The super fast advent of solar panels + storage has led to a number of ‘cowboys’ in the market – you need to ensure you’re using a trusted installer and quality parts to ensure your solar investment works in the long term and minimises any solar panel fire risk. The recent discussion over battery storage laws in Australia highlights the fact that we need to do our best to keep shoddy products and installers away from the market – but what can you do in the meantime if you want to get a solar system installed? Read on to learn more about solar panel fire risks and how to mitigate them!
Solar Panel Fire Risk – A recap
Recently in the UK solar panels caught fire at a new block of flats in east London and the blaze was contained by 80 firefighters. Another fire in Thornton Heath, south London, is also being blamed on solar panels.
Closer to home, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Victoria have, according to The Australian, had quite a few solar panel related fires to put out – “In the past five years, MFB has responded to more than 40 fires involving solar panels,” a spokeswoman said.
In Queensland, between September 2010 and June 2015, 201 fires related to solar PV installations were tracked. Of these, 78 were related to devices that have already been recalled, mostly DC isolators. The recalled DC isolators were created at an ‘affordable’ price point and had faulty designs, where the internal switch contacts were able to overheat. For example, the Avenco isolator was recalled after 26,000 were sold and the supplier of the brand was then placed in liquidation. As such, it’s important to take a look at who you’re buying from, the quality of their product, and remember that you can’t necessarily compare ‘oranges with oranges’ – just because products appear similar, there can be vast differences in quality, not to mention installer reliability. Ensure you choose a firm who are in it for the ‘long haul’ – and remember cheapest is very rarely the best choice when it comes to solar power systems.
Why do solar panels catch on fire?
It’s important to note that the vast majority of these cases are due to poor install jobs or ultra-cheap components – as the old adage goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. In a market saturated with choice, it can appear that you’re comparing apples with apples if they’re both 5kW systems with 270W panels – but there’s a lot more to a solar system than just basic figures.
The biggest issues are due to faulty inverters, wiring connectors or DC isolators.
With that said, according to Neil Fraser, the director of Energy Safe Victoria, “at least” eight models of solar panel have been removed from the market over the past five years due to concerns about their safety. Choose a trusted installer and do your research before you invest in solar – check reviews, give the company a call, and research the individual components of your proposed system on the internet.
How do I choose a safe solar panel?
This comes down to a) using a safe solar installer and b) using quality parts. If you go for the cheapest option you are compromising on build quality, installation quality, and subsequent end result. As said above, we strongly recommend you research every component of any system you may be thinking about purchasing, and ask installers if you can talk to any prior customers, or have a look at some work they’ve done previously. Saving a few dollars can cost you a lot in the long run.