Pigeon droppings and nests can cause havoc with solar panels, but simple measures will keep them away – humanely and affordably
As much as you may love your garden birds, pigeon-proofing solar panels may be essential to keep your solar photovoltaic (PV) system working at its best.
The main reason to keep birds away from your panels is to protect the PV system from bird droppings. Droppings can stop your panels from absorbing light, and may even erode the panels and wires. Pigeons might also see your panels as ideal nesting and roosting sites.
Pigeon-proofing solar panels should be done in a careful way that doesn’t injure pigeons or other wildlife. This is especially important during the nesting season, when chicks can get trapped by netting.
Below, we’ll explain how to pigeon-proof your solar panels humanely and effectively, to ensure you get the best out of your solar investment. No pigeons were hurt in the making of this article!
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Why should I pigeon-proof my solar panels?
What do pigeons do to solar panels?
Pigeons seem determined to be disliked by humans. Not content with eating your garden seeds and relieving themselves on your windscreen, these winged visitors can damage solar panels and stop them producing as much electricity as they should.
Here are the main reasons to pigeon-proof your solar panels:
- Bird droppings decrease solar panel efficiency. Pigeon droppings are among the key types of dirt that accumulate on solar panels and stop the light getting through. This is a particular issue for PV systems with string (central) inverters, because pigeon droppings on just one panel will degrade the performance of all the panels.
- Pigeons can damage your solar panels. Pigeon droppings are highly acidic, which is bad news for the surface of your solar panels because it causes erosion. Surface scratches can also decrease the efficiency of a solar PV system.
- Pigeons can nest under your solar panels. Birds are attracted to the warmth and cover your panels provide, especially if the panels are mounted on a conventional roof frame. A family of pigeons produces an awful lot of droppings. If they or their droppings damage the wiring under your solar panels, it won’t be good news for anyone.
How should I pigeon-proof my solar panels?
Measures such as netting and anti-bird spikes are available to buy online, and we’ll give some examples below. However, we recommend extreme caution when it comes to installing these things by yourself. This is partly for your own safety: climbing up onto the roof and installing metal products near or on an electrical system is very dangerous.
It’s also important to use any kind of pest control measures in ways that don’t cause harm to wildlife. Solar professionals carry out their own pigeon-proofing steps in careful ways that ensure no birds are hurt or left trapped.
Even if you dislike pigeons, remember that they’re not the only birds that nest in and around solar panels. Sparrows, house martins and swifts are among the garden birds who nest in roof structures, and can be harmed by netting. Numbers of these birds are rapidly diminishing in the UK.
Can I remove a pigeon’s nest from my solar panels?
It’s illegal to remove the nest of a wood pigeon or dove, and also the nests of most other birds in the UK. You’re also breaking the law if you prevent a bird from reaching its nest.
Roof-nesting feral pigeons are the one exception to this law, but only under special circumstances and excluding certain times of year. A solar professional may remove a feral pigeon’s nest if it is demonstrably causing damage to wiring or to the structure of your roof. Do not attempt to do it yourself.
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How can I pigeon-proof my panels without harming birds?
The best way to protect your panels without causing harm is to ask your solar professional to include pigeon proofing measures when they install your panels. That will help to ensure that no birds are trapped by netting and other blocking products.
If you live in a spot with lots of feral pigeons, make sure to mention this when getting quotes. Also ensure that your installer has experience with removing birds carefully and ethically.
What are the best products for pigeon proofing solar panels?
Most solar installers will have pigeon-proofing products that they can install along with your panels. They will be able to buy these products at trade prices, and will have experience of installing them safely. You can buy many of these products from Amazon, too, but take careful precautions if installing them yourself.
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1. Anti-roosting spikes
Spikes may look alarming, but they’re among the most humane ways to keep pigeons and other unwanted visitors away from your solar panels. They simply make your roof an unattractive hang-out spot for pigeons and for other animals, such as cats and squirrels.
Spikes are very affordable, costing around £7 per metre from Amazon. For example, Offo Bird Spikes are made from a lightweight, durable combination of stainless steel and plastic, and are available in lengths from 0.78 metres (£6) up to 8.25 metres (£38). They’re easy for you or your installer to attach around your panels, on the ridge of your roof, or around the roof edges.
2. Anti-bird mesh
Mesh wire netting blocks access to the area under your panels, so it’s good for keeping out leaves and other debris as well as birds. The mesh is hard to see from ground level and easy to clip directly onto your panels without affecting the warranty or damaging your roof. It’s also easy to remove when your solar panels need servicing or cleaning.
Your solar provider will be able to include mesh when installing your solar panels, but you can buy and add it yourself if you prefer. Mesh is more expensive than spikes, costing around £100 for a kit including mesh and fixing clips. The Birdgo bird proofing kit, which includes weatherproof PVC-coated mesh and all clips, currently costs £100 for 30 metres.
Anti-bird mesh and netting has the potential to harm and kill birds by trapping them and their young. Do not install it if there’s any risk of birds already nesting under your solar panels.
3. Ultrasonic animal deterrent
Ultrasonic deterrent devices emit a noise that’s too high-pitched for humans to hear, but pigeons, rats, cats and other animals hate it. They’re great for keeping rats out of your loft, and can also be used to shoo birds away from your solar panels.
Make sure you buy a weatherproof device designed for outdoor use. The Coldwords Ultrasonic Animal Repeller (£27) emits bright flashing lights when it senses motion, for maximum pigeon-scaring effect. The device is solar-powered as well as working via USB, and can be mounted on any wall, including a sturdy chimney stack.
4. Solar skirting
Some solar providers offer solar skirting, a solid edge that hides gaps all around your solar PV array. This prevents all kinds of debris from getting under the panels, as well as keeping birds out.
Skirting is a more expensive solution than the others we’ve mentioned, and has to be installed professionally. For example, solar skirting from Deege Solar costs £130 per solar panel. It’s pricey, but it looks fantastic and will help to extend the lifespan of your panels.
We can put you in touch with a solar professional about installing a pigeon-proof solar PV system. Enter a few details into our solar quote tool, and we’ll ask reputable local installers to get in touch with a quote.