A solar PV system is a great investment but, even though it is a relatively low maintenance asset, it requires some post-installation work and later an annual maintenance checkup to ensure it continues to operate optimally.
Here we talk about some essentials that your installer should do or assist you with.
1. Getting Your System Up And Running
OK, so your solar PV system has been installed and you are itching to switch it on so you can start benefiting from clean energy and lower electricity bills.
If you’re the impatient type, now is probably a good time to start practising the art of patience, especially since you’ve come this far waiting for your solar PV system to be installed.
Well, let’s just hit the pause button for a second!
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a wee bit longer.
It’s now time to get down to the administrative component of your solar PV system. First, your solar needs to be registered and connected to the system.
This involves a number of parties, namely the solar PV owner, the installer and your energy provider. In the state of Queensland, the state-owned utility is Energex.
It’s required by the electricity distribution network to have grid-connected solar PV systems registered and also apply for a new utility meter. The specific function of this meter is to track the amount of energy exported into the grid. Without this meter, you won’t be able to take advantage of the feed-in tariff.
Your local solar installer will be able to aid you with the network application form submission with Energex.
Once all the paperwork has been processed and you have been registered with Energex, you’ll need to install a new meter. This new meter will allow you take advantage of the feed-in tariff. Arrange with the utility technician a suitable time for the meter installation. Once the meter is connected, then Bob’s your Uncle—switch it on! The sight of your meter showing the amount of clean energy being produced is a sight for sore eyes!
2. The Infamous User Manual!
User manual, who needs one right?
This surely must be a guy thing, as most men don’t take the time to read user manuals. You’ll be surprised though at the amount of useful information user manuals can provide!
Following installation of the solar PV system, the installer should provide you with the inverter user manual. Normally the inverter manuals are as thick as a bible—this is due to the complexity of inverters and what they are actually capable of doing!
A lot of the information is not relevant for the homeowner, as it relates to the programming and commissioning of the inverter. This is the responsibility of the installer and not something the homeowner should be doing, as it can get quite technical!
However, the inverter manual will provide details on the monitoring aspect of the inverter and provide explanations on how to read and use the data monitoring functionality of the system. It should also provide fault codes in case something should go wrong.
Then when you call your installer you can provide these details to them.
So be sure to get the user manual from your installer, and not to throw it away but keep it in a safe place for future use!
3. Cleaning of Solar Panels
The soiling of solar panels is when they become dirty from dust, bird mess, leaves, etc—and this impacts the efficiency of solar panels. Soiling losses result in a loss of power originating from less sunlight due to the debris.
If left over time, soiling impacts the power output of the solar panel and decreases efficiency. Annual losses by soiling range from 1.5% to 6% depending on the location of the solar PV system.
The map below shows the level of dust intensity globally (the darker the colour the higher the dust intensity):
Having the PV panels at the appropriate tilt angle does assist in self-cleaning to a certain extent when there is sufficient rainfall. Another study concluded at least 20 mm rainfall is needed to clean the surface of PV system.
Some basic maintenance is required when it comes to owning a solar PV system and this includes keeping the solar panels clean from debris, dust and other particles. If you live in an area that is prone to dust storms, consider having your PV panels cleaned regularly.
A number of service providers offer cleaning and maintenance services for solar PV systems. Not only will they clean your solar panels, removing debris and dust, but they will also do an inspection of your solar panel roof mounting system and wiring.
Do your homework and search online for a reputable service provider with a good track record.
Shading also impacts the efficiency of your solar panel system. If certain parts of the solar panel array or even parts of a single solar panel are covered by shade from nearby obstructions, this will severely restrict the power output of your solar system.
A good example of this is nearby trees creating shadows on your solar panels during certain times of the day and year. Trees grow every year, so it’s probably worthwhile checking your solar panel array every year for shadows that perhaps weren't there before. If these shadows originate from shading of trees, then consider trimming your trees.
Just make sure that they don’t belong to your neighbour as they might not be happy with you trimming their trees!
If they do, go ahead and read Are Neighbours Shading Your Panels? Know Your Rights!
Your solar PV system is expected to produce clean, cheap and hassle-free electricity for many years. When selecting your solar system components, it’s wise to select from reputable tier 1 suppliers. This relates specifically to the inverter and solar panels.
The better quality solar panels tend to have performance warranties covering a period of 20 to 25 years. It doesn’t help though if the supplier goes bankrupt before that time span, so select approved tier 1 suppliers.
As for inverters, a good quality brand name inverter should last you 10 years and have a 5-year warranty against manufacturing defaults.
You want to be sure to select a reputable, reliable PV installer too, one that has been around the block a few times and has a good installation track record. This will give you peace of mind should any installation issues come up because at least you know you will be covered under the installation warranty.
5. System Upgrade
Things change—people, lifestyles, homes etc!
Should you decide to embark on the green revolution journey and purchase an electric vehicle, your home electricity consumption will increase. The same applies if you add onto your home or install a pool. A pool pump will considerably increase your daily energy consumption, as a motor has a higher kW rating and is quite often on for at least 8 hours of the day.
You may want to consider upgrading your solar PV system to produce more power so you can offset your higher energy consumption or increase your level of self-reliance, and you would then need to incorporate an energy storage system.
This would probably also require an increase in the amount of solar power in order to charge the batteries plus supply power to all of your electrical appliances.
The great thing about solar power is that it’s scalable and modular. As long as you have sufficient roof space, you can increase the size of your solar PV system by adding more panels and inverters to cater for the increased capacity.
Your inverter needs to be sized according to the solar panel output in kW.
Talk to your solar PV installer, who will assist you in sizing the system upgrade appropriately.
Just like it’s recommended to visit your doctor for an annual health checkup, your solar PV system also requires an annual checkup.
Things to do for your checkup include:
- Check all switches, connections and electrical components.
- A visual check of all panels for any damage, all roof mounting systems for any loose fittings, etc.
- Run inverter diagnostics.
- Clean inverter and fan.
Again, service providers should be able to offer this type of checkup for a small fee, so ask your solar installer for recommendations.
A solar PV system is a great investment and is a relatively low maintenance asset. Yet it still requires some annual maintenance to ensure it continues to operate optimally.
Cleaning of the solar panels is necessary to ensure the efficiency doesn’t drop off too much. There are service providers out there that offer cleaning services, so do your homework and search for a reputable company with a good track record.
After installing your solar PV system, there is some paperwork required as you need to register a grid-tied PV system with your local utility and new meter installed that can track excess energy exported into the grid.
The solar PV installer should also hand over the inverter user manual after the installation, so be sure to be familiar with the error codes and also how to read the data monitoring component of the inverter.
If you upgrade your house by extending it or adding a pool or even investing in an electric vehicle, you may want to upgrade your solar PV system by increasing the size of it and investing in an energy storage system.
Solar PV is scalable, making it easy to upgrade, so contact your solar PV system installer, who will be able to assist in sizing the upgrade correctly.
Above all, enjoy the many years of clean, cheap and reliable energy your solar PV system will provide you with!
If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!
Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.
Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
Photo credit: Depositphotos, ScienceDirect