How harmful is an electric shock from a solar panel?

Electric shock from Portable solar panel
Electric shock from Portable solar panel

While diving deep into research on portable solar panels and how they work, and after establishing the answer to “Can people get An Electric Shock From Portable Solar Panels?“, I found myself wondering how harmful a solar panel electric shock can be. Looking into it, I found out a lot of people had the exact same question.

The simple answer to that question would be yes – solar panels can indeed give you an electric shock. Solar panels stay energized for as long as the sun is shining, thus posing a risk to whoever handles them throughout the day. 

How harmful is an electric shock from a solar panel? While all solar panels pose an electric shock risk, portable solar panels are less likely to be severely harmful but much more likely to give you an electric shock than fixed solar panels, since they are moved around and handled much more than fixed solar panels.

For more details on full-size solar panel risks, check out Can Solar Panels Kill or Electrocute Someone? What You Need to Know!


On a side note! If you’re in need of a reliable and high-performance portable solar panel, We strongly recommend the Jackery SolarSaga 100W  Portable Solar Panel  (Amazon Link).

With a high conversion efficiency and foldable design, this solar panel is easy to transport and set up, making it perfect for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and RV trips.

The US solar cell technology used in this panel ensures that you get the most efficient and reliable solar charging possible.

There is also a 60W option that is more affordable (Amazon Link)


Portable solar panels are plug and play, which means every time you want to charge them you will take them out of their bags, put them out in the sun to charge, and then pack them up again once you’ve charged up your batteries. Every time you touch a solar panel or its frame, you are exposed to the possibility of an electric shock. Also, the regular handling of the panels may cause the wires or cables to twist or loosen or break. This can greatly increase the chances of short circuits and electric shocks.

Since portable solar panels are usually smaller than fixed ones, they are often much less dangerous when it comes to electric shock risk. Here’s a table comparing different sizes and electric current ratings of solar panels and the risks they pose.

Size and Power of Solar PanelsLevel of risk and danger
Small, up to 2mALow risk, can cause mild shock resulting in slight discomfort
Medium, up to 200 mAMedium risk, can cause involuntary muscle contraction but no lasting harm.
Large, up to 500 mAHigher risk, causing strong muscle contractions but no organ damage.
Very Large, above 500 mAVery high risk, can cause heart attack, asphyxia, burns, and cellular damage
The information in this table has been extrapolated from Table 13 of IEC 60479-1 Effects of current on human beings and livestock – Part 1: General aspects.
Here’s a video explaining exactly how solar panels work

If that answer has convinced you to get rid of your portable solar panels immediately, maybe hold your horses till you read the rest of the article. We’ve got a ton of information to help you decide the best course of action for you, along with the best safety measures you can adopt in order to avoid accidents. 

How much risk is there really?

Electric shocks in portable solar panels can be caused by short circuits or broken cables, knotted or damaged wiring and faulty grounding. Accidentally touching the charged poles or the grounding equipment runs the risk of electrocution.

Solar cells are protected only by a layer of glass. If the glass cracks and somehow water seeps in, contact from touch or from washing can cause a deadly accident. Hosing down or power washing solar panels is therefore strongly discouraged.

Improper handling of the equipment or lack of knowledge on how solar panels work can lead to some nasty mishaps. Even when not connected to the grid, solar panels continue to have charged poles, waiting to connect to some sort of a conductor, such as human hands, through which to pass electricity. 

Sometimes during testing of the system a short circuit can release large amounts of energy, heating up an entire portion of the system, not only causing a risk of electrocution or electric shock but also an electric fire.

During the daytime while the sun is still shining, there really isn’t a way we can completely discharge a solar panel, even when disconnected from the grid. The panels continue to be charged by sunlight, producing an amount of electricity that may very well be fatal, if handled poorly.

Electrical leakages can charge up the protective glass, metallic panels or the frames of the solar panels, causing electric shocks when you come in contact with these surfaces. The risk of electric leakage is greatly increased in dirty and wet conditions. 

Solar panels are designed to be safe to touch, with copper wire grounding to mitigate the risk of an electric shock. However, improper grounding on solar panels has caused a significant number of electric shocks.

While minor leakages may not be fatal, they cause abrupt reactions in the body which increase the risk of a fall from height when the panels are placed on the roof. 

How deadly is an electric shock anyway?

While humans are resilient beings, the human heart can withstand only about a voltage of 40V without failing. This means a household mains voltage of 120V can definitely be lethal. At the end of the day, it’s not really the voltage of the source of electricity that kills you, it’s the current passing through your body. 

