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Maintaining your home solar energy system for optimum performance

Toby Rawson

Home solar energy systems require relatively little maintenance—however, this does not means that they require no attention or servicing at all.

In order to ensure a safe and efficient operating system that is effectively producing energy for your home and feeding it back to the grid, it’s important to undertake regular and thorough maintenance and cleaning. This will ensure your home solar system is working to capacity and you are able to enjoy the full benefits of your investment.

Benefits of checking your solar energy system regularly

There are several different things that you can do to ensure your system is performing at its best, and which will mean you won’t have to wait until your energy bill arrives to find out if your home solar energy system is not operating at full capacity.

Ensure your solar inverter is operating properly

The solar inverter enables the DC current that is generated by your solar panels to feed into your home, so that it can then be used by household appliances. It is also the means whereby the excess energy you produce can be fed back into the grid, enabling you to capitalise on any feed-in tariff you may have. Therefore, in order to get the most out of your system, your solar inverter needs to function efficiently.

You should check your inverter display every two weeks, ideally in daylight conditions late in the day (in South Australia, the best time is between 4.00pm - 5.00pm). If it’s dark when you make this check, or there is very limited sun, your inverter display will be blank, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate a fault. Therefore, any checks of your solar inverter should ideally be made when there is a reasonable amount of sunlight, and little or no cloud or haze.

You should check the following:

  • There are no error messages being displayed;
  • If possible, check the Peak Power display. This is often shown as Ppeak. This will be measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW); and
  • The energy produced today. This is usually shown as Eday or Etoday. This is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh).

If you are not familiar with the displays on your system, the manufacturer’s manual will explain where these can be found. If you don’t have a copy of the manual, let us know and we will be able to supply another edition.

Check your system’s efficiency

All home PV solar energy systems come with documentation that details your expected energy yield. As a first step to checking the efficiency of your system, compare the results that are displayed on your solar inverter with those that have been supplied.

Keep a record of the readings that you take, including information such as the time and date, and what the weather conditions were like (e.g., cloudy, clear, sunny, etc.) This will then be a useful reference point for you to be able measure changes or fluctuations in your system’s performance.

What should I do if my solar inverter is underperforming?

If you aren’t getting the output from your system that was predicted, or you notice a drop in performance, then it’s important that you have your system inspected as soon as possible. If this is the case, get in touch with Rawsons Electrical and our expert team can advise you on the steps that need to be taken to ensure that you’re getting full value from your home solar system.

Do I need to clean my solar panels?

If your solar panels aren’t clean—whether due to rain, pollution, bird droppings or other deposits—sunlight is unable to reach the solar cells, meaning they absorb less sunlight and in turn produce less energy.

Reduced solar panel output means that you may not produce enough energy to run your home and then still have to draw power from the grid. This means that you won’t experience the drop in energy bills you were expecting, because not only are you still using mains electricity but you’re not feeding energy back to the grid and so aren’t earning any benefit from your feed-in tariff either.

How do I clean my solar panels?

Ideally, eco-friendly materials should be used, such as water that contains no harmful chemicals or detergents, as this will help to ensure that the rubber seals and glass panels aren’t degraded.

It is also important to ensure that no spots, harmful residues or chemicals are left behind, and that the cleaning process does not in any way scratch the glass in the panels.

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