If you plan to install a Photovoltaic System in your home or business, you need to know how to inspect and maintain the installed PV system. You need to keep your equipment in the best possible shape, or you might suffer expensive repairs in the future. There are certain basics that need to be covered before the maintenance or repair begins. This guide will give you insight into how to inspect and maintain a photovoltaic system.
Why Is Photovoltaic Systems Installation Maintenance Necessary?
The main reason for regularly checking the state of PV is to ensure that they continue to provide the best possible performance at all times. Another reason is that PV systems require maintenance work over time due to wear and tear or damage caused by natural phenomena such as wind or hail. Moreover, solar cells are made up of silicon wafers that contain many impurities. These impurities build up on the surface of the wafers and reduce their ability to produce electricity as they get older. This leads to a reduction in efficiency and performance over time.
Regular maintenance will also allow you to check if any alterations need to be made to improve their performance, or if any new accessories should be added to them to increase their efficiency. In addition, regular maintenance can also help you avoid unexpected breakdowns caused by defective components or poor installation conditions that could lead to expensive repairs.
The Inspection Process of Photovoltaic Systems
Photovoltaic Systems Installation inspection is a significant part of the installation process. If you do not know what you are looking for, or do not know how to read the equipment, you could end up with a system that would not work correctly, or worse yet, one that does not work at all. Therefore, it is essential to conduct the inspection correctly to avoid damage. A person should inspect with experience and knowledge of the systems and materials used in Photovoltaic Systems Installation.
The following are some of the things you can expect from a photovoltaic systems installation inspector or do it yourself:
- Verify that all components have been correctly installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and local building codes.
- Check that all wires are appropriately secured with wire ties or similar means so they do not come loose during windy conditions or other extreme weather conditions that could cause damage to people or property.
- Inspect all cables for damage or wear due to improper installation, such as frayed wires or exposed copper wiring at splices.
- Inspect all grounding systems for proper grounding rod installation as local building codes require, including any ground rods connected to the grounding electrode system (EGS).
- Verify that ground fault protection devices are correctly connected according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check that no over-current protection device has tripped due to overloading, a possible sign of improper wiring.
How to Conduct Inspection and Maintenance of Photovoltaic Systems?
Follow the measures below to understand how to conduct inspection and maintenance of photovoltaic systems:
1. Remove Dust from Solar Panels
The first thing you need to do is remove the dust from solar panels. This will help in increasing the efficiency of your system. You can use a soft cloth or cotton swab to clean it thoroughly. If you want to clean it properly, you should use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to remove any dirt particles from the surface of your panel.
2. Check the AC and DC Disconnects
When maintaining a photovoltaic system, it is essential to check the AC and DC disconnects. The disconnects should be in good working condition and should be adequately labeled to be easily identified. The disconnects should be installed on the AC side of the system before the battery bank or inverter with a fuse or circuit breaker between them. The DC side should have a DC circuit breaker between it and the batteries. This will allow you to isolate sections of your system for maintenance.
3. Check the Inverter
Inverters are an integral part of every photovoltaic system, and it is imperative to check their condition regularly. Inverters are sensitive devices that can be damaged if not properly maintained. Make sure that your inverter is not exposed to extreme weather conditions. This includes exposure to rain, snow, or high winds. The inverter will have a temperature sensor that will shut down the system if it gets too hot or cold. If you have a daytime thermal imager, use it to check the temperature inside the photovoltaic array during the summer months, when temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you see any hotspots on the PV modules, you may need to shade them with an aluminum sheet or install a shade cloth over them. You can also install an air conditioner in your garage for cooling purposes when temperatures are high outside during the summer months. If you have a grid-tied inverter connected to your home’s main electrical panel, then make sure that there is at least one breaker open for the solar panels to operate. This will avoid any damage to the inverter from overloading.
4. Fix Loose Mounting Bolts
The mounting bolts are one of the most critical parts of the installation of the photovoltaic system, and they must be checked regularly for loose screws or any other signs of wear and tear. If you notice any issues with your mounting bolts, it is essential to fix them as soon as possible so that your system does not lose its ability to produce power or fall from its perch on top of your home or business.
When looking at loose mounting bolts, the first thing you should do is check the ground wires attached to each one. These wires help secure the solar panels in place, so they do not fall off during storms or strong winds. If these wires become frayed or damaged over time, then they will no longer be able to hold up your panels during strong winds. This would lead to them falling off during bad weather, which could cause significant damage to both people and buildings around them if they were hit by falling debris during high winds or storms.
5. Remove Any Ground Cover
One of the best ways to keep your solar panels in good condition is by removing any ground cover that might be growing around them. This can include bushes and weeds, but it can also include grasses or other plants growing in the area where your solar panel is located. These plants can grow into your wires and create a short circuit inside your system, which could cause damage or even cause the system not to work.
