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How do I service my photovoltaic installation?

No moving parts, no circulating fluid, a service life of at least thirty years – solar panels seem as if they’ll never wear out. But your photovoltaic installation must be serviced to ensure its long-lasting efficiency.

You should check or work on three components to service your photovoltaic installation:

  1. The solar panels 
  2. The inverter
  3. The green meter

1. The solar panels

Hail, bad weather, ageing, erosion (sand, dust and wind) can damage the glazed surface of the panels to some extent, making them a little less transparent and slightly reducing their output (2 to 3%). Sadly, nothing can be done about this!

Clean your solar panels every two years

The surface of your panels receives a fine self-cleaning coating in the factory so that water runs off them. However, it becomes less effective over time.

Also, if your panels are only slightly tilted (less than 20°) or are even flat, the rain cannot remove any dirt that may accumulate on the surface. Snow does not slide off either. The trick is to clean your photovoltaic panels as soon as they become too dirty or, failing that, every two years.

To do this, use an alcohol-based glass cleaner, a water spray and a soft sponge, finishing off, if possible, with a rubber squeegee, not a metal implement. Do not use steam, solvent, abrasive powder or a scouring pad. Avoid high-pressure washers too.

Also, make sure that your photovoltaic panels are not subjected to thermal shock that could break the glass: above all, do not use cold water on very hot panels. Ideally, the cleaning process should take place early in the morning or late in the evening

Warning: if roof access is difficult, do not take pointless risks. Call on a professional accustomed to working at heights.

Do not let trees shade your panels

If you see that trees or climbing plants are casting shadows on your photovoltaic panels, consider cutting them back.

Doubts over the production of your photovoltaic installation?

One of your panels or its electrical connections can suffer a sudden sealing failure. In this case, it must be replaced and repaired.

If you have any doubts over the production of your system or the state of panels, your installer or your electrician can measure whether the output voltage from the installation is normal. Other more advanced checks are possible, including electroluminescent (night-time) or infrared camera (daytime) testing.

2. The inverter 

Your inverter has a theoretical service life of approximately ten years. There is therefore no need for your electrician to service it earlier.

Simply check that everything is working normally by comparing the year-on-year production: you can display this data directly on the display screen and sometimes even via a connection to your PC. You will need to investigate if production drops abnormally.

Also, check regularly that the air intakes from the fan are not clogged with dust and that the display and indicator lamps are working. Check also for damage to the cables from rodents or martens which could cause short-circuits.

3. The green meter 

Although it is rare for the green meter to fail, it is always better to check that it is working properly by looking at the reading regularly. Although a green meter failure does not compromise the operation of the electrical installation, it would lead to financial loss.

What about thermal solar panels? 
Used to produce hot water, thermal panels require specific servicing, to be carried out by a specialist company.

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