Life with solar: What to do following installation
Life with solar: What to do following installation
Once your home solar system is up and running, there are numerous benefits you can enjoy, such as lower energy bills, greater energy efficiency, higher home value and more. Solar power systems are also very durable, requiring minimal maintenance from the homeowner.
"Solar modules can take a beating," said Chris Campbell, co-owner and director of project management for the Atlasta Solar Center, an organization that's been installing home solar since 1979.
"Solar systems are built to be outside and built to last," he explained, noting that it's very rare to ever have to repair or replace a panel.
"Even systems that were installed 20 or 30 years ago are very resilient," he added. "They were meant to be installed and to do their job for the lifetime of the system, without being touched."
That said, there are some simple things you can do to ensure your solar system performs optimally throughout its lifetime. Thankfully, none of them require you to climb onto your roof. Here's a list of Campbell's do's and don'ts for solar panel maintenance.
Do: Monitor System Performance
Most home solar systems include remote monitoring capabilities, usually through an app on your phone, laptop or PC. The app displays data, such as the daily weather conditions and the power output across your system and for each panel, so you can quickly spot if one or more panels are underperforming compared to the rest.
Campbell recommends checking your monitoring system once a month or once a quarter. He specifically indicates looking at the power output of your panels. "The panels should perform at their rated power output, plus or minus 5% of the manufacturer's kilowatt rating."
If you've had your system for 12 months or longer, you can also use historic data to better understand how power output fluctuates in different weather conditions and across seasons.
"Panels perform better at lower temperatures," explained Campbell. "In places like western Colorado, you can get the same power output in October as you did in July, because it's cooler."
Do: Keep Software Updated
Panels sometimes underperform because of overdue software upgrades.
"Two years ago, I noticed that the power output of two panels in my Panasonic system with Enphase microinverters was about half that of the others," Campbell shared. "And the reason was a simple software update."
Campbell implemented the update and the problem resolved itself within 24 hours.
"Out of all the systems I have ever installed, we don't have issues with the modules," Campbell noted. "You sometimes see minor issues on the inverter side, but that's usually as simple as a software update or something similar."
Do: Check Your Wi-Fi Connection
"The number one service call we have is when customers have changed their router or Wi-Fi credentials and need a Wi-Fi reconnect," said Campbell. Therefore, if you notice a loss in connectivity on your monitoring system, be sure to double check your Wi-Fi password.
Do: Know Your System Specifications
All electrical and mechanical equipment degrades over time. But, how do you know whether a reduction in power output is due to "normal" degradation or something more significant? Campbell said you can find this information in your system specifications. It will detail the estimated "annual degradation" rate as a percentage.
For example, the Panasonic EverVolt solar modules have an annual degradation rate of about 0.25%. This number guarantees power output of at least 92% after 25 years, making it one of the industry's lowest annual degradation rates.
Don't: Clean Your Panels on Your Roof
Many homeowners believe their solar panels will need regular cleaning. After all, being so exposed you'd expect them to gather dust and dirt or incur minor scrapes and scratches. But the technology is so robust that no regular cleaning is required. In fact, even bird poop and dust is unlikely to have much of an impact on power output.
"When it rains, you're getting a free panel cleaning, and when it snows, you can wait for the snow to melt off," said Campbell. "Homeowners can put themselves in potentially dangerous situations being up on the roof, but you can just leave the system alone and let mother nature take care of it."
Campbell noted that he's never cleaned his own system in three and a half years.
Yet if you do wish to give your panels a clean, the best way to do this is using a hose from the ground, or a snow rake if snow has accumulated on your panels. Be sure to do this earlier in the day, before the glass on your panels gets too hot.
Don't: Check Electrical or Mechanical Connections
You should never need to check any electrical or mechanical equipment on your roof, Campbell said. A reputable installer will ensure there are no loose wires or connections on your roof that can be damaged. Instead, if there is ever any physical damage to your system, it would most likely be the result of a factor outside of the system itself, like a neighbor's tree falling on your roof. In these situations, you should contact your installer. Not only is it dangerous to climb onto your roof, but you can also void your warranty if you accidentally cause any damage.
Don't: Purchase a Solar Panel Maintenance Package
Atlasta Solar doesn't offer regular maintenance on service panels, or service packages to its customers, explained Campbell.
"I would actually tell homeowners to be wary of installers that want to put them under a maintenance or service agreement after installation, as this technology does its job day after day and year after year without needing any regular maintenance or service."
Don't: Ignore Underperformance
Finally, if one or more of your panels are consistently underperforming from the rest of your system, then you should contact a licensed installer. They will help determine whether it's a panel or inverter issue and take the appropriate steps to correct it.
With these do's and don'ts, you can ensure that your solar panels are providing you clean energy for decades to come.
Considering adding battery storage to your new solar panel system for increased energy independence? Talk with an authorized EverVolt installer and find out how a home battery can maximize your solar investment.