Solar PV systems are relatively maintenance free but shouldn’t be neglected if they are to be as efficient as possible. During its lifetime a solar PV system should be under a form of maintenance regime with a contract placed with a reputable solar PV installer and maintainer. This should include an annual check, clean and system operational test to ensure peak-performance is available. Whilst solar panels will last for many years they do require cleaning from bird debris and other things that can coat the PV panels and so reduce their effectiveness. The solar inverter will also require occasional maintenance and inspection.
A check on system performance itself is a good indication as to whether equipment renewals may be required and should be checked at least twice a year. This can be done by the owner and does not require an engineer visit to carry out the test. On a sunny day in March and September every year, review the output of the system at around midday. Keep a record and compare each reading with the previous year’s. A rapid decline may indicate a system problem and it is then time to call in the engineers. It is also a good idea, as part of solar maintenance, to clean the PV array once a year (but only when it is cool) if there is a noticeable build up of dust or deposits. Inspect the system to ensure wiring has not degraded and all connections are sound.
Many solar PV systems have standard warranties of many years – often as long as the anticipated lifetime of the panels (20-30 years). But there are many components within a system that do not have the same life expectancy as the panels themselves, such as inverters (design life 10 years, but the inverter warranty may be as little as 12 months). The cost of replacing these components should be factored in at the outset of the solar PV installation project. As already stated, reputable manufacturers will offer solar maintenance service, which includes an annual inspection, clean, service, parts and labour. Some solar energy installers also offer system level warranties that guarantee system performance at a specified level (specified at the design stage and documented).
Power and energy metering is the key component of the system that provides feedback on performance. Without proper metering, user and installers will never know whether your solar PV system is operating optimally or not. A simple meter, registering the power output of the PV system and recording the energy delivered to the house, will satisfy the owner that they can monitor system performance continually. With proper metering, an informed owner can easily determine whether their renewable power system is operating properly or not.