A lot of questions can come up if you recently had a solar panel installed. Things like ‘how often should I have a professional inspect and clean my solar panels?’ is a valid solar system maintenance concern.
In this article, we’ll guide you on how you should approach solar panel maintenance.
Why Do Solar Panels Need to Undergo Maintenance?
The best solar panels can last a long time, and most are relatively low maintenance. However, that doesn’t exclude it from a regular checkup via a qualified electrician to ensure that all components are working as they should be, running as well as they should and lastly, that the system is optimised to provide clean energy.
How Often Should You Have a Professional Inspect Your Solar Panels?
Most homes and small residential-type systems will do well to have a complete electrical inspection every one to two years. For those who have larger systems, e.g., 40kW and above, we’d recommend having a full inspection done every year for utmost safety and power efficiency.
Should I Clean the Solar Panels Myself?
Much like any material that’s exposed to the outdoor environment, solar panels may collect dust, dirt and debris among other things. For panels that are installed at a 5-degree angle or greater, there’s good news- rainfall tends to wash away the fine particles and keep it working optimally.
Also, improvements in the solar panel industry, particularly silicon cells, inverters and panel optimisers have solved most dust problems that plague the panels. A qualified solar panel system inspector or electrician can determine if your panels need additional cleaning.
As a side note, homes located near coastal areas, in nearby proximity to industrial pollution or those living in a bird-dense area may need to have their solar panels maintained more often.
What’s the Difference Between Reactive and Regular Maintenance?
Solar maintenance will often depend on the kind of solar panel system you have. For those who have several solar panel installations in different areas, or those that have commercial setups, it’s a good idea to have a contractor provide the necessary monitoring and inspection to ensure continuous operation, as well as identify potential risks and faults and fix them in a timely manner.
On the other hand, there are those who will only contact a contractor or installer when they find an issue with their solar panels. Although there’s a free monitoring software in inverters to check the system status it won’t alert the provider if the unit is underperforming or failing.
Solar Panel Warranty Coverage
In a broad sense, a solar panel warranty covers product defects and require a professional electrician to confirm the issue and bring it up to the manufacturer’s attention.
Solar system owners who wish to contact a local solar maintenance company can reach out to us at All Green Environmental and have your unit inspected, diagnosed and fixed.
A claim happens when you can prove that the panel is not working as promised. You can avoid this by choosing a reputable solar panel company that has a local presence in Australia.
Solar Panels Versus Extreme Weather Patterns
Solar panels will usually have the necessary environmental rating where they’re installed. A reputable contractor can make sure the owner’s roof sub-structure and the mounting system meet wind-rating and weather patterns that may occur in your region.
Plus, all solar panels will come with an ice or hail-resistance rating up to 35 millimetres, or roughly the size of a golf ball to pass Australian Standards. This is about 99 per cent of weather patterns, where the 1 per cent can stem from events where the hailstone can shatter car windscreens.
Solar panel owners can choose to get building insurance to cover against hail damage. Also, you can choose to get a tempered glass backsheet, or otherwise known as ‘glass on glass’ panel instead of thin film, which makes the system more durable. The cost to have this done is 20 per cent more than standard panel installation.
Common Solar Panel Issues You Should Know
Hot spots are when the panels are overloaded or become too hot while in use. The most probable cause is the buildup of dirt, which traps the heat. It can also be a manufacturing issue, e.g., faulty wiring and others.
Snail trail is a condition where moisture gets inside the panel and causes a darkened line to form across the surface. This is commonly caused by a faulty silver paste and can lead to a shortened lifespan and lower output.
Micro cracks can form when there’s too much pressure applied during installation, or when the panels are mishandled during transport. They may appear nearly invisible at first but expand as the panels undergo temperature fluctuations and water ingress.
Inverters can be damaged by ‘tripping off’ when the solar panels are running in sub-optimal condition and when there are voltage fluctuations and problems. Over time, dust can accumulate on the inverter and make it hotter or cause communication issues between the inverter and solar panels.
Components and Wiring
Australian regulations require DC isolators or switches that can shut down solar panel functions to be installed on the roof. As it experiences temperature fluctuations, moisture and UV rays these units can break. Wiring, connection and electrician workmanship can also affect the condition of your solar panel system.
How Much Would It Cost to Have My Solar Panels Cleaned and Maintained?
A basic inspection can run anywhere between $250 to $1,100, while a detailed inspection that includes electrical testing can run from $400 to $2,900.
Cleaning usually costs $4 to $12 per panel depending on the kW rating.
These costs are estimates and will go up or down depending on several factors, such as age, how many panels you have, roof access and solar system design.
Tips to Check Your Solar Power Output and Performance
You can check how your panels are performing by reviewing information in the monitoring software which comes with your solar system.
Another way to see if your solar panels are working is to check your energy bills. You’ll be able to see information about exported solar energy and lower energy consumption figures due to going off-grid.
How You Can Replace Faulty Solar Panels
This type of work must always be handled by a Clean Energy Council qualified electrician. If you wish to file a claim then evidence must be collected and presented by the electrician.
If you’re replacing a panel with a different model ensure that it has similar specifications as with the original unit, or you’ll experience a drop in performance.