Solar Panel Safety Precautions
Various news reports are saying that a solar panel system was responsible for at least two house fires in NSW. But detailed investigation has showed that the fire was caused by faulty wiring and not from factory defects of the panels themselves. The investigation clearly pinpoints that the fire was caused by human error during installation, and should not be blamed on the solar system itself.
Further investigation also shows that faults in Sydney were due to the DC circuit breakers not the system itself. An extensive Department of Fair Trading audit says the same thing, which was reinforced by along with professional solarelectricians.
In response to the rising public concern about safety, the federal government of Australia has launched a nationwide solar audit to evaluate both residential system and commercial systems. The audit will continue to be done on a regular basis to ensure safety in every green home. The auditors will assess every component of the system and check any potential hazards from the solar panels itself down to the length of the wiring and inverters.
The Clean Energy Council of Australia has put out a media where their Chief Executive Matthew Warren states that solar systems were safe and the risk to solar households was very low.
And an independent risk assessment by the industry’s expert advisory panel, the Standards, Training and Accreditation (STA) Committee, has confirmed that the risk from the incorrect installation of a DC circuit breaker is very low, which was backed up by an audit conducted by the Office of Fair Trading.
The DC circuit breaker is used as an isolating device to disconnect the PV panels from the inverter as well as to isolate the solar cable (connecting the panels to the inverter) from the PV panels. The DC circuit breaker will not, under any circumstances, operate with load because the solar supply is one way only, from the PV modules to the inverter.
Therefore the only scenario whereby an incorrectly installed DC circuit breaker could present any risk, is where a person manually turns the DC breaker off while the inverter is operating at full power. Even under such conditions the probability of an incident is deemed to be very low.
If the shutdown procedures are followed correctly and the AC power is turned off first, the inverter will turn off and remove any current from the PV panel. This will not present any risk with a DC circuit breaker, even it is wired incorrectly.
The advice from the STA Committee confirms that the greatest risk to householders would be in them manually shutting off their system, which there is no reason to ever do.
The Clean Energy Council of Australia also reminded the public to transact only with qualified manufacturers and installers of solar panels as indicated in their published list. The list is available to the public via their website and contains all of their approved solar manufacturers and Installers in Australia.
Aside from doing this there are some other additional safety precautions that you can do;
- Before installation it is best to have your current electrical wiring checked first along with your circuit breaker.
- When you installers arrive ask to see their identification and accreditation number before they begin.
- Upon delivery of the panels and its components you can make visual inspection of the system to ensure that everything looks in good order.
- Check the installation before the installers leave and make sure everything looks neat and tidy, especially the wiring.
- The installers should also explain to you clearly the way everything works with your system and demonstrate the correct shutdown procedures should you ever need to do so.
Though it is the installer’s job to identify any potential problems, doing your part will triple the identification prowess. Always keep in mind that prevention is better than cure!
About the Author
Premier Solar is committed to being Australia’s leading Solar Power & Renewable Energy solutions provider for both homes and medium to large scale commercial solar projects. We are specialists in effective and affordable solar panel System design and use only fully certified installers and product components which pass all government standards and certifications, to enable our customers to access full discounts and rebates, as well enjoy the peace of mind of 25 year warranties from long established manufacturers.