Solar panel safety – product & installer guide.

According to The West Australian, faulty panels/inverters or badly installed PV solar systems have caused fires at more than 20 residences in WA over the past 24 months. Solar panel safety is becoming a major issue as the huge rise in solar installations leads to quality concerns.

The Australian reports that in Queensland, which has one of Australia’s highest uptakes of solar, firefighters attended at least 64 premises where a fire was sparked by shoddy workmanship or cheap panels. Already in 2017 they have attended at least 16 solar panel fire incidents.

What can you do to minimise this risk?

Solar panel safety – what to look out for

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a solar system is that cheapest means that compromises in quality have been made, and that installation will probably also be sub standard.

Jay Cutler, board member of the National Electrical Contractors Association said that a solar panel fire is generally caused by poorly trained workers using cheap products.

“Quality product and quality installations by recognised and experienced installers, (and) the risk is minimal, that is the same for all electrical work,” Mr Cutler said.

“Start cutting corners and ­getting the cheap jobs and that’s when the risk increases enormously … Lithium-ion batteries are good products if they are manufactured well and if they are installed correctly. “But if you start getting down in the gutter at the lower end of the market the consequences are (large)…(because) the industry is fairly new it is clear that there are a lot of (installers) early on the learning curve.”

Quality modern solar power systems (like those that LG Energy sell)  have multiple safety systems built in – cut offs witches and circuit breakers can be located on the roof next to the panel, alongside the inverter, and/or on the meter board itself. In addition to this any quality inverter will also have its own internal safety cutoffs.

Solar Panel Safety
Solar Panel Fire Safety (source:

We’ve previously reported on the fire risk of solar and the proposed solar battery storage laws – expect to hear plenty more of this as the industry grows and begins to mature.

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Solar Panel Fire Risk Analysis & Recommendations

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?

Solar Panel Fire Risk
Solar Panel Fire Risk (source:

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.

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