All about maintaining your solar PV system

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Maintaining your solar PV system guide

Maintenance is the key to a long life for your solar power system. If a system is installed efficiently, getting regular maintenance done could help ensure prolonged safety.
If you begin to notice some signs like a red light on your inverter during day hours or an increased energy bill, it is an indication that your system most likely needs a check. But even if everything looks fine, there is no harm in getting a regular service done.

How can servicing help? Reduced risk of panel fires

Solar panel fires can occur if the panels are not paid full attention to. In the last three years, panel fires have increased almost 5 times.

Incorrect and faulty installations cause most of these fires, but it is recommended to get regular servicing of your panels done to avoid such a disaster.

How frequently should you get the servicing done?

According to the Clean Energy Council (CEC), annual maintenance is ideal. But this could get really expensive.

Many experts suggest a five-year service check for a well-installed solar power system. But if you notice some defect or other malfunctioning, getting a one-off check will be worth it.

One-off inspections

Sometimes, along with regular servicing, one-off inspections may also be needed.
According to CEC, if you notice any of the following, getting a special inspection is advisable:

  • Change in electricity production which is noticed through electricity bills.
  • Warning signals from the inverters.
  • If you move to a new property with a pre-installed system.
  • Check for debris build-up: If tree branches and leaves fall on the system
  • If there is fauna around your system that could cause damage.

Process of servicing

The process of servicing involves two major inspections- visual and electrical. Regular servicing will get your system free from debris and dirt but if you want to get the entire system cleaned up, it will probably cost you extra.

As per Clean Energy Regulator (CER) a good service should ensure the following:

  • Check if water has entered the DC isolator as this is the most common safety risk
  • No parts have degraded
  • All components are safe and free of defects
  • Solar vents are debris free
  • Switches are glitch-free
  • Wiring is intact and safe
  • All fittings and cables are well connected and no connections are loose
  • All emergency procedures are clearly displayed
  • Inverter fault recording is working well
  • DC isolator and risk of fires

A DC isolator is a switch that cuts the power supply from the solar panels to the inverter. It is operated manually. As per the Australian standard, it is mandatory to have a DC isolator to safeguard firefighters from electric shocks.

But a recent report by CER has found that DC isolators have been the cause of most fires in the last year. In fact, major house fires were caused because of water getting into DC isolators.
Thus, regular maintenance will help reduce these risks of fires.

Now the question is, should you be worried if you have a DC isolator?

The answer is a no. It is a requirement to have a DC isolator switch for most homes in Australia. Although there have been many cases of house fires due to DC isolator switches, the risk is considerably small.

They have a warranty of 5 years and that’s why it’s good to get periodic checks done.

Solar panel service costing

Service cost usually depends on the size of your system but will be around $200-$300. The cost maybe more if specific parts need repair but that can also be covered in your warranty.

You should get your systems serviced by licensed electricians or CEC accredited installers.
If you’re satisfied with the installer that installed your system in the first place, you may want to go with them for servicing too.

Do your research and get a reputable installer for the inspection.

Is professional solar panel cleaning worth it?

Professional cleaning of panels may cost about $10-$20 per panel. This is an extra cost to incur and may not even be worth it at times. This is because dirty panels don’t possess that big a risk. They might just become less productive.

If you have experienced a dry span for some days, you could maybe give your panels a rinse by following the manufacturer’s guide instructions. Be careful though, as any damage may result in loss of warranty claims.

In any case, it is not recommended to get yourself up on the roof to clean them, however alluring that idea may be.

What happens when you are in a rented house?

If you move as a renter, to a pre-installed solar house, it is the landlord’s duty to get the systems serviced and inspected. In some cases, if there is a fire, the landlord could be asked to compensate for the same.

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