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Solar — the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

When it comes to quality solar, there is a lot of attention to detail, tidiness and neatness. This article discusses the critical details that go into a good quality solar installation, sifts through the bad, and glances at the ugly.

How the System Works

The panels are on the roof, they absorb sunlight and produce DC (direct current) electricity. The cables run through the roof and go into a DC isolator. Modern inverters come with a built-in DC isolator. 

Next the DC travels into the solar inverter.

When the inverter reaches a certain amount of voltage, it turns on. The inverter matches the grid, so if the grid stops sending electricity to the home, the inverter will also stop. This is a safety precaution for utility workers working on the grid, as if the inverter continues to output electricity there is risk of the exported electricity harming them.

The inverter converts the DC to 230V (volt) AC (alternating current) electricity. The inverter feeds into the switchboard to power your home.

What Goes into a Quality Install

The first step in a solar installation is figuring out how much space is in the switchboard, as a circuit breaker and cover will need to be put in. The electrician will open the switchboard and find an adequate space and move any cabling behind as necessary. The inverter is installed usually beside the switchboard.

The brackets and rail are installed on the roof. Next the panels are fitted, held in place on the rail by panel clamps secured to the brackets. End clamps are used to secure the outermost panels on each row. The panels are prewired. Zip ties hold the cabling. Each panel is individually earthed and connections are painted to prevent corrosion.

Figuring out where to place the DC cabling is the next step. The cabling may pass for example through the roof. There are two DC cables for the positive and the negative and an earth cable. These cables are run through the roof. The cabling may pass through the inside of the roof, the cables are clipped.

A 25mm hole is drilled to pass cabling through the roof. A sleeve of corrugated conduit is placed over the cables. The corrugated conduit is 25mm. It is sealed into place with silicon around the edges of the entry point into the roof. This is to prevent water getting into the roof.

5 Tips for Quality DC Cabling

#1: Avoid running array cabling behind frame nuts in the rail channel. It can cause stress on cables and potential damage. Instead, use external fixings like panel clips or cable ties.

#2: Be cautious when using catenary wire to fix array cabling. It should adhere to the latest standards and be properly earthed or insulated. Use cable ties for a secure and tidy setup.

#3: Don’t pull cables tightly from the panels, as it can strain connections and void warranties. Lay out conductors with enough slack and pay attention to minimum bending radii.

#4: PVC cable ties may not withstand the Australian sun. Opt for stainless steel cable ties or sturdy clips for durability. Use PVC ties for appearance purposes only.

#5: Ensure there are enough fixing points to prevent sagging and unnecessary movement of array cabling. Insufficient fixing points can lead to wear and tear, and potentially dangerous situations. Take the time to secure conductors properly for safety and a better overall installation.

Signs of Bad Quality Solar

#1 Proper wiring is crucial for the safe and efficient functioning of a solar system. Loose or damaged wiring can lead to power loss, overheating, or even electrical hazards. It’s important to ensure that all connections are secure and well-insulated.

#2 Cabling should be neat and hidden. Too many times we see on Facebook solar groups posts about messy cabling.

#3 Panels need to be securely mounted to withstand various weather conditions. If the mounting or support structures are improperly installed, the panels may be at risk of damage or even detachment.

#4 Overhanging rail just looks plain bad. Excess rail should be trimmed.

The Ugly

The last section of this article is just a gallery of ugly solar taken from online posts.

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