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Check That Your Solar Panels Are Working
Installing solar panels in your home helps reduce noise and environmental pollution. You also don't have to pay extra electricity bills as the energy is obtained from natural resources. Small local businesses often use solar panels to minimise their energy costs.
Solar panels work by converting sunlight that falls on the PV cells into electrical energy. They need consistent care and maintenance because not testing your solar panels from time to time can risk your safety. Furthermore, the quality of unmaintained solar panels also reduces quickly, and they soon lose their efficiency.
In contrast, testing solar panels can increase their lifespan by up to 25 years. If you don't know how to test a solar panel, we are here to help. This article will run you through the steps to test a solar panel and the benefits of doing this regularly. So, let's dive right in!
Testing Solar Panels
Here are the top three ways to test solar panels quickly and detect any damage:
Measure open circuit voltage using a multimeter
You can test solar panels by using a multimeter to measure the open circuit voltage (Voc). Follow the below steps below to accurately calculate the open circuit voltage of your solar panel.
- Search for the open circuit on the back of your solar panel.
- Prepare your multimeter to calculate the direct current volts. For this purpose, plug the probe into the COM (Common) terminal, and then plug the red probe into the voltage terminal.
- Set it yourself if the voltage range isn't auto-generated on your multimeter. It is usually denoted by a solid dark line above the dotted line, right next to the letter V.
- Next, take your solar panel outside and place it at an angle that faces the sunlight.
- Find the negative and positive solar panel cables. The positive solar panel cable has a red band around it and an MC4 connector.
- Now connect the black probe with the metal pin inside the negative cable MC4 and connect the red one with the metal pin inside the positive cable MC4.
- Read the voltage on your multimeter and check if it matches the Voc of your solar panel. If it matches or is around the Voc, your solar panel is working alright.
However, if the voltage of the multimeter and solar panel doesn't match, it means your solar panel isn't in good condition, or you've made some mistakes while measuring.
Measure short circuit current
Measuring your solar panel's short circuit current (Isc) is another way of testing your solar panel condition. Here is the step-by-step process to calculate the ISC:
- First of all, find the short circuit current on the back of your solar panel.
- Next, prep your multimeter, connect the red probe to the amperage terminal, and set the amp range.
- Take your solar panel under direct sunlight and connect the red probe inside the metal pin of the positive cable MC4 and the black probe inside the metal pin of the negative cable MC4.
- Check if the current on your multimeter is the same or near to the current on the solar panel. If yes, then your solar panel is good and working.
Use a solar charge connector
If you find the above methods challenging, you can also check the efficiency of your solar panel through a solar charge connector. Through it, you can measure the PV voltage, current, and power output in watts.
- Connect the battery of the solar panel with the charge connector.
- Next, attach the watt meter in line with the charge controller adapter cables or wires.
- Connect the solar panel system with the charge connector to make a system that helps you calculate the power output.
- Place your solar panel in direct sunlight. The watt meter will automatically start calculating the solar panels' output as soon as the sun rays hit the panel. This system can also check how much power your solar panel generates in a day.
Important Note: Once your watt meter turns off, it means the solar panel isn't giving any power output. After restarting, the watt meter will not show previous data and will start the calculation from zero again.
Reasons To Test Solar Panels Regularly
Regular testing of your solar system not only enhances the lifespan of solar panels but also prevents you from several risks. Here are a few reasons solar panel testing is essential.
Compliance with IEC rules
IEC 62446 recommends that solar panel users periodically check their panels and maintain them well. This includes cleaning, commissioning tests, and examination of the PV system. The standard also specifies that you or a licensed professional should document every periodic checking, and if there's any issue, you or a trusted solar professional should repair it.
Prevent fire spread
As solar panel installation on roofs is becoming popular, so is the news of homes catching fire. A common reason behind the sudden fire eruption is a fault in your solar panel PV system. So, when you keep up with the periodic testing of your solar panel, you can detect these minor issues that may turn into big problems and reduce the potential fire risk.
Like almost all electrical equipment, solar panels are also installed with grounded wiring to prevent anyone from getting electrocuted. If you don't inspect the ground wiring every now and then, it may degrade over time resulting in fire and electric shocks.
The electric shock may not be deadly but can cause severe injuries. Hence, it is always suggested to keep yourself updated with the grounding condition of your solar panels. You can also get the services of a professional electrician for this purpose.
Faults in the ground wiring
As mentioned above, the solar system has the maximum amount of grounded wiring. So, suppose you've used poor insulation materials around these wires or cables. In that case, chances are that the energy generated from them will get dispersed into the earth, reducing the overall efficiency of your solar panel.
