Solar Electricity Handbook 2011: A Simple Practical Guide to Solar Energy - Designing and Installing Photovoltaic Solar Electric Systems - Michael Boxwell (2011)

Maintaining Your System

There is very little maintenance to be carried out on a solar electric system. There are some basic checks that should be carried out on a regular basis. Typically these should take no more than a few minutes to carry out.

As required

·       Clean the solar array. This actually takes very little effort: unless you live in a very dry and dusty part of the world, the rain will usually do a very good job of washing your solar panels clean on a regular basis

·       Telescopic window cleaner kits are available to clean solar arrays mounted on lower sections of a roof. If you can easily access the panels, a dirt- and rain-repellent glass polish can help keep your solar array cleaner for longer

·       If you have a thick layer of snow on your solar array, brush it off! A thick blanket of snow very quickly stops your solar array from producing any energy at all

Every month

·       If your solar controller or inverter includes a display that shows power input and power output, check the performance of your solar array. Check that it is in line with your expectations for the time of year. It is worth keeping a log of the performance so you can compare it from one year to the next

·       If there is an unexplained drop in performance, clean the solar array, visually check the condition of the cables and balance the batteries. If the performance does not improve, follow the troubleshooting guide for further assistance

Every three months

·       Check the ventilation in the battery box

·       Check the battery area is still weatherproof and there are no leaks from the batteries

·       Clean dirt and dust off the top of batteries

·       Visually check all the battery connectors. Make sure they are tightly-fitting. Clean and protect them with petroleum jelly where required

·       Check the electrolyte level in batteries and top up with distilled water where required

Every six months

·       If you have a multi-battery system and your solar controller has the facilities to do so, balance the battery bank

·       Once the batteries are balanced, use a volt meter or multi-meter to check the voltage on each individual battery. Ensure the voltages are within 0.7 volts of each other

·       If one or more battery has a big difference in voltage, follow the instructions on weak batteries in the troubleshooting section of this book

Every year

·       If you have a battery bank with more than two batteries, swap the order of the batteries in your bank. Place the batteries that were in the middle of your bank at either end and the batteries that were at either end of your bank in the middle. Then balance them

·       This will ensure that all the batteries get even wear throughout their lifetime and thereby increase the overall lifespan of the batteries

At the start of each winter

·       Check the insulation around the batteries

·       Check that the area around the batteries is free of rodents. Mice and rats like to keep warm, and insulation around batteries is a tempting target. If they have found your batteries, they are likely to gnaw the cabling as well

·       Clean the solar array to ensure you get the best possible performance at the worst time of the year