Storm season is upon us and this year has been predicted to be one of the most volatile summers to date. If you have a PV solar panels on your home, it is important to remember that they pose an electrical safety risk in severe weather including electrical storms, cyclones and floods. Whilst some companies have designed their solar panels specifically for Australian conditions, they can still be vulnerable to our unpredictable weather. Here are a few tips on how to keep you and your family solar-safe this summer…
Preparing for Severe Weather
First thing’s first, familiarise yourself with the shutdown procedure for your system. Each system will have a slightly different procedure, and these are normally displayed at the inverter or on the main switchboard. You should not attempt to switch off your system if any of the components are already submerged in water or are wet as this could result in a fatal electric shock. Even if the power has been switched off, PV solar systems still produce voltage during the day and could be live.
As a guide, the general shutdown procedure will be as follows…
- Turn off the inverter AC mains isolator (usually found in the meter box)
- Turn off the PV array isolator (this is usually found next to the inverter)
- If there is a chance that the water level could reach the inverters and cables, also turn off the roof top array isolator
If you are unsure or feel uneasy about this process, contact your manufacturer or installer. It is also a good idea to include your solar panels on your home insurance so that in the event that they are damaged in a storm, you are covered for replacement or repair costs.
After Severe Weather
Do not attempt to reconnect your solar system immediately after a storm as there may have been damage that you cannot see yet. Avoid getting on the roof unless absolutely necessary and keep away from solar panels and their cables. Lightning can travel from solar panels to your inverter and although the grid electricity may be switched off, your roof may still be generating electricity. Inspect the roof from a safe distance and if you are unsure, call the installer or a licenced electrical contractor to come and check it out for you. Once you have been told that it is safe to turn back on, monitor the inverter to ensure that the system is functioning correctly. This check needs to be done before other clean-up work starts around the PV cells and any associated electrical wiring.
Main Points to Remember…
- Do not get on the roof to check the system after a weather incident as it may still be generating power.
- Do not turn off your system if the wires or switches have already been submerged in water.
- Solar systems can continue to generate power even if there is a blackout and the grid power is out.
- If there are any suspected damage it should be inspected by a licensed electrician.
- Before cleaning up or doing any other work on your property you must make sure that your system has been checked over.