Preventing Solar Panel Fires – 5 Useful Tips
In these times of economic instability and ever-incrementing energy prices, more and more people are turning to solar power as an alternative energy source.
If you’re thinking about going solar, you’re probably already well aware of the benefits: saving money, reduced energy bills, doing your bit for the environment, becoming more independent from the National Grid, and the list goes on…
But you might also have heard slightly less appealing accounts of the disadvantages to solar power, and let’s be honest, there are pros and cons to everything in life. And, as ever, we’re here to help resolve any doubts you may have before you take the first steps on going solar.
So let’s take a look at one question in particular: Do solar panels pose any fire risks?
Well, the reality is that yes, solar panel fire is a real occurrence, and is something that you should be aware of, whether you’re a new user or have long subscribed to solar energy.
The good news is that there are ways to prevent the chances of a fire happening, so let’s take a look at some of them, along with some of the common causes of outbreaks.
How common are solar panel fires?
In the grand scheme of things, solar panel fires are rare, but they do happen.
There isn’t a lot of clear data out there detailing the frequency of fire outbreaks with PV panels, but there is a report from Germany that claims of the 1.7 million panels installed there, around 430 have been involved in fires. Of those fires, only 210 were provoked by the panels themselves.
Despite solar panels generally being reliable and there being only a very low probability of solar panel fire occurring in your installation, we believe it’s of vital importance that homeowners and businesses are informed of the risks, and the preventative measures.
Causes of solar panel fires
The majority of fires related to PV panels were provoked by problems with the DC isolators and ‘electrical arcing’ – that is, a live wire sending electricity into the air.
Solar panels can also suffer fire damage for the following reasons:
- Poorly designed systems
- Improperly installed electrical equipment
- Faulty products
- Power surges
These are all potential causes of fires, as they lead to hot spots within the system.
So now that you know the causes, how can a solar panel fire be prevented?
Preventing solar panel fire
Here are some of the best ways to limit the risk of a fire in your solar panel system:
- Choosing experienced solar panel installers
Getting a fully-trained, licensed, solar panel expert to install your solar panels will save you many headaches later on.
Never attempt to install solar panels yourself – you may save on costs, but it is not safe, and can increase your chances of a solar panel fire.
- Invest in quality solar panels
Just as you shouldn’t cut corners with the installation of panels, don’t go for the cheaper option when it comes to the panels themselves.
Cheaper panels may malfunction, causing a fire, which will only lead to higher financial losses in the long run.
Always opt for the slightly more expensive model, as they are sure to perform better long-term and will be less prone to failure or risks.
- Carry out regular system maintenance
Get the most out of your solar panels and avoid fires by regularly cleaning and maintaining your solar system.
Check for chewed cables or fallen debris, and make sure you get a professional to take a look – don’t attempt to go up on the roof yourself.
- Use non-combustible insulation
Using anti-inflammable panel points is a great idea, as is using non-combustible insulation, such as mineral wool. If you do, then any fire that might break out will not be able to spread.
Combustible materials like polystyrene insulation should be avoided at all costs.
- Consider taking measures to help the fire brigade
This is not really a preventative measure, but it’s a great way to help firefighters to extinguish any fires that do break out, with greater efficiency.
Just by adding clear labelling to your system, with system information, you can make their job easier.
You could also consider installing an easily accessible DC isolator switch/circuit breaker (also known as a ‘fireman switch’) which can cut off the electrical flow from the PV panels so they can be isolated remotely.
So the good news is that solar panel fires are rare, and they can easily be prevented with just a little time, investment, and forward planning. If you’d like to learn more about how to maintain and protect your solar panel system, get in touch with us today.