A home solar power system or a Photovoltaic (PV) system normally includes a series of solar panels consisting of a set of interconnected solar cells, an inverter, a battery and interconnecting wiring. Solar panels can be easily constructed at home as a Do It Yourself (DIY) exercise.
However, sometimes the solar electrical system installed at home does not function properly. Nothing can be more irritating than finding, when one gets up in the morning, the solar panel indicating low pressure even when there is a bright sunshine.
It is even more exasperating to find that the batteries are weak. It is extremely difficult to identify the problem, especially if someone is outside his home and is in a shed on a mountain or in a farmhouse, where additional power from the solar electrical system is absolutely essential.
If assembled properly, solar cells and arrays are highly dependable and can withstand extreme weather conditions and even hailstones, solar panel systems are, luckily, very durable and generally, trouble-free. However, on some occasions they, too, develop some faults.
If such a situation arises, the faults should be located and rectified without any delay; otherwise the other components can also get damaged because of excessive power loads on them. Let us assume that the solar arrays have been functioning efficiently for quite some time and that the lower power generation due to malfunctioning of the solar system occurred all of a sudden and is an unforeseen development.
Unfortunately, this post cannot devote any space to deal with topics on tips to rectify the faults of either controller or inverter. If the solar array system was a purchased one, it may be better to go through the instructions manual and read the troubleshooting tips offered in the diagnostic chapter of the manual.
Alternatively, it is also advisable to contact the dealer or the manufacturer who supplied the system. They would be able to answer all the queries relating to the problem and offer solutions.
On the other hand, if the array is a Do It Yourself (DIY) project, the fault can be easily located and it may not be difficult to get the system back in operation.
However, before checking and rectification work is initiated, taking proper precautions is absolutely essential as the solar array generates electricity. If one is not confident, it is always advisable to seek the services of a professional for assistance.
Troubleshooting A Homemade Solar Energy System
The following guidelines may help to sort out the problem:
1) Take out the power isolation switch or even better, disconnect the terminals of the battery.
2) Inspect the panels to ensure that they are free from dust and leaves. It is a common feature to find heaps of leaves on the surface of solar panel in autumn, particularly if it is a farmhouse or a house on the hills.
3) Verify if there is any new electrical appliance in the house that consumes more power than anticipated.
4) Make sure that no equipment in the house is defective. If an appliance is not working efficiently, it is bound to drain out more power.
5) Ensure that there is no physical damage to either the surface of the solar panel or their configuration.
6) Ensure that the terminals of the battery are not corroded.
7) Make sure that controller and inverter are functioning efficiently and that the connections are intact.
8) Verify the power leads and ensure that wiring is not damaged.
9) Make sure that there are no tree branches on the cables and that entire wiring is intact without any breaks or worn out insulation.
10) Take a look at the roof and ensure that there are no electrocuted animals that may have damaged internal wiring.
11) Ensure that panel output leads are properly connected and are not affected due to corrosion.
12) Finally, disconnect the panels and find out, in bright sun, whether they are generating almost optimum level of electricity.
After checking all the essential parts of the solar electrical system, it is necessary to check the functioning of the panels. For this, the array should be disconnected to find out whether electricity is passing through the output lead properly.
After ensuring that that power supply is good, the performance of controller and inverter should be confirmed, besides checking carefully in-house wiring and various appliances in the house.