5 Troubleshooting tips for broken solar panels

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Have you invested a sizable sum into a solar panel only for it to break or stop producing the amount of energy you want it to? Issues like these can be a pain to sort out, so here we will highlight some of the most common ones.

The most commonly reported issues were with inverters.

Inverter issues were also the most serious and, in some cases, prevented the solar panel system from generating any usable energy. Some 55% of those who experienced a problem said that their inverter became inoperable – a fault which can cost more than £900 for a professional to fix, according to our survey.

From birds nesting under the panels to inverter problems, there are a lot of issues that could pop up that can affect your solar panels. Here are some of the most common solar panel problems.

Image is taken from: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/06/most-common-solar-panel-problems-and-how-to-solve-them/

Inverter problems

Half of the inverter problems are actually due to the solar array having a faulty panel or cable and the inverter detecting this, according to Bright Green Renewables managing director Mark Partridge.

If the inverter is showing an error message, refer to the manual (or search online) to find out what it means. Check that the solar PV breaker in your consumer unit is in the on/up position, Ask Renewables advises. If it’s off (this can happen after a power cut), flick it on. If it trips to the off position again, call an engineer. If it stays on, check the inverter for error messages.

How urgently should I get it fixed? Without the inverter, you won’t be able to use electricity generated by your solar panels. So you won’t benefit from free electricity, or the feed-in tariff (if you get it). If the inverter is off or in fault mode, it is generally safe, Ask Renewables explained.

Bird’s Nesting Under Your Solar Panels

Birds nesting under your solar panel’s, or even squirrels is a pain, especially if they scratch them, damage the wiring or soil them.

You can buy plastic strips and attach them to the panels to help stop animals from being able to squeeze underneath. Or if you’re considering installing solar panels, consider roof-integrated panels. These can be complex to retrofit but are built into the roof, leaving no gaps for birds or rodents to get underneath them.

How urgently should I get it fixed? Birds nesting under your panels is annoying and can result in damage. But it’s less urgent an issue to tackle than other problems.

Panels building up dirt

This might be caused by bird droppings, traffic pollution if you live in an urban area, or a build-up of salt if you live near the coast. A heavy rainstorm should usually be enough to wash off most dirt. Although if you notice that it’s building up a lot, then it could mean your panels generate less electricity than their potential.

How urgently should I get it fixed? Unless the build-up of dirt is very thick, or a significant amount has accumulated on one panel (perhaps a pigeon sits on your TV aerial and its droppings fall onto one panel), it’s unlikely to cause a problem beyond a slight drop in generation. So it’s worth fixing but isn’t urgent.

Hot spots

Hot spots are among the most common issues with solar or PV systems. They can degrade the function of your solar panels and even render them irreparable. Hot spots occur when panels get too warm and overload. They are caused by several things, including the accumulation of dirt on the panels. They can also be caused by badly soldered connections, which result in low resistance in the part of the panel that generates power. This problem can lower the performance and lifespan of solar panels.

How urgently should I get it fixed? ASAP! If you notice hot spots appearing on your solar panels you need to contact someone as soon as you can. If you don’t get this sorted out then it could lead to you losing your solar panel.

Snail trails

Another common solar panel problem is known as “snail trail” contamination. The name here comes from the brown lines that show up on your panels, giving the appearance that snails have traversed the surface. Snail trails usually only manifest after a few years and are caused by several factors, including defective silver paste (which is used in the manufacture of the panels).

This, in turn, causes moisture build-up, which results in oxidation between the encapsulation material and the silver paste. Also, snail trail contamination may result from microscopic cracks in the PV system. The problem reduces the performance of the solar system and causes it to fail prematurely.

How urgently should I get it fixed? This isn’t a super urgent problem to get fixed, but it could sap the efficiency of your panels overtime. If you notice this appearing on your panels then it may be a good idea to call someone just to let you know what the best course of action is.