Flood Safety For Solar Systems
If you live in an area affected by recent floods in Louisiana, your solar system electronics may have received water damage.Please be aware of special safety requirements for solar systems that may apply to the installation on your home or business. An inspection of the equipment should be performed by solar technicians or an electrician experienced in solar inverters.
- Almost every solar electric (PV) system will involve a connection between the solar system and the utility meter on the home or business. Most solar electric systems are divided into three types: string inverter systems, microinverter systems, and battery solar systems. All three types can be affected by flood waters.
- String inverter systems combine solar panels into “strings” of higher voltage and use one or more large wall-mounted inverters to process solar power. Electrical conduits in attics and along walls connect rooftop or ground-mount panels to the inverter at up to 600 Volts DC. Under normal circumstances this voltage is safely contained in metal conduit, but storm and water damage, as well as construction demolition, can expose wiring and make for an unsafe situation.If water has reached the string inverters or nearby electrical disconnects, the electronics and contacts in the equipment will be compromised and will be unsafe for continued use. Even if the equipment is dried out and continues to function, it should be immediately shut off and inspected for replacement by the original installer or a licensed solar contractor. Before any demolition in the area of solar equipment, an electrician must inspect the system and disconnect panels at the roof, and then confirm with measuring tools that no voltage remains from solar panels anywhere in the facility or home.
- Microinverter systems feature smaller inverters located behind the panels on a rooftop or ground mount system, and use more typical “romex” electrical wiring to deliver 240VAC electricity to the utility meter. This type of installation behaves more like a standard AC circuit, and will shut off once power to the building or circuit is disconnected. Before beginning demolition work on a facility with a solar microinverter system, turn off the AC solar disconnect near the utility meter, and disconnect the system at the roof level to avoid any accidental activation of the solar system.
- Battery solar systems include an array of solar panels, as well as a battery bank and battery inverter that is often located inside the building or home. If any part of a battery system has flooded, it will be compromised electrically and should be turned off for inspection. Battery systems should be disconnected at the roof, meter, and if possible, disconnected from the battery bank by switch or by a technician. If the only component to receive flooding was a bank of sealed batteries, the batteries may still have taken on contaminated water and will eventually fail. It is best to have a trained technician disconnect these components during inspection and replace as needed.
- Solar electric systems contain high voltages and amperages that can cause personal and property damage and are potentially fatal if serviced by inexperienced personnel. Please make sure to work with your original installer, an electrician experienced in solar or a licensed solar contractor to ensure that your system is safely inspected and/or disconnected after storms and flooding.