As a homeowner, you have probably thought about installing solar panels in your home. If not a homeowner yet, but is planning to own a house, you’ve probably included solar panel installation in your budget.
But the question is, what are the risks of fire from solar panels? Should you be concerned about your safety? And if there are risks, what are the preventive measures?
In this article, we look at the possibilities of fire caused by solar panels and how you can prevent them.
What is Solar Power?
Solar energy is power sourced from the sun. The sun is a source of energy that produces heat, harnessed into chemical reactions that generate electricity.
The chances of solar panels causing fire are very low compared to electrical equipment. In Australia, statistics show that solar panels only cause 1.5% of fires in residential homes. With Australia’s strict electrical codes, the ratio of risks of fire from solar panels is 1 per 10,000 installations.
The low numbers don’t mean that fires will not occur. Solar panels are installed with live wires. And just like other electrical wires, these too can cause fires. It’s therefore essential to take safety measures to ensure that your home doesn’t become a statistic.
Solar Panel Fires
Just like the name suggests, solar panel fires are fires caused by solar panels. Over the years, there has been an increase in solar panel fires. Statistics show that in 2020, the installation of solar panels skyrocketed compared to previous years. This means that the majority of homes in Australia have rooftop solar panels.
In 2020, the Fire and Rescue NSW reportedly attended 139 solar panel fires compared to 22 in 2018 and 56 in 2019.
But does this mean that solar panel fires are due to the panels? The truth is, DC isolators and inverters are what cause a large percentage of solar panel fires.t . We can find these isolators, which are manually-operated switches, adjacent to the panel array. These switches turn off the DC current between the inverter and the array.
Although creators of insulators designed them originally as additional safety measures, they have done more harm than good. This is more so, especially in cases where there’s poor installation or use of substandard equipment.
But what causes solar panel fires?
The following are some of the causes of these fires:
- Poor installation
- Poor design systems
- Substandard products
- Hiring nonprofessionals for installation and DIY
- Power outbreaks
- High voltage
Potential Risk Factors for Solar Panel Fires
The following will increase the chances of solar panel fires:
When it comes to solar panel installation, cheap is actually expensive. If you decide to hire non-professionals in a bid to save a dollar, you may end up paying a hefty price in the end.
A person who isn’t qualified will do a shady job with the installation. They may not tighten terminals and switches and leave cables hanging. This is dangerous and the biggest cause of solar panel fires.
It’s important to pay attention to the cables’ length and location to avoid voltage melting the plastic. The consequences can be fatal if a non-professional ignores this.
Using Substandard Systems
Systems that fail to meet quality and safety standards will likely cause fires. If an installer uses substandard materials such as low-quality connections or wires, this can trigger a fire.
Although solar panels don’t require a lot when it comes to maintenance, neglecting them may be costly. Poor maintenance practices like unclean panels limit their performance. Solar panels that aren’t working correctly are risk factors for fires.
Direct Current from the Panels
DC isolators, particularly rooftop isolators, cause many solar panel fires. These isolators are exposed to harsh weather, which might cause circuit breaks and cause fires.
Also, these switches are high voltage and operated manually meaning a fire risk.
Some solar panels have a built-in DC switch for current to flow directly. These models are the biggest causes of solar fires.
Prevention and Safety Measures
To ensure that your home doesn’t become a statistic in solar panel fires, the following prevention measures are helpful:
Just like electrical systems need regular maintenance, so do solar panels. Look out for stagnant water, dust, or eaves in the panels. Check out the cables and the switches and ensure they function well.
Also, some cables, switches, and panels wear down over time and stop working optimally. Regular maintenance will help you monitor its performance and know when to upgrade.
You must inspect your system yearly after installation. Check your contract as it might include a follow-up inspection.
Work with Professionals
Use professionals for your solar installation. They have the expertise and the tools to do a good job. Also, they are well-trained in safety matters and will guide you accordingly.
Look for installers with an excellent reputation, years of experience, and the necessary licenses. This in itself is a guarantee that their clients can trust them to do a good job.
Use Quality Solar Panels and Equipment
Cheap is expensive. Buy and install panels of good quality that meet safety standards. Consult the experts to avoid costly damages. Quality panels are unlikely to fail and come with warranties.
For safety reasons, avoid DIY solar installation. You may argue that it reduces installation costs, but better to be safe than sorry. Solar panel installation is complex and requires a technician.
Use Fire-resistant Roofing Materials
Using fire-resistant roofing materials like concrete roof tiles or clay can minimise damage in a fire.
Solar panel fires account for a minimal percentage of residential fires in Australia. That doesn’t mean that homeowners or building owners can dismiss them as potential risk factors.
If you are installing solar panels in your home, ensure that professionals carry out the installation and that the panels meet quality and safety standards. It’s also important to regularly check the solar systems to rule out any potential danger.