To avoid such a situation, you should get professional help and get your ground wiring checked to detect if there's any power leakage or not. Thereby, you can get the maximum potential out of your solar panel.
Corrosion and environmental degradation
The sun is the energy source for solar panels, which is why they are placed outside, where they get maximum sunlight. However, PV systems are also very prone to environmental damages that may reduce their lifespan.
The cabling and other connections also get damaged due to the consistent exposure to harmful elements, increasing the fire risk. That's why you should do regular system maintenance to avoid all these issues and fix any minor ones on time.
The product warranty card rules may demand regular checking and monitoring of PV solar systems to avoid problems caused by your negligence. This is because solar companies usually don't give a refund or replacement for a product damaged by one's irresponsibility.
Causes Of Damage To Your Solar Panels
Since the solar panel is mainly made of glass, it is prone to damage. Let's quickly look at a few factors that damage the quality of your solar panels.
Falling dirt or debris
It doesn't matter how small the debris is; it can cause minor scratches on your panel's screen. These include twigs, leaves, or dirt. The scratches reduce your solar panels' energy output and prevent sunlight from reaching the PV cells.
As a result, the overall energy usage goes up. The heavier the dirt, the more the damage. For instance, branches falling on the panel can break them completely.
Natural disasters like unexpected hail storms can destroy your costly solar panels. You can't do much about it. However, if you dwell in an area where storms are typical or have a hail storm warning, you should take proper preventive measures to save your solar panels.
Do you know the constant minor leakage in your home is damaging the efficiency of your solar panels? When sealant gets worn out, this causes water to erupt through walls and enter the solar panels. This results in a severe short circuit or burning of the solar panels.
Solar panels are made of small wafer-like silicone cells or chips. So, when the elements present in nature cause natural and mechanical stress on the panel, tiny cracks appear on its surface that aren't visible to the human eye. You can't protect your solar panel from them; however, if you have a warranty card, the company will refund or give you a new replacement for the cracked panel.
Repairing Broken Solar Panels
If your negligence or a storm has resulted in broken solar panels, you can repair them by following these steps:
- First, get a laminating sheet, squeegee, and heat gun.
- Spread the whole broken panel with the laminating sheet as it's a cost-effective way of repairing the broken glass of the panel.
- Now use the squeegee and heat gun to press and fix the sheet at the edges of the panel.
- And that's it; your panel is sealed!
Solar panels still work even though they are broken, but it's suggested to cover them because moisture can quickly enter through the cracks, causing short circuits or a sudden burn.
Types Of Solar Panels
There are multiple types of solar panels on the market. However, three primary types include the following.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline is the right option if you are looking for an efficient solar panel. You can easily recognise them through their dark and uniform texture. These solar PV panels have the highest power output rate, occupy little space, and last longer than the others available in the market.
Furthermore, they are also least affected by any environmental change. But all these features mean they are the most expensive ones, and not everyone can afford them.
Polycrystalline solar panels
You can quickly identify these solar panels as they have square-shaped blocks with no edges and are blue in colour. They are made of melted raw silicone, which is a cheaper and less efficient material compared to monocrystalline. Their efficiency is about 15%, which is also less than monocrystalline solar panels, but they work great for home usage.
You can get these solar panels at a low price, but the power output is the same as the monocrystalline ones. However, they can easily get affected by sudden temperature changes, specifically by hot temperatures.
Thin-film solar cells
If you want a cheaper option, you should use thin film solar panels. These solar panels are manufactured by placing multiple films of photovoltaic material like silicone, cadmium, or copper on a substrate. They are straightforward to manufacture and a budget-friendly option for people who want to cut their electricity bills.
Moreover, thin film solar panels are flexible and are resistant to environmental damage. Their one downside is that they take a lot of space, so they're not the best option for residential usage. You should also know that their lifespan is much lower; hence, they can stop working after a few months of use.
Amorphous silicon solar panels
These solar panels look a lot like solar-powered calculators as the primary manufacturing material is the same in both. The thin film used in these panels has a diameter of 1 micrometre, while the efficiency is 7 percent, which is a lot lower than all the above-discussed types of solar panels. You can use it for supporting small appliances as it's the most economical solar panel available on the market.
Repair Or Replace Damaged Solar Panels
Testing a solar panel is essential as it saves you from several potential safety risks. Moreover, it also enhances your solar panel's efficiency so that you can save on your overall energy usage. If you detect any issues with your solar panels after testing them, it is crucial to contact a solar professional to help repair or replace the panels, as the case may be.