Keeping your solar panel system in pristine condition, Part 1: Why does maintenance matter?

by | Nov 23, 2021 | Resources | 0 comments

Imagine buying your dream car. It’s shiny. It has that ‘new car’ smell. And, most importantly, it performs beautifully—glides along the road and gets you where you need to be, in style. 

You wouldn’t purchase a new car then neglect it, would you? You wouldn’t let it get it filthy, fail to get it serviced, and ignore warning lights or cracks in the windshield? Because you depend on your car: it’s a major investment, and you know it won’t function properly (and can actually be dangerous) if not cared for.

Just like your car, your solar panels are an expensive asset that you depend on (to save you money on power). And, just like your car, your solar power system needs to be looked after to keep working perfectly and safely.

Do solar panels need regular maintenance?

Solar power systems need regular maintenance to keep operating properly. 

Well-designed panels installed by Spinifex Energy are built to last and generate maximum power—BUT the fact is, your solar system is just that – an entire system of cables, conduit, glue, clamps, brackets etc. AND, by necessity, this system is exposed to the sun and weather 365 days a year. Unlike your car, you can’t protect your panels in a garage!

That means your panels are vulnerable to a build-up of dirt and debris from trees, air pollution, water seepage, damage from storms, or even destruction from birds’ nests and droppings or gnawing by small animals. And of course, like any product—sometimes there are faults or deterioration of parts.

Even quality, proven solar power systems require upkeep to function as intended over their lifespan, which can be 25 years or more.  

How does poor maintenance affect a solar system’s performance?

The efficiency of your solar panels affects the amount of energy they produce (and therefore, how much you can slash your electricity costs). 

Primarily, we only think about the amount of sunshine our panels can capture. However, dirt and debris can block sunlight, and damage or faults can cause sub-optimal operation—all of which reduce your system’s capacity to convert sunlight into power. 

For example, research by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that the energy lost from the accumulation of dust on solar panels can range between 7-50% depending on how dusty the location is. 

Maybe you’re thinking: my panels don’t get very dirty, I don’t mind losing a few dollars on my electricity bill. Cleanliness is important, but also just one factor that can reduce performance. Without regular maintenance you simply don’t know the full extent of issues potentially reducing your power generation. 

Some maintenance ‘red flags’ to watch out for: 

  • You can see a build-up of branches, leaves, dirt, sap, droppings or similar on your panels
  • Your inverter is showing a red or orange light during the day as panels are generating power
  • You see error messages on the screen of your inverter, or via app interfaces
  • Your panels or the switches/inverter shows signs of damage and wear
  • Your energy use or solar feed-in tariff on your bills changes drastically

Also, keep in mind that your solar system includes electrical wiring that can pose a serious fire risk if poorly installed or if damage occurs. 

As more Aussies get solar, the incidence of solar power system-related fires is also rising. Regular servicing of your solar power system, by a trained professional, is the best way to detect problems early and avoid house fires. 

Regular maintenance boosts performance and reduces downtime

A maintenance program does two important things:

  1. Increases the hours of optimal performance of a solar system over the course of a year. 
  2. Reduces any potential downtime of a solar system from undue wear and tear or warranty replacements by finding issues early and conducting repairs or maintenance before an issue may even arise. This, in turn, reduces the potential for lost savings:
    • If you think about a 6.6kW solar system saving a customer approximately $1,500 per year off their electricity bills, then every day that solar system is non-operational the customer forgoes ~$29.  
    • If that customer doesn’t notice a fault until the end of a billing cycle this could potentially be $375 in lost savings. 
    • If a maintenance check finds and rectifies issues promptly the investment in maintenance provides a valuable ROI.

How often should solar panels be maintained and what’s involved?

Because most leading solar panel manufacturers recommend a regular maintenance check, Spinifex Energy endorses an annual visit. Noticeable build-ups of dirt or significant damage should be addressed as needed.

Is solar panel maintenance a DIY job?

Doing it yourself can be a difficult undertaking and it can also be dangerous. Physical inspections require scaling rooftops, and there is water and electricity involved (an unpredictable mix!).

For your own protection and peace of mind, it’s always best to have a trained professional conduct the work. Trained staff from Spinifex Energy have Working at Heights certification and we also have the tools and knowledge to provide thermographic reports of your panels to more deeply understand how they’re performing.

Is solar expensive to maintain? 

With a regular annual maintenance check often improving the long term savings outcomes it makes good economic sense to conduct the maintenance schedule. We strive to offer solar maintenance plans that make regular upkeep affordable, and importantly, we actually GUARANTEE the solar generation for the term of our plans. We’re committed to good business practices and being transparent with our customers about what will best meet their needs. 

What do we do during a maintenance visit?

Our professional solar specialist will determine whether:

  • Your panels are clean, clear and undamaged
  • Your solar panels  and their fittings are still securely attached to the roof
  • All parts of your panels, switches, wiring and inverter have not deteriorated or been affected by vermin
  • Check all safety features of the system set-up are configured and working well as well as online monitoring connectivity and energy meter monitoring 

…and then help you to remedy any issues that are found!

What is a solar maintenance plan from Spinifex Energy?

  • An annual schedule that ensures you can ‘set and forget’ your maintenance needs – the maintenance plan has been developed by the Clean Energy Council of Australia 
  • A professional, physical inspection and systems test by an experienced solar specialist accredited by the Clean Energy Council (we know and adhere to all Australian safety and quality guidelines) 
  • Fast and reliable advice and support to undertake required cleaning, repairs or any kind of re-configuration to improve performance. 

Interested in a maintenance plan from Spinifex Energy? Talk to us about your maintenance needs today to ensure you can achieve the optimal output from your solar power system. 

Contact Tom on 0419 108 638 or request a free quote online.

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