Solar panels are a sound investment for a more sustainable planet while empowering positive change in the world. But, of course, it doesn’t hurt that you can save money on your electric bills, too. Solar panel systems have numerous benefits, but some people are concerned about potential problems or drawbacks before installing them.
To help raise awareness, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common problems with solar panels, as well as ways on how to address them. This can help you become knowledgeable enough to diagnose these solar panel problems and perform basic troubleshooting to save time and money.
8 Common Solar Panel Problems and How to Diagnose Them
Solar panels require little maintenance, but as with any product, problems can arise. Here’s how to deal with them (or avoid them altogether). In many cases, what appears to be a solar issue may not be so serious after all.
1. Inverter Problems
The solar inverter is an essential component of any solar system, converting the direct current (DC) energy generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) to supply electricity.
However, inverter problems can occur. More than a tenth of owners (12%) in a Which survey reported having issues with their inverter, accounting for 25% of all problems stated. They were also the most serious, preventing the solar panel system from producing any usable electricity in some cases. According to the same survey, 55% of those who experienced inverter problems said it became inoperable.
Solar panels can last up to 25 years or more and generate a lot of clean energy during that time if maintained properly. On the other hand, home solar inverters have a shorter lifespan, typically 10 to 15 years, so always make it a habit to check the indicator light: Green means all systems are working fine, and red means it’s time to call your provider.
2. Animal Nests Under the Panels
Solar panels on the roof also provide shelter to birds, making them an ideal nesting location. They’re also an excellent defense against predators and, ironically, the heat of the sun.
Because birds are known to cover solar panels in droppings, leaving less surface area for energy generation, they may need to be cleaned more frequently. Remember, the longer they are left there, the harder they are to clean due to their acidity, leaving hot spots that may need professional cleaning.
Squirrels have also been known to nest under solar panels or gnaw through cables. Barriers can be installed around the exterior of your solar panels to prevent birds and squirrels from entering the spaces beneath them.
3. Overheating System
Checking for heat fade or hot spots is a simple way to determine if your panels have temperature issues. These are the areas of the panels that become overloaded and overheated. Improperly soldered connections typically cause them, but they can also be the result of a structural flaw.
Excessively high temperatures cause your panels to perform poorly. This is common, but it is not always an indication of faulty panels. If heat fade or hot spots are the cause, you may notice that you have less power during the hottest times of the day, so you should always do your best to avoid this from happening to protect your solar panels.
High temperatures can often affect specific sections of your panel installation rather than the entire system. These areas may deteriorate faster than others and can eventually cause a short circuit, reducing the performance and the overall lifespan of a panel. This problem may require you to call a professional, and if the damage is severe, the panel will need to be replaced.
4. Loose Wiring
Unexpected electrical issues can be caused by faulty wiring. Remember that a solar panel system includes a network of wires that connects individual PV cells, home solar batteries, and inverters. As a result, there are several places where connections may fail.
Loose connections can disrupt electricity production and lead to oxidation and corrosion. You should not attempt to interfere with the wiring if you are not a licensed technician. Professional installers use meters and other tools to pinpoint problems. They can also disconnect faulty components to prevent them from causing damage to other parts of your system.
Ultimately, the safest option is to contact a reputable solar panel technician and have them thoroughly inspect the panel system to ensure there are no problems.
Microscopic tears in crystalline PV panels can occur from time to time, compromising the solar cells. They can happen during production, but they can also occur during shipping, exposure to extreme weather, or careless installation.
These micro-fractures may not always have an immediate impact, but they frequently grow and cause larger cracks over time and affect efficiency. Unfortunately, little can be done to repair them once it reaches this point, and the panels must be replaced.
Diagnosing these micro-cracks can pose a challenge, so it would be best to leave them to experts. Technicians inspect panels using electroluminescence crack detection (ELCD) testing.
6. Damage Because of Dirt
The most common cause of poor solar panel performance is dirt. From dust to leaves and other debris, these environmental issues may appear and sound minor, but they can prevent your system from producing as much power as it should.
Cleaning is a simple fix that should be done regularly. Because soiling can reduce your output by about 5%, hosing down your panels clean is a good idea. Unless you reside in a particularly dusty area, this is usually sufficient. If the dirt has hardened, remove them with a soft push broom—or simply hire a cleaning crew to get it done.
7. Snail Trails
Another common problem with solar panels is “snail trail” contamination. The name was derived from the brown lines that appear on the surface that give the impression snails have traversed the surface.
Microscopic cracks in the PV system can also cause snail trail contamination. The issue reduces performance and, combined with various factors that include faulty silver paste used in manufacturing, causes the panels to fail prematurely.
The best way to avoid snail trails is to work with a reputable solar panel company that sells high-quality products and provides a long-term product warranty. This way, you can be confident that your solar panels will be taken care of if they encounter any problems. It is also recommended to have the installation inspected by a technician every two years to ensure that everything is in working order.
8. PID Effect
Potentially induced degradation (PID) happens when there are voltage fluctuations between a panel and its earthing. Solar panel systems must be earthed for safety reasons; however, if the earthing and voltage generated do not match, a partial voltage discharge can occur in the main power circuit. This results in ongoing performance loss and a shorter lifespan for your PV panel.
Fortunately, there are ways to detect, prevent, and even reverse this issue with special equipment, which may be worth investing in if you want to keep your panels in good condition in the long run.
Solar Solutions for a Brighter Tomorrow
It’s essential to learn how to diagnose these solar panel problems and perhaps solve them before they get serious. And, it’s even more important to know the right people who can fix the problems that go beyond your DIY capabilities.
Need help? Contact SolarNRG, the leading expert in solar power panels. The company can provide the expert manpower to install, repair, and maintain solar panel installations for your home or business.