Troubleshoot Your Solar PV System’s Output

If you’ve experienced an unexpected increase in your electricity bills or an unusual drop in energy output on your solar PV monitoring system, it’s time to look at the conditions of your system and possible factors that may be causing the drop. Causes can usually be narrowed down by first determining whether your solar system has a lower power output than it should or no power output at all.

No Power Output

Inverter Failure

If your solar system has suddenly started to provide no power the most common cause of this is going to be an issue or failure with the inverter.  Most solar inverters will have lights which will give you an indication whether something is wrong.

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  • Green = Inverter is operating as it should
  • Blinking Green = Low amount of sunlight is on the panels
  • No Color = No sunlight is on the panels (this is normal at night but if this is occurring on a sunny day it may be an indication there is an issue with your panels)
  • Red/Orange/Yellow = Usually an error code

If your inverter is flashing a color which indicates an error or no color when it’s a perfectly sunny day, this is where you’ll want to speak to an installer and book an inspection to check whether you require a replacement inverter. If this is the case, make sure you check your warranty before forking out any unnecessary expensive.

Solar Panel Failure

A less common cause for no power being generated from your solar system may be a failing solar panel.

Good quality panels are built with an intended lifespan of 25+ years and will be able to withstand typical environmental factors like rain, wind and sun, however one defected panel can lower or wipe out an entire systems output if your system has a standard string setup. Those with micro-inverter system setups can usually rule this scenario out as a possible cause for no power output.

Again, in this case due to the cause being a damaged component of your solar system it is best to have a CEC Accredited Installer inspect your solar panels and determine a possible solution. Solar panels will usually come with a 25+ year warranty which you should be able to replace your faulty panel under.

Low Power Output

If your solar system is still working however providing a substantially lower output than usual or that your installer guaranteed it should, then there are a few possibly causes.

Weather

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The first obvious one is a change in weather. If you’ve had your solar system for under 12 months and this is the first winter, overcast days or shorter sunlight hours you’ve experienced since installing, take that into account when looking over your systems drop in output. The less sunlight your panels receive, the less energy they are going to generate. If you think this may be the cause for your drop in output then there is no issue with your solar system, however you may want to change your energy habits with these “Maximise Your Solar Savings Tips” to assist in keeping your electricity bills low in winter.

Change In Environment

Shading may not have been an issue when first installing your solar panels however overtime trees do grow and with a solar system’s lifespan of 25+ years you may notice that things like branches from a tree or a neighbours second story extension may now be causing shade over your panels that it wasn’t before. Even if it is just one panel that is experiencing shade this can bring down the entire output of all the panels, if you have a standard string connected system. If a tree is the issue, simply trimming the branches back could have your solar system back to generating as much energy as before.

If shading over a panel has been caused due to factors that are not easily fixed you may want to consider micro-inverters to assist in optimising the panels that are not shaded.

Damage Due To External Factors

Without moving parts it’s unlikely a solar system’s components will wear out, however with a lifespan reaching 25 years + there are some external factors that may contribute to a systems sudden drop in output. These may include but are not limited to;

  • System parts that are exposed filling with rain
  • Animals (birds, rats) chewing or damaging cables
  • Micro-cracks on your panels or damage from natural disasters, such as earthquakes, bushfires and storms
  • Damage from home renovations
  • Cables deteriorating overtime
  • Components failing

If you’ve noticed the drop in output suddenly after a big storm, unusual weather or renovations it’s more than likely there has been some damage caused to your panels. How easily this can be fixed will require some expert advice from a CEC Accredited Installer.

Unsure If Your System Is Performing How It Should?

If you’re finding it hard to determine whether your solar system is producing as it should, use our simple test to assist in comparing your actual output against your systems recommended output.

Solar PV System Performance Test

 

Download Your FREE Beginner’s Guide To Solar Power!

Beginners Guide to Solar Power

If you’re considering solar for your property or just looking to maximise the savings for your solar system, download a FREE copy of our "Beginner’s Guide To Solar Power".

Become an expert and better understand the ins and outs of solar power and solar PV systems for your property.

Includes detailed explanations and diagrams of the various types of solar systems and their parts, solar battery storage systems, Government incentives, expected ROI periods, finance, energy saving tips and more!

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.