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Green Home Maintanance – Solar Photovoltaic Panels

Today’s green building places great emphasis on resource conservation, by using sustainable and renewable materials, by reducing our dependency upon carbon based products, and by limiting consumption of both water and power.

Green home maintenance is not very different from conventional home maintenance. HouseFixIt.com will blog items that homeowners should complete on their green home.

Solar panels, usually mounted on the roof, provide a low voltage direct current from the sun’s rays that activate a metal based compound in the panel. The direct current must be transformed into a higher voltage (typically 110 volts in the USA), and converted into alternating current. The solar panels produce the current and a device called an inverter, increases the voltage and changes the current to AC. In addition, some systems have storage batteries to store electricity and release it at night. The amount of electricity produced is a function of the amount of sunshine, the size of the system, the outdoor temperature and the cleanliness of the panels.

Recommended Maintenance: 

  • Solar Panels: at least twice a year or more often in dusty areas, wash the panels just like a window or skylight. Use a green based, non-phosphate, non-ammonia detergent. At this time check all roof penetrations and mounting brackets for cracked caulking or loose brackets. Apply low VOC sealant (caulk) and tighten brackets as needed. Try to stay off the roof, particularly if it is tile. Use a long handled brush and hose to perform the cleaning. Solar panels get hot, and they should be cleaned only when they are cool, such as during the early morning.
  • Inverter: depending upon manufacturer or amount of use, an inverter should be maintenance free until it needs to be replaced. This replacement typically occurs every 5 to 7 years. However, the inverter should be inspected weekly to verify electrical output, assuming that the inverter has an LED readout.
  • Storage Batteries: while battery technology is evolving rapidly, most of the batteries at the time of this publication are deep cycle lead-acid batteries. Just like an RV or marine battery, the useful life of the battery array is dependent upon the frequency of the charge/discharge cycle. The terminals of all batteries should be inspected monthly for evidence of corrosion (white powder known as sulfates), and if present, it should be removed carefully with a stiff non-metallic brush. 

Caution! Do not touch both terminals at the same time. Do not touch either the + or – terminals with your hands or any non-insulated tool. Severe electrical shock could result. When the terminals are clean, apply an anti-corrosion spray to them (available at any automotive supply store). 

Additional Comments: 

If the solar panels are mounted on raised frames off the roof surface, they will need to be removed when it is time to replace the roofing. This is an additional cost that the Homeowner should consider. Because solar panels get hot as a normal part of their operation, they may cause the roofing, both underneath and surrounding, to deteriorate faster than the rest of the roof. Annual inspections are recommended. Also, if the system is of such capacity that all electrical demand is met “off the grid”, the utility company is likely to still charge a base fee for remaining connected to their grid. 

Stay tuned for the next maintenance item to complete on your Green Home! 

* Handy Hammer’s™  HowTo’s are guidelines to follow. Advanced prototype and limited production components are not considered. If any conflicts exist between these guidelines, and those set forth in the manufacturer’s literature, the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions shall take precedence. 

 Handy Hammer™ is a registered trademark of MacLellan Media, Inc.

This entry was posted in Construction Practices, Green Building, Green Home, Green Maintenance, Home Builders, Home Maintenance, Home Ownership. Bookmark the permalink.

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