Solar Panels & Systems Maintenance Guide

Solar Panels & Systems Maintenance Guide

Congratulations – you have installed your solar system and taken an important step to greening your energy and supporting the climate. Once installed, solar panel maintenance is relatively easy, however, in order to keep everything in check and running optimally there are some important things to consider.

Although solar systems are designed to be rugged, they are situated outside and as a result, are subject to a whole range of weather conditions. This constant exposure to the natural world can be damaging. You need to be aware of this and check all important parts regularly. Similar to other machinery, solar systems also need regular servicing. 

In this guide we will explain how to know if something has gone wrong with your solar panels and some good preventative maintenance practices. 

Are my solar panels & system working? 

The best place to start to see whether your solar system is working properly or not is to check both your electricity bill and the solar inverter.

First, let’s consider your bill. Often during the day, your system produces more electricity than you’re actually using, such as when operations in your organisation are reduced or stopped. When this happens, any surplus electricity is fed automatically into the local electricity grid. This export is shown separately as ‘solar generation’. It is measured in kilowatt-hours or ‘kWh’. Have a look at your bill and see if there’s an export. If your system is big enough to export power but you find no export on your bill you could have a problem.

The next place to check is your solar inverter. Your inverter is an important part of your solar system that takes direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels and converts it to alternating current (AC), which nearly all your devices use.

Learn more in Solar Panels – A Guide For Non Profits

A Solar Inverter – The copyright on this image is owned by David Hawgood  and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Most inverters have lights and a small LCD screen. The screen tells you how much power is being generated at that time. Most inverters allow you to scroll through and get other information. If your screen is not working then your inverter may not be working and you should ask your installer to have a look at it. 

If you think your system is not producing enough power, you can also use the inverter screen to check this. As a guide, on a sunny day at midday your solar panels should generate around 2/3rds of their rated capacity. So if you have 10kW of north facing solar panels you would expect about 6-7kW to be produced at any one moment. This will be even less in the morning or afternoon. 

People often think that a 10kW system should produce 10kW but the panels will never produce their rated capacity due to all sorts of factors – the angle of the sun, the orientation and angle of the panels, the time of year, clouds and temperature can all affect their production.  Remember, kW is different to kWh which is power produced over time. 1kW of solar panels should produce about 4kWh’s per day so a 10kW system should produce on average about 40kWh’s a day on a sunny day.  

If you have an online monitoring portal (ask your installer if you are not sure) this should give you the information you need online. Most portals can be set up with the projected production for each month, so you can see if your system is performing as expected 

Most will also have automatic notifications if your inverter stops working for any reason (saving you the bother of checking your inverter) and some can even identify individual panels that may not be working properly. 

Looking After Your Solar Inverter

Inverters must have a good airflow around the unit to prevent overheating during hot weather, so make sure it is always free of obstructions such as leaves, dirt, spider webs, and other debris. If in an inside area, make sure there is plenty of room left around the inverters. 

Cleaning Solar Panels  

With regular rainfall, the panels get washed naturally, so regular cleaning isn’t normally necessary. If possible, installing panels on an angle helps with this cleaning process.  

If there is a heavy build up of dirt, droppings or lichen cleaning your system might be a good idea. To learn more about cleaning solar systems, including what non-experts should and shouldn’t do, check out this handy Solar System Cleaning Guide from Solar Victoria.

Professional solar panels cleaning

Solar Systems Inspections & Servicing

In order to ensure your system is working efficiently and safely, you should have your solar panels inspected and serviced every 3 – 5 years. 

The Clean Energy Regulator offers this useful resource about routine solar panel system servicing.

The most important thing to remember about solar system servicing is that it should be carried out by a licensed electrician and Clean Energy Council accredited installer. You can use this free resource to find an accredited installer near you. An installer will know what is needed, will carry out the work efficiently and safely, and be capable of diagnosing and fixing any problems. You can either use the installer you used to install the system or get an independent inspection if you think there may be an issue with the installers original work.

A solar panel inspection should involve a thorough inspection of all of the electrical components to ensure the system is safe. It should also assess if the system is producing as it should be and may recommend any additional work required. The inspector must provide a thorough written report on the checks that were done, any findings, and what was done to rectify any issues.  

As well as assisting the system’s performance, regular checks help ensure safety for everyone at your premises as well as anyone working on the electricity network. In addition checking and servicing your system regularly can help ensure you maximise the reduction of carbon emissions and save as much money on your energy bills as possible. So, in a nutshell monitor your system, and schedule routine servicing in your calendar.

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