6. Measure Power Output
Measuring the power output of a PV system is an essential task during its maintenance. This can be done by using a wattmeter or an ammeter. A wattmeter will measure how much electricity is being generated, while an ammeter will calculate how much current is moving through the panel.
A wattmeter will tell you how much electricity your panel is generating at any given time, but it will not tell you if there are problems with the panel itself or not. This is because a wattmeter measures what comes out of a photovoltaic system and not what goes into it or what happens inside of it.
An ammeter will tell you if there is too much current going through your system, meaning that something might be wrong with one of your wires or fuses could have blown out somewhere along its path from where it enters your house to where it exists to document the load center.
7. Adjust the Angle
Adjusting the angle of the PV array is a common maintenance task that can help optimize your solar system’s performance. If you have a grid-tied system, you may want to adjust the angle of your array to maximize production on cloudy days. You can also do this to optimize their capacity if you have batteries.
To adjust the angle, first, find out where your sunniest spot is in your yard, and then place the panel to face that direction. You may need to move the panel several times to find the best location before screwing it down permanently.
Benefits of Inspection and Maintenance of Photovoltaic Systems
When it comes to the benefits of inspection and maintenance of photovoltaic systems, there are many.
- One benefit is that they can help you identify potential problems before they become a significant issue. This can save you money in the long run because if you don’t have any problems with your solar system, there is no need to replace them.
- Another benefit of having your solar panels inspected and maintained will ensure that your panels are running at their total capacity. If you do not have your panels maintained regularly, they could be functioning at only 80% or less than their full capacity. This means that even though you might feel like you are saving money on your energy bill using solar power, you might not be getting as much energy as you think. It also means that it will take longer for your solar panel system to pay off its cost than if it performed at 100%.
- Inspections and maintenance also help keep your system running efficiently so that it does not break down at an inconvenient time, like when there is no sun. This helps keep the costs down by preventing expensive repairs or replacements when they are not needed yet.
- The most important benefit of having an inspection done on your solar panels is that it can help you determine if you need a new system installed. A properly maintained system should last for several years before needing replacement parts or upgrades. If there are problems with the current system, then an inspector will be able to tell you what needs to be fixed first so that it can be corrected right away before any significant damage occurs to the entire unit or building itself.
Inspection and Maintenance Precautions
There are several precautions that should be taken before and during the inspection and maintenance of photovoltaic systems.
- The first step is to ensure that you are inspecting the correct system. This is usually done by looking at the nameplate or rating label on the system. Sometimes, these labels can be hard to read or may have been removed. If this happens, look for an ID tag on the outside of your home or other identifying marks that can help you identify the location of your system.
- Ensure that you have all the necessary tools before starting any work on your PV system. Depending on what types of connections are used on your system, you will need a voltmeter and possibly a set of screwdrivers and pliers. You will also want to wear protective clothing such as gloves and safety glasses since there may be sharp edges on some parts of your equipment.
- Be aware of potential dangers from electricity, such as nearby power lines or ground faults from nearby lightning strikes or other sources of electrical surges. For example, if there is ever a thunderstorm within 10 miles of your home, do not climb onto any part of your solar array or install the system while the storm is present. If you are standing on the roof during a lightning storm, you will be at risk of being struck by lightning.
Photovoltaic systems require periodic inspections, including cleaning, to ensure that they are operating optimally. While some systems may be able to go for years without a review, the frequency of this inspection will vary based on system design and use.
System Type Inspection Frequency
1. Residential Rooftop Systems
Most homes have solar panels connected in parallel and strung out across the roof surface. These are the most manageable systems to inspect because you can walk up to them and visually inspect their performance. If there is any issue, it may be as simple as cleaning dirt off the panel surface or checking a cable connection between panels. This can be done once per year for most installations.
2. Commercial Rooftop Systems
These systems are often larger than residential ones and have multiple solar panels connected in series instead of parallel, which means they are more efficient. Commercial rooftop systems also tend to have microinverters instead of string inverters, making them slightly more complicated to inspect visually — although most commercial installations have ground mounts that make them easier to access than residential ones. Inspections should be done annually on commercial rooftop systems, but they can be done more frequently if you want to watch a specific panel or section of the roof.
Inspecting and maintaining a photovoltaic system is essential in monitoring its health and safety. This is achieved to ensure service reliability and prevent any needed repairs. It involves periodic checks to assess the equipment’s wear and operation and make adjustments or replacements if necessary. This guide on conducting inspection and maintenance of photovoltaic systems will help you keep your system up and running for many years to come.
The team at Solar Medix is ready to answer your questions and give you a no-obligation price quote. Feel free to call us at 732-785-4814 or book a consultation online. And we’ll get in touch within 24 hours.