After 5-6 years of intense grid connect solar installations nationally and internationally, we now need to turn our minds to the management and maintenance of existing installed systems.
Some of the key questions that arise post-installation are;
- Do I need to wash my panels?
- How long will my panels last?
- Should my inverter be making noise?
- What can happen to my system in a lightning storm?
- Will hail damage my panels?
- Should I enter into a maintenance contract?
Do I need to wash my panels?
Solar Panels installed at the appropriate angle (around 22-35deg in Southern NSW) can be generally described as “self cleaning” under normal rainfall conditions. However, they do tend to hold dust particles on the lower half of the panel during dryer periods or as a result of dusty conditions in their location. As a general rule, any percentage of dust or grime cover on a solar panel will reduce its energy generation potential significantly more than the actual dust coverage percentage. The bottom line, you and your panels will both benefit from annual cleaning with plain water and a soft cloth or microfibre mop. If you are not comfortable getting on the roof to do this yourself, don’t!! Seek professional assistance in the form of an annual maintenance contract for PV.
How long will my panels last?
Most brand name panels will have a power output warranty of 25years. This generally means that for 20years, the panel will produce 100% its rated power output and 80% by 25 years. The physical panel may well last considerably longer than that however, this is dependent on many environmental factors such as location, weather and nearby hazzards.
Should my inverter be making noise?
Some inverters can make a slight humming noise during their daylight operation which some people will find irritating if they have been mounted inside their residence somewhere. Other commoin noises include clicking when the inverter is turning on and off during the post dawn and pre dusk periods. This is perfectly normal. If an inverter is making a lot of noise please get it inspected by a professional as quickly as possible.
What can happen to my system in a lightning storm?
As with any other electrical/electronic appliance, lightning storms can cause irrepairable damage to an inverter if you get an extremely close strike. Despite the best surge protection available, your inverter (and many other appliances in your home) may get fried. If this happens, please contact a professional installer to inspect and/or replace the device. Generally, the breaker switches located near the inverter or meter boxes will simply turn off to protect the system during a big electrical storm. After any electrical storm, inspect your inverter for normal operation and make sure that all breaker switches are in the on position. If anything appears to be not working correctly, consult your operating manual in the first instance under the troubleshooting section and if no solution presents itself, contact a professional.
Will hail damage my panels?
Most brand name panels are designed to withstand approximately 25mm diameter hailstones assuming the panel has been installed at an appropriate angle.
Should I enter into a maintenance contract?
If you are not confident that you can keep your panels clean and that you would not necessarily be able to identify if the system had developed a fault, then a PV maintenance contract would be appropriate for you. These contracts will generally provide you with annual panel and inverter cleaning and overall system inspection for a set fee.