Five Common Solar Installation Mistakes (and how to avoid them)
When it comes to reducing your energy bills, solar is a fantastic way to save money. Most systems will give you clean, free energy from the Aussie sun for 20 years if installed correctly.
Unfortunately, not all systems get installed correctly, as most solar installers use sales staff to sell their products. This often means sales people pushing for a sale without much knowledge of the customer’s needs, connection configuration, or the products they’re selling. Added to this, not all installers will take the extra time to do the job right and install a properly designed system that works the way it should.
In the article below, we go through three common mistakes companies make when installing solar and how to avoid them.
1. Installing Panels in Partial Shade
Solar panels are connected together in series in a ‘string’, like Christmas lights. Well, if you’ve ever had a string of Christmas lights where one globe was blown, you may have noticed that all the lights stopped working. The same type of thing can happen if your solar system is installed in partial shade. Although the shaded panels will produce some power, they will limit the current that the rest of the un-shaded panels in the string can deliver.
This is kind of like someone driving really slowly on a single lane highway, all the cars behind have to go at the same speed. If you have a small amount of shade on one or two panels the effect can be much bigger than you might think.
The solution is to check your roof thoroughly with images taken throughout the year as the shade patterns change. LuvSolar will always do this for you as part of a free consultation. It’s also possible to do a shade survey on site.
If shade can’t be avoided, there are technological solutions, like microinverters and DC optimisers which will stop one shaded panel restricting the output of the whole system.
2. Not Installing Enough Panels in a String
Remember we said solar panels were installed in a string like Christmas lights? The voltage from each panel adds up to give you the total voltage of the string. E.g. if you have 8 panels at 40 volts, the string will be 320 volts.
What many people don’t know is that solar panels lose voltage as they heat up, and solar inverters need a certain minimum voltage to turn on. On a really hot day your 8 panels might only be outputting 275 volts. This can be a problem if your string is too short because the solar inverter may not activate and convert the power from your solar panels for your house.
The solution is to talk to a solar installer experienced in correct system design. At LuvSolar we make sure that your system is designed to produce power on the hottest expected day of the year. Our CEC accredited solar designers make sure that your system voltage is always in the range it needs to be. That way your system is always producing power when you need it most, no matter what the conditions.
3. Not Using Good Quality Equipment
Unfortunately, some of the cost reductions from cheaper solar systems come from using cheap unproven panels and inverters.
Good manufacturers subject their panels to rigorous life cycle testing by third party engineering companies. These companies test the panels independently of the manufacturer. The purpose is to give the buyer confidence that the panel output will be maintained throughout the life of the system.
Some of these tests involve the panels being; hit with simulated hailstones, heated and rapidly cooled up to 800 times, tested in extreme humidity, submerged in water, and tested for short circuits etc..
Most system configurations only have a single inverter, so it’s also really important that it’s reliable. Generally, the best way to have confidence in your inverter (and your system) is to look at the length of the warranty. Five years is standard, but quality manufacturers will give you a 10-year warranty.
LuvSolar installations only use inverters with a 10-year warranty, and only install panels from manufacturers that put their products through additional life-cycle testing with trusted third parties.
4. Not setting up system monitoring
Most modern solar systems can be set up so that you can easily see your system performance graphed on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
The image below shows one of the system monitoring outputs of an Enphase System showing both solar production and household consuption.
With solar technology the cheapest solution is not always the best. Some of the price reductions from cheaper companies comes from cheap equipment with limited factory testing. Other times its poor design and installation. This why system monitoring is so important, so you can easily verify that your system is producing what it should be, and that you are getting the best return on your investment.
All LuvSolar systems come with free system monitoring set up so that you can see your system performance (and your savings) from day one
5. Not Balancing Solar Across the Phases
OK so this one only really applies if you have a three-phase power supply. Check out our solar power guide for the difference between single and three-phase.
If you do have three-phase power it’s important for your solar installation company to take the time to find out which appliances are on which phase.
Ideally you will use equal power on all three phases, so a three-phase inverter that balances power across all three phases will be the best set up. Although, if you have one large single-phase appliance that uses a lot of power during the day, like a single-phase air conditioner, it might be beneficial to install your solar on that phase only.
The solution here is to make sure that you talk to a solar company that doesn’t just use salespeople to sell their product. Make sure your energy consultant knows the difference and can advise you on the best system set up for your individual energy needs.
We consult with our customers to work out the solar system that is best suited to their needs. LuvSolar then designs the system for optimum performance and production. We complete all necessary grid permit applications and provide a complete installation service to our customers.
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