A measly current of 0.1 to 0.2 amps is capable of shocking you to death. Usually the current enters the body through an arm, passes through the internal organs, and exits the body through the legs. This is what causes organs to suffer damage or even fail as a result of an electric shock. 

DC currents, which is what you get from solar panels or batteries, are generally considered to be more dangerous than AC currents of the same voltage, due to a greater and constant amount of current being passed continuously. 

Also, check out if Do Solar Panels Kill Birds? Is It That Bad!

So should we scrap solar panels as a whole?

Probably not. There’s no denying that portable solar panels may very well be the future of electricity. Solar panel technology is constantly evolving, growing safer and more efficient every single day. 

Adequate knowledge about the system can prevent all of the risks we’ve listed above, and the expert tips we have for you will help you add extra layers of protection to your portable solar panel system. 

Read this article that lists the top three solar panel safety precautions: Top 3 solar PV safety hazards and how to avoid them 

Here’s what we can do to make solar panels safer

If you’ve found this article a little bit harrowing so far, let us show you to the bright side. There are tons of safety measures that you can take, and that your solar panel manufacturers are already taking, in order to make this technology totally safe and risk free. 

Here’s what we can immediately start doing to make sure we continue to have a happy and fruitful experience with our portable solar panels.

Gather knowledge

Read the user’s manual and gather as much knowledge as you can about the particular make and model of solar panels that you’re using. Browse the internet and look up as much information as you can about solar panels in general. 

Know how solar panels work, the risks they pose and the shortcomings they have. You can never have too much knowledge when it comes to ensuring safety.

Learn from others’ mistakes

Sometimes the best lessons are learnt from making mistakes, but not when it comes to solar panels. There are hundreds of forums and discussions on the internet where people have shared their personal experiences and the mistakes they have made in handling solar panels. This knowledge can be extremely valuable in making sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes that others have made before you. 

Read this article on mistakes to avoid when switching to solar power : 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Going Solar

Ensure proper grounding

Make sure the system is adequately grounded, or install a galvanic isolated PCU to prevent electricity from grounding through your body when in contact with the system. 

Shut down the PV system

Before approaching the solar panel system make sure you have shut down the photovoltaic system (PV system). This will isolate the DC and AC systems, thus stopping any electrical leakage during cleaning or maintenance.

Avoid the terminals

As we’ve mentioned, the terminals of a solar panel are always charged and ready to pass current through whatever conductor comes in contact with them, even while off-grid. Carefully avoid touching the terminals to prevent an electric shock.

Refrain from pressure washing

Pressure washing creates a continuous stream of water between you and the solar panel. If there are any cracks at all in the protective glass layer, water may seep through and create a connection between you and the charged solar plates, causing an electric shock.

Clean safely

Rather than hosing down your solar panels, clean them with a wet mop. Do the cleaning during the early morning or early evening when it’s bright enough for you to do the job safely but the sun’s rays are weak enough to not rapidly charge the solar plates.

Skip maintenance on a rainy day

Water causes electrical leakage between solar panels and the water, causing a risk of electrical shock upon touch. Maintenance should be avoided during wet conditions.

Keep the roof clean

Dirt, in the presence of water, further increases electrical leakage from solar panels. Keep your roof (or wherever the solar panels are located) clean and tidy at all times.

Cover up

Covering the solar panels during installation and handling will prevent them charging from sunlight and therefore reduce the risk of electrocution.

Always consider it live

Whenever handling solar panels, whether on or off the grid, the system should be considered as connected to the grid and safety measures should be taken accordingly. 

Wear PPE

Personal protective equipment should be worn in order to avoid direct skin-to-component contact during maintenance. PPE are categorized according to the amount of voltage you are going to be working with. 

What’s the final verdict?

We’ve clearly established that solar panels can definitely cause electric shocks in several different ways, but we’ve also given you safety measures you can take to mitigate each of those risks. 

We believe solar panels need to be handled with the utmost care, but we’re not recommending you swear off them completely. Weigh out your risks and benefits, and see whether you can maintain the safety precautions we’ve listed. 

When handled safely, solar panels can be great for the environment and for us economically as well. 

To help decide what’s best for you, here are 2 articles you can read,

sherifjallad

I am a very well-experienced techie civil engineer who’s extensively interested in solar panel technology and even more captivated by the potential of solar panels in supporting individual residential units.

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