panels. There are steps you can take to minimize the damage, though.
- The Law Is Not on Your Side
First, some bad news: it’s unlikely that you are going to be able to make the golf course pay to replace your solar panels or put up a whole lot of additional netting to protect your property. The chances are even slimmer that you will get compensation from the duffer who hit the errant shot — just identifying the golfer will be a challenge.
Its widely understood that golf shots go off target sometimes and that flying golf balls are a hazard of playing golf or setting up close to a golf course. Because of this, most courts will conclude that you were aware of the risk of damage from golf balls when you erected your solar panels. The judge will likely say that you assumed the risk when you installed your panels.
There is one important exception to this rule. You assume the risk of setting up near an existing facility, but you can’t be expected to see into the future. If the course or driving range is new, or if they changed the setup after you installed your solar panels, then your chances are better.
And suing golfers isn’t going to be practical. There will be a lot of golfers on an average day. Most of them will keep their ball in play. There’s no good way to track the golfer down after the fact, so unless you are ready to watch the course constantly waiting for that one shot that hits your property, you should forego any thoughts of getting compensation from players.
- Redirect Your Panels
Frequently the best action will be to reorient your panels. You should be able to tell where most of the really dangerous shots are coming from. Look for the tee boxes. Generally it will be the long tee shots that do the most damage. Shorter “approach” shots hit with wedges or shorter irons will pop up high but won’t have enough speed behind them to crack the tough coating on your panels.
Armed with that knowledge, you might be able to turn your panels away from the most dangerous shots, so that errant drives deliver only a glancing blow to your solar panels. Doing this might reduce your efficiency somewhat. The new direction might not be optimal for capturing the sun’s rays, but it will save you the expense of replacing damaged cells.
- Netting is More Practical than Shielding
Redirecting panels isn’t always practical. If the errant golf shots are coming from due south of your home, redirecting your panels will mean missing too much of the peak sunlight period.
If you can’t redirect your panels without losing too much power production, the next step is to place a barrier between golf balls and your solar panels. You might consider a tough plastic barrier in front of your solar panels. Solar panels usually have a polycarbonate plate to protect the solar cels from the elements. Polycarbonate is clear and durable. But netting is probably going to be the better choice for several reasons:
- There really isn’t a specialized shielding system to protect solar panels from golf balls. Any shield will be improvised.
- Golf netting, along with poles to support it, is a product that you should be able to find with a simple online search. While most companies that set up netting are used to serving golf courses, some companies specialize in protecting residences.
- Golf netting can protect not just your panels but your entire home, including you, your vehicles, and any guests you might have in your yard.
Good netting should last for up to seven years, and will cost a little more than $1.00 per square foot. This figure does not include support poles or setup costs.
- Work With the HOA
Frequently a housing subdivision built around a golf course will be subject to a homeowners association (HOA) which can intervene and put a stop to any construction projects on your property. While the golf course itself isn’t usually part of the HOA’s leadership, the HOA will want to avoid actions that will disrupt the community’s economic and social anchor. They might also object to the construction of shields or screens that make the area less attractive.
As frustrating as it might be to sustain damage from golf balls, you should take time to discuss your problems and your plans for dealing with them with the HOA before installing solar panels or any shielding or netting. Doing so will minimize the risk that the HOA will object to your plans. Avoiding conflict with your neighbors will allow you to move faster to protect your home and your solar panels.
If your home is close enough to a golf course, errant golf balls can do damage to your home, including your solar panels. There are ways to prevent damage. Depending on the details of how your home is situated and where the balls are coming from, you may be able to turn the panels so that they aren’t hit full-on. If that isn’t an option, you can install golf nets to protect your panels and your home.
If your development has a homeowners association, you should communicate with them to prevent conflicts and smooth the process of installing solar panels or starting any other construction work.