What are the maintenance requirements for a solar power system?

What are the maintenance requirements for a solar power system?

One of the biggest advantages of a solar power system is that it requires very little ongoing maintenance. As long as good quality & correctly rated components are used and the system is configured & optimized during installation routine intervention is only required to keep the solar panels clean to ensure appropriate energy generation. Please see below more detailed guidelines to ensure optimum performance of key system components:

Solar panel maintenance requirements

Solar panels are extremely durable (see more information on their warranties here) and are designed for long-term operation in excess of 25 yrs. They have no moving parts and are secured with toughened glass on the top side that enables them to withstand rough weather or mechanical impact (e.g. from hail etc.). As longs as the panels have been installed correctly the only effort required is in keeping the top surface of the panel clean to ensure maximum energy generation. Below are a few guidelines for cleaning solar panels:

  • To remove a layer of dust or dirt, simply wash the surface of the solar panel with water. In case of thick dirt or bird droppings, which are harder to remove, wash the panel with cold water and rub the surface with sponge or a soft rag.

Do not use a metal brush or detergent to clean the solar panel surface

  • Periodic visual inspection should be done to check for any cracks, delamination, fogged glazing or discoloration. In case you observe any of this you should report it to the solar company that did your installation and monitor if there is impact on the solar panel output over a period of time
  • The condition of the structures on which the solar panels are mounted should be inspected periodically. The frame and the panels should be firmly secured and the panel mounting bolts should be checked for any rust. The junction boxes below the solar panels should also be checked to ensure the wires are not chewed by insects or rodents.

Solar inverter maintenance requirements

Solar inverters require very little maintenance. Periodic checks should be done to ensure

  • The inverter is kept clean and free from any dust. Dust can be wiped off with a dry cloth when required.
  • The unit is not infested with vermin
  • The inverter is functioning correctly by observing the different LED indicators are working and the wires leading to & from the inverters are not loose

Solar batteries maintenance requirements

Proper upkeep & condition monitoring of the batteries is essential to maintain the solar system performance and prolonging the useful life of the batteries.

Periodic inspection & cleaning

A visual inspection should be done to check for electrolyte leak, cracks in the batteries, or, corrosion at the terminals/connectors. If there is a white residue around the battery terminals it should be cleaned immediately.

The following precautions should be observed before undertaking any cleaning or maintenance activity for batteries:

  • Safety goggles must be worn
  • Protective gloves and chemical-resistant rubber gloves must be worn to prevent contact with battery acid
  • In case of spillage, neutralize the acid with water and a bi-carbonate soda solution. Metal files should not be used to scrub any acid deposits.

Checking the electrolyte level

Flooded batteries need the electrolyte to be topped up periodically. The top-up should be done using distilled water to the correct level as indicated on the battery (float indicators or markings on the battery case).

The state of charge of each cell in the battery can be compared by measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte. This can be done by using a hydrometer. The table below shows typical battery state-of-charge at various levels of specific gravity.

State of Charge Specific Gravity Voltage (for 12V cells)
100% 1.265 12.7
75% 1.225 12.4
50% 1.19 12.2
25% 1.155 12.0
Discharged 1.12 11.9

 

If the specific gravity measurement of any cell is more than 0.025 below the average specific gravity of the battery bank, then an equalization charge should be applied to ensure all individual cells in a battery bank are at a similar charge.

Checking Battery Voltage

If any cell of the battery is more than 10% higher or lower than the average cell voltage, an equalization charge should be applied. The table below lists typical voltage levels that indicate whether the state of charge is good or bad for the battery bank.

Nominal Volatge Bad Time to start economizing or using back-up charger Good Caution
2V <1.9 1.9 – 2.0 2 – 2.2 >2.4
12V <11.4 11.4 – 12 12 – 13.2 >14.4
24V <22.8 22.8 – 24 24 – 26.4 >28.8
48V <45.6 45.6 – 48 48 – 52.8 >57.6

 

Wiring & Connections maintenance requirements

Correctly installed switchboards and wiring should not require any maintenance.

  • Check for any cracks, breaks, or deterioration of insulation/conduits
  • Inspect connections for any corrosion and/or burning
  • Switches should not spark when turned on or off
  • Inspect panel boxes to ensure they are not infested with rodents/insects

To learn more about the warranties of solar power systems, click here

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