Proper maintenance ensures that solar system life is preserved for as long as possible and the original conditions of the system are sustained, while compensating for normal wear and tear. Solar systems require little maintenance as compared to other electric systems such as diesel generators; however, they are not maintenance free:
2. Solar Panels
3. Charge Controller
5. Wiring and connections
A battery is a device which is used to store electrical charge. There are two common types of batteries used in solar installations.
– Sealed Gel Battery
– Deep Cycle Flooded -Lead Acid Battery
Batteries should be regularly and carefully maintained to extend their useful life. These activities include:
1. Inspecting and cleaning regularly
2. Checking the electrolyte level (not required for Gel Batteries)
3. Keeping in a high state of charge
To minimize hazards, the following precautions should be taken prior to carrying out battery maintenance.
• Safety goggles must be worn when performing battery maintenance
• Protective gloves and chemical-resistant rubber gloves must be worn to prevent contact with battery acid.
• If there is acid spillage, neutralize the acid with a water and bi-carbonate soda solution. Metal files should not be used to remove corrosion.
• Use tools with insulated handles to carry out any maintenance.
Solar Panel Maintenance
The solar array (a number of solar panels connected together) is often thought to be maintenance free. However, occasional maintenance and inspection of the solar array must be performed to ensure the optimal use of the solar panels. This can be done by keeping the surface (glass) area of the module clean from any excess dirt.
1. To remove a layer of dust and dirt from the modules, simply wash the panel with water. If the module has thick dirt or grime and bird droppings, which are harder to remove, wash with cold water and rub the panel surface with a sponge. Do not use a metal brush to clean solar panel surface. Detergents should not be used.
2. A visual inspection of the modules can then be done to check for defects in the modules such as cracks, chips, de-lamination, fogged glazing, water leaks and discoloration. If any obvious defects are found, note their location in the system logbook, so they can be monitored in the future in case further deterioration affects the modules’ output.
3. The condition of the array mounting frame should also be noted. Items to observe should include the array mounting bolts (e.g. bolt rusting) and checks to ensure that the frame and modules are firmly secured. The junction boxes should also be checked to ensure that the wires are not chewed by rodents or insects. Take adequate precautions while doing maintenance of the solar panels since these are located on roof tops and there is the risk of falling off.
Inverter/Battery Charger and Charge controller
This component can be maintained by minimizing dust accumulation. A dry cloth should be used to wipe away any accumulated dirt/dust. A visual inspection should be done to ensure that all the indicators such as LED lights are working and that the wires leading to and from this device are not loose. Note that the charge controller should indicate that the system is charging when the sun is up. If not, contact the installer immediately.
Wiring and Connections
Wiring installations should be checked for any cracks, breaks or deterioration in the insulation/conduits. Inspect panel boxes to ensure that they have not become a home for rodents and insects. Also inspect connections for any corrosion and/or burning. Switches should not spark when turned on or off. The following sections of conduit and wiring should be checked for any signs of damage:
• Solar panels to the charge controller
• Charge controller to the battery bank
• Inverter/charger to the battery bank
• Generator to Inverter/charger
• Inverter/charger and Generator to the AC outlets
• Battery bank to the DC outlets/load.