How Do I Maintain My Solar Installation

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but load-shedding will continue to be a regular occurrence for South Africans. However, with the planned blackouts going into their 17th year, some early adopters of off-grid power solutions might want to start performing solar maintenance. But you may wonder, “How do I maintain my solar installation?”

Maintaining your solar so the components work well is important because these systems can be expensive to replace. Nedbank estimates that a hybrid solar solution with eight solar panels and two batteries (brand not specified) will cost homeowners between R115,000 and R120,000.

As such, we can assume you’re invested in learning how to maintain your solar installation. So, here’s our easy-to-follow maintenance process.


Simple Steps To Maintain Your Solar Installation

In a previous post, we discussed maximising your solar panels’ efficiency, which centers around keeping them clean. This is also the first step in maintaining your solar installation.


Keeping Your Solar Panels Clean

To maximise your panels’ efficiency and lifespan, scheduling regular cleaning is important. If dust, dirt, leaves, or bird droppings accumulate on your panels, this will reduce their generating capacity and, over time, destroy their protective coating.

Also, make sure when cleaning the solar panels that you do so with an incredibly mild detergent. Don’t use bleach, which will contribute to your panel’s aging. One final tip is to avoid using hard brushes, which can leave scratches.


Check for Obstructions

When selecting a position for your solar panels, ensure they are positioned correctly and, most importantly, free from obstructions.

Also, make sure that there are no potential risks for a selected area to be obscured in the future. For example, is there a growing tree nearby, or are there development plans nearby that could cast shadows?

If you are okay with trimming trees back or confident no one will block your panels, then you’re well on your way to maintaining your solar system.

Now that we’ve covered the simple tips for maintaining your system, here are a few more in-depth tasks.


More Challenging Maintenance Tasks

While these tasks will require more input from you, they are by no means impossible for the average homeowner to complete.

Especially this first task.


Keep An Eye on Your System’s Performance

Most modern inverters come equipped with a monitoring system or app, which allows homeowners remote access to its performance data.

You can gauge whether your system has started to wear down by checking the data and its efficiency. If you notice a significant drop in energy production, it can indicate a problem that needs fixing.


Regularly Check On Solar Mounts

With extreme weather conditions worldwide becoming more frequent, what used to be good enough to withstand conditions is being redefined.

Checking on solar support brackets is more important than ever. You should conduct a simple check on whether bolts are securely fastened in place, no supports are bent, and connection points are still tight.

Which leads us to the next job.


Inspect All Wiring and Connection Points

Solar systems are processing large amounts of electricity. This large amount of current can jump if wiring is not properly inserted into connection points. Any area with two exposed wires can generate a spark gap, which is a fire hazard.

So, make sure to inspect every connection point at the home’s distribution board. If you’re uncertain, call in an expert to conduct the inspection.

And for those who are confident, well done, but you’ll still want to call a professional to inspect your system once a year to avoid problems.


Check Your Inverter’s Maintenance Plan

Your inverter is the system’s heart; you must keep it running optimally.

Almost all inverters will come with the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance. Make sure to acquaint yourself with this plan and follow instructions.

If you don’t regularly maintain your system you could end up with a fire.

So, what should you do if there is a solar fire?


What To Do In The Event Of A Solar Fire

Being prepared for the worst means you can manage the circumstances correctly if they do occur.


Have The Tools On Hand

A fire along any length of your solar system will be an electric fire. Do not throw water onto the fire; it can become fatal if the power source is live.

Rather, ensure you own a proper fire extinguisher that is rated for an electrical fire – or at the very least a bucket of sand. Once the flames have died down, ensure someone keeps an eye on the area, as you must deal with the fire’s source, your batteries, or solar panels, otherwise, it may reignite.

All solar systems must have a combiner box located near the inverter. This combiner box will allow the homeowners to cut, or disconnect, the electrical feed from their solar panels.

Solar panels will continue to produce power if exposed to light, so be careful of exposed wires.

If you cannot access your panels on the roof, ask your electrician to install an emergency cut-off switch where you can easily reach it.

The next port of call is to ensure that you have turned off your inverter, and if it is connected to batteries that they are also switched off.

If your batteries are the source of the fire (the batteries are on fire) you are in an extremely unfortunate situation. Evacuate the area.

Lithium-ion fires are nearly impossible to put out unless you have a professional extinguishing agent like the F-500 Encapsulator. This being said, lithium-ion battery fires will keep on reigniting as breached cells will access oxygen and flair up.

Be aware most fire professionals will recommend containing the fire and ensuring it burns out.

Bearing this in mind, when installing batteries, make sure they are easy to remove if something nearby catches on fire.

When you have turned off the power supplies, call a professional to ensure your system will not flair up again. And don’t leave the affected area alone, wait until the professionals have arrived.

But if you keep your solar system well maintained, you should be able to avoid disaster situations.