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Maintaining Your Solar Inverter

Once you have solar panels installed in your home

you can expect to see a significant reduction in your consumption of electricity from the SA Power Networks grid, which results in lower charges and smaller electricity bills.

However, for some people who have had solar systems installed in the past few years—particularly during the boom years following the introduction of generous feed-in tariffs of up to 44c/kWh by the South Australian government in 2008—this is not the case. Having a solar system installed is undoubtedly a considerable expense, even if it saves you money in the long run. However, as a means of reducing costs, many homeowners were persuaded to have cheaper, low-end inverters installed as part of their system. However, the inverter unfortunately is the element of your solar system that is most likely to fail, because many cheap solar inverters only have a life expectancy of around two years. Now, a couple of years down the track, people are beginning to realise that this was a false economy, particularly when the most vital component in the system, the solar inverter, begins to fail.

Solar Fix Network was established to help Adelaide homeowners to address this issue. Our combined experience and knowledge of the solar industry means that we have recognised this growing problem, and that many installation firms did not provide the professional levels of advice and after-sales care that you expect when you make an investment as large and significant as installing solar. Our aim is to help homeowners who have been poorly advised, or have purchased sub-standard inverters, to be able to restore their systems to full capacity,

We are specialists in the inspection, maintenance and repair of solar systems and help you to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your system and that it’s achieving what you intended— reducing your energy use and emissions, and seeing major savings in your electricity bills.

Check your warranty

Unfortunately, during the boom years in South Australia, a lot of new solar installers who entered the market were primarily interested in capitalising on the rapid growth in solar uptake, and did not provide the high levels of expertise, skills and knowledge that consumers can reasonably expect.

When the government began reducing the feed-in tariff and there was a subsequent fall in the demand for solar, a number of these installers went out of business, and so when systems failed because low-cost inverters began to malfunction, solar system owners felt they were left high and dry, with the only option being to purchase and install a new, more costly inverter. However, if you have a faulty or damaged inverter you may not have to buy a new one. We specialise in the inspection and repair of inverters, and in many cases a malfunctioning inverter can be repaired without the need to purchase a new one. Unfortunately, in the case of many cheaper inverters, repair may not be an option and a new one needs to be purchased. However, even if your installer is no longer trading, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the parts and components of your solar system, particularly your inverter, are not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Therefore, it’s important to track down your warranty documents and find out the time span for which your inverter

is covered, and the steps you need to take to have it replaced. Even low-end inverters should come with a five-year warranty, while those at the top end of the market may very well be covered for ten years. The good news is that you may not have to bear the full cost of having your inverter replaced. In some cases, the manufacturer’s warranty may cover the replacement cost and the labour, in others you may have to pay the labour costs, but if your inverter is less than five years old, chances are that you won’t have to pay for it all yourself. It’s worth your time to find those warranty documents!

Check if your solar manufacturer has a service office in Australia, so that you can get in touch with them, or we are happy to contact your solar inverter manufacturer on your behalf to pursue a warranty claim.

What is a solar inverter and why is it so important?

A solar inverter converts the DC current produced by your solar panels into an AC current that enables electricity to feed into your home in a form that can be used by your appliances. It also enables electricity to be fed back into the commercial grid.

Your inverter is such an important component because it enables you to extract the optimum energy from your solar panels.

every two weeks. A simple visual inspection may reveal an error message on the inverter display, or warning lights might be showing.

An inverter that is functioning properly and efficiently is therefore crucial to your being able to get the full benefit from your solar system. If your inverter is not working to full capacity: ϐϐ you will be drawing power from the grid more often and in greater quantities than you should be ϐϐ your electricity bills will be higher, because you are having to use more commercially produced electricity ϐϐ you will not be receiving as much financial return from your feed-in tariff from your supplier, because you are not able to return the optimum amount of electricity to the grid

Why check so frequently? Because waiting until the electricity bill comes is too late! By then, you will have been drawing power from the grid at a far greater rate than you anticipated and so you could be in for a nasty shock. Unfortunately, many people only discover that there are faults in their solar system when it stops functioning altogether.

Inverters, especially those from the lower end of the market, are the component that is most susceptible to malfunction and this is why, if you have had a solar system in place for two years or more, you need to check on a regular basis that it’s operating effectively. For a system that’s been in place for this length of time, we recommend that you check that it’s working to its full capacity

If you’ve noticed a drop in your system’s efficiency, but can’t see any obvious signs of an inverter malfunction yourself, we offer a full range of inspection and maintenance services, and our trained and skilled staff can inspect and test all aspects of your system to ensure that it’s delivering maximum efficiency and minimising your costs as much as possible.

Warning signs of a faulty or non-functioning inverter ϐϐ you have a solar system installed in your home, but you’re not noticing any reduction in your electricity bills ϐϐ error messages being displayed ϐϐ you notice there’s some damage to the inverter ϐϐ you notice that the inverter seems to be very hot

What causes problems with inverters? Why do they fail? Although solar energy systems are fairly robust and don’t require excessive amounts of maintenance, it is nevertheless crucial to have a regular maintenance routine so as to check that your inverter in particular is functioning to full capacity, as this is the key component of a safe, efficient and reliable solar installation. Solar inverters can be subject to variable, often high levels of voltage, are exposed to extreme ranges in temperature, and can be susceptible to moisture and dust, and for this reason less well-made, poor quality inverters tend to have a high failure rate, impact negatively on performance and efficiency, and can even pose an electrical safety threat. The signs of a poor quality inverter may include: ϐϐ becoming excessively hot ϐϐ poor seals ϐϐ substandard circuitry

Buying a New Solar System If you’re having a new solar system installed, do not compromise on the quality of your solar inverter. You may save on the initial outlay, but costs further down the line will undoubtedly override any savings. Therefore, always check the inverter’s IP rating and its efficiency, as these will determine the overall effectiveness of your system. Also check the warranty conditions, and what the company offers in terms of replacing a faulty or malfunctioning inverter, and the procedures for making a warranty claim. Thirdly, have your solar system installed by a reputable installer who has experience and a track record in the industry, and will be able to offer you advice that means you get the most out of your system, and in order to undercut their competitors doesn’t try to sell you a cheap system that compromises on quality.

About Us Solar Fix Network is a group of independent businesses that have come together to pool their expertise, knowledge and abilities to deliver high quality monitoring, maintenance, analysis, inspection and repair services for residential and commercial PV solar installations. We specialise in providing a full range of inspection, maintenance and cleaning services and our staff are qualified and licensed to carry out mandatory SA Power Networks compliance inspections. We can meet your solar panel maintenance, servicing and repair needs wherever you are in South Australia.

Call us on (08) 8185 1552

Solar Fix Network | Adelaide Solar Inverters  
Solar Fix Network | Adelaide Solar Inverters  

If you’ve noticed a drop in your home solar system efficiency, but can’t see any obvious signs of an inverter malfunction yourself, at Solar...