Consider this scenario: You’ve invested in a solar power system for your home, and you anticipate it to last at least two decades. After only one year, though, the solar system begins to trip. Given the amount of money and work that went into installing it, it can be frustrating, right?
Don’t get too worked up; did you know you can solve the problem on your own? All you need to know is learn to troubleshoot a solar power system and solve the issues you find. This article will explain you how to do just that.
Why is my solar system not working as intended?
Perhaps you discovered this when you received an outrageously high electric bill. Perhaps it was when you realised your solar panel system wasn’t producing as much energy as it should.
Unable to spot the problem, you wondered: “What should I do? I think my solar power system is not working properly.”
Solar systems are unique, and so are the challenges and difficulties that come with owning them. Note that solar systems are relatively maintenance-free and most issues, if not all, can be avoided if you use a certified CEC-installer. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with some of the most common solar system problems. For your confidence and peace of mind, make sure to use these DIY solar system troubleshooting tips below.
Read our Solar Power System Troubleshooting and Solar Repair Guide to know some of the most common problems faced by solar panel owners.
If your solar panel system isn’t performing as it should, the first step in troubleshooting your solar energy system is to do a hard reset.
How to Hard Reset Your Solar Energy System
A hard reset is the first step in diagnosing an issue with your solar energy system. If your inverter is showing a yellow or red light, a hard reset is similar to rebooting your computer.
- Turn off your solar inverter. Find the location of your solar inverter. You may be able to skip this step depending on the type of inverter you have. After you’ve identified your solar inverter, find the AC/DC toggle switch and turn it off.
- Turn off your Solar AC disconnect. Located near your solar inverter, there should be a gray disconnect box with a black or red handle. Move the lever in the “off” position to turn it off. Be ready for a loud popping sound.
- Turn off the main electrical panel’s solar breaker. Next step is to check the main electrical panel. There should be a breaker dedicated to solar on the inside labeled as “Photovolatic,” “Solar PV,” or “Solar System.” Be sure to flip that set of breakers to the “Off” position.
- Wait for a minute. Your solar energy system has now been turned off completely. Turn your solar system back on after waiting at least a minute to determine if the problem has been resolved. To do this, simply reverse the steps.
- Set your solar power system’s breakers to “On.” Turn on the set of breakers dedicated to your solar power system in the main electrical panel.
- Turn on your Solar AC Disconnect. Simply go back to your AC disconnect box and look for the black or red lever. Check if it’s in the “Off” position, then make sure the lever is in the “On” position.
- Turn on your solar inverter. Locate your solar inverter again, find the AC/DC toggle switch and turn it on.
If you are unable to determine the source of the problem after performing these basic troubleshooting steps, it is best that you contact a qualified PV installer. A certified installer can help troubleshoot a solar system. Here at Venergy, we always recommend contacting the solar provider that installed your solar energy system first. If in any event that your solar company goes out of business or is too busy to send a technician, know that we can help you.
Possible reasons why your system is not working
Since quality solar panels are engineered to last for 25 years, a defect in system components other than the panels, like the solar inverter, charge controller, wiring, or batteries, is the most likely source of a problem. The solar system may experience one of two failure modes which may require troubleshooting:
- Zero Power Output (No Power)
- Low Voltage Issue
Troubleshooting: Zero Power Output
Zero output is a common problem, and it’s caused by a faulty inverter or charge controller in nine out of ten cases? It’s also possible that one of your PV array’s solar panels has failed. Because the PV modules are connected in series, if one of them fails, the entire system will shut down.
Did you know that almost half of all major solar system failures are due to inverter problems? When an inverter fails and produces zero energy, the entire system usually shuts down. A quick health check is to look at the inverter and analyse the colour of the lights that shine on the box during daytime hours while the device is supposed to operate.
Key Point: “A green light on your inverter means your system is working properly. A red or orange light during daylight hours indicates there's a system event or fault.”
Troubleshooting: Low Power Situation
A low power situation occurs when your solar system does not deliver the amount of power that it is rated for. This is the most common issue, and a few easy troubleshooting steps can help you locate the cause of the problem. The following factors may contribute to a low power issue:
Temperature – As odd as it may seem, solar panels function poorly when the temperature gets too high. The voltage will continue to drop as the temperature of the solar panels increases. This problem can be solved by adding more modules in series and therefore raising the string voltage. Make sure also that there’s an appropriate air circulation beneath the panels and that this open area is not obstructed in any way.
Shading – Shading is perhaps the most common cause of low voltage as it interferes with the sunlight that powers the solar panels. Make sure there are no trees in the area and that the solar panels are not shaded at any time of day. Remember that a solar systems lasts for more than 25 years and that trees grow with time. Hence, it’s recommended to do a bi-annual inspection of the installation.
Worried about the effects of shading on the performance of your solar panels? Find out more here.
Faulty solar panels – Solar panels may show some defects such as junction box faults or delamination. Other solar panel defects are PID (Potential Induced Degradation), micro cracks and UV discoloring are some other solar panel faults. So when this happens, contact the solar company who installed your system to see if your damaged panels need to be repaired or replaced.
Faulty connections – Low power output may also be caused by a faulty or loose connection. You can use a multi-meter to examine the voltage levels at various points to determine where the low voltage problem occurs. Chances are you won’t have this problem if your system was professionally wired, but it’s worth checking for.
Are you prepared to address your home solar system issues?
Remember there isn’t a problem with a solar panel system that can’t be solved. It’s simply a matter of locating the issue and determining what caused it.
After providing high-quality solar installations and saving thousands every year for homes and businesses across Australia, trust us, here at Venergy, we’ve thought of everything and more. We have a team of CEC accredited installers and qualified electricians who will help with your solar journey – from start to finish. We are committed to providing top quality service with particular focus on high-quality products and installation methods, to help Australians keep their solar systems running flawlessly and enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy.
If you know anyone who is having problems with their solar system, why not lend them a hand? Share this article with them, or read our Frequently Asked Questions if you got more solar questions. If you don’t see the answer you are looking for, give us a call on 1800 836 374. We can assist you in finding a solar system that’s right for you and best suits your needs.