We all love the idea of our solar installation sitting on our rooftop generating free power for our homes. But one thing people tend to overlook about their solar solution is that it is actually an electrical system … and one that sits outdoors exposed to the elements all year round.
Electricity can be dangerous and all electrical setups need to be installed to high safety standards and maintained to ensure they stay safe. Solar installations are no exception. Yes they are designed to be hardy and yes they are pretty much set-and-forget, but scheduled maintenance checks are important for catching any potential problems before they pose a fire or electrocution risk. On the plus side, solar maintenance checks also include confirming your system is running optimally and delivering the best return on your solar investment.
A professional solar maintenance check on your solar panel installation should:
clear any debris from the solar panels and wash to remove dust and dirt, this is particularly important on flat solar panel installations
check the inverter and DC isolator switch for water damage and safe operation
check the system’s electrical cabling and circuitry for potential damage from weathering or rodent activity
check roof mountings for signs of corrosion
confirm the systems output is delivering in line with expectations for the size, age, location, and positioning of the panels
|Electricity and water don’t mix: this example of water ingress on a DC isolator switch shows the potential fire risk in unmaintained solar installations|
Like all warranties there are exclusions on solar equipment warranties. The main exclusions relate to faults caused by external or environmental factors. For example, damage caused by rust, scratching, staining from lichen growth, fire, or extreme weather events like storms are generally not covered by solar panel manufacturers. However, regular, professional maintenance checks effectively manage many of these external risks and therefore protect your warranty. While scheduled maintenance obviously cannot protect against bushfire or hail, it will identify any issues like water damage to an inverter that could lead to an electrical fire if left unchecked … or the identification of rust on mounting brackets that may make a panel unable to withstand the force of a heavy storm. Regular maintenance will also keep your panels clear of lichen growth or tree debris/branch growth that can damage the panel surfaces.
|Rust damage impacts an installation's ability to withstand extreme weather events|
Things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most value from your solar investment include:
Check your inverter regularly to make sure the system lights are reporting that everything is working correctly. On most inverters a green light indicates a properly operating system, orange indicates a warning and red shows a problem with the system that needs attention. Paying attention to these indicators can mean you deal with any issues that arise before they impact your electricity bill.
If you are fit enough and have the correct equipment to be climbing around safely on your roof, give your panels a clean between professional maintenance service appointments. For example, at the end of a dry summer when dust levels are high it will improve your solar performance to remove the dirt from the panels.
Never use a high-pressure hose on your solar panels. If you are able to get onto the roof to clean, use fresh soapy water and a soft brush or cloth to wipe down the panels. If you can’t get onto the roof, just giving the solar panels a rinse off from the ground is a good option too.
Check if any tree growth is causing extra shading on your panels and consider trimming back to increase the access of sunlight on your panels.
Keep an eye on your electricity bills and your solar installation’s system data for any inconsistencies that may indicate a problem. This PV Watts Calculator by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory can help with a comparison of what your solar installation delivers vs a benchmark for your area. It uses Bureau of Meteorology data and information about your location and your solar solution to customise the results.
If you haven’t got time spare to be monitoring and calculating your energy savings yourself, installing a solar analytics KR-63 SERIES solar smart monitor is a good option. These systems are installed between the solar inverter and the meter board. The solar smart monitor shows the production of the solar installation, how much energy is exported to the grid, and how much energy is self-consumed within the household.
Importantly, the solar analytics monitoring system analyses whether your system is performing as it should by comparing your current data to your historical data and local weather records. Alerts are sent to the user if problems are detected, providing valuable information to pass onto a solar maintenance professional for investigation and repair.
Ideally, rooftop solar panels should be cleaned twice a year to keep them working at optimal levels. So if you are having yearly maintenance inspections aim to clean your panels yourself at the opposite time of the year. Even just a hose down from the ground at the end of a dry summer will clean off any build-up of dust and dirt, but remember to never use a high-pressure hose on your solar installation!
Get in touch today to book a solar installation maintenance checkup with the professional team at Innovate. Find out about reduced rates offered to customers on maintenance contracts and ask for advice on the best solar monitoring options out there.