A solar inverter is a device that takes the direct current (DC) energy generated by your solar panels and turns it into alternating current (AC) electricity your home can use to power your appliances, lighting, and other electronics. (For a simplified explanation, check out Explain Like I’m 5: Solar Inverter)
If your inverter stops working, your home will no longer receive the electricity your solar panels produce. This means you could end up with an unexpectedly high electricity bill because you were using electricity from the utility grid without even realizing it.
So how can you maintain your solar inverter to avoid problems? What should you do if you need solar inverter service, or solar inverter repair work done? With this guide, you'll learn the essential details about solar inverter maintenance, repair, and service, and why the inverter is so important to your solar power system.
Why Would My Solar Power Inverter Break or Stop Working?
While your solar panels are designed to last for 25 years or longer, your solar inverter is a more complicated piece of equipment, and usually has a shorter expected lifespan. Even the best inverters have a warranty that lasts for 10 to 12 years, so you will probably have to replace the inverter once or twice during the life of your solar power system.
If you think your inverter isn't working properly, look out for these signs:
- Unusually High Power Bill - If your inverter isn’t creating enough energy for your home, you’re pulling more electricity from the grid than usual, which will cause your utility bill to go up.
- Error Message On The Screen - An error message is a good indication that something has gone wrong. Contact a certified solar technician to determine what is wrong and how to fix it.
- No Lights On - If there are no status lights on, or alternately, the light is yellow, red, or flashing, that usually means there’s a problem with your inverter.
- Solar Battery Doesn’t Charge - Some solar batteries are charged by AC power from the inverter, so if your battery isn’t charging, that can be a sign that your inverter isn’t working properly.
- Appears To Be Disconnected - If your inverter doesn’t seem to be connected to anything, or the connection is damaged, that may be an indication that the inverter needs to be repaired.
There are a handful of common issues that may cause your inverter to stop working:
Overheating Solar Inverter
Your inverter typically gets fairly warm during use, which is normal, but it can get too hot. If overheating occurs, electricity production will drop significantly, or the inverter will stop working altogether.
Typically solar technicians will conduct assessments on your inverter during installation to ensure the cooling technology works properly. This includes checking that the building housing the inverter and the switch cabinet are properly ventilated.
Once installed, you can periodically check on your inverter to ensure the cooling system and ventilation continue to operate correctly. You can also reduce the potential for overheating by cleaning dust filters and removing obstructions that could impede airflow.
Faulty Solar Inverter Installation
Even professionals can make mistakes. Yes, there is a possibility your solar technician did not install the inverter correctly, either with a physical connection or a programming component.
The solar installer must follow the documentation from the inverter's manufacturer to make sure everything goes smoothly with the installation. When the installer finishes setting up the inverter, they should carry out several tests like a yield test, remote activation, remote deactivation, and regulation of the reactive power. Any issues with the connection should be evident at the time of testing and addressed immediately.
Inverter Isolation Fault
Another possible inverter issue is the isolation fault, a short circuit between different parts of the circuit that produces an "isolation alarm". If this error occurs, the inverter will either work at a reduced level or shut down completely.
A combination of factors can cause this alarm, including damage to the sleeve of cabling, moisture, incorrect installation, and a bad connection of DC cables to the panel. It is more common to see this problem in places with higher humidity, such as coastal areas.
Maximum Power Point Tracking Issues
Many inverters use Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), a technique that maximizes the inverter's performance. MPPT occurs when photovoltaic (PV) modules in a solar array are connected in a series called "strings" that are connected to the inverter.
Each string produces different amounts of power based on shading, positioning, faults in panels, etc. These conditions around the inverter mean the strings can send different voltages to the inverter at the same time.
The MPPT module ensures that your system always uses the optimum supply voltage, so your panels can create the most electrical power. However, this MPPT system can have issues, and that would cause issues with your solar string inverters that only a technician can repair.
Solar Power Inverter Restarting Issues
If something happens to the wider electricity grid that causes your solar power system to malfunction, an inverter can typically restart itself. If that doesn’t happen, a service team or installer must come out to manually restart the system. Until they can come out, you won’t produce any electricity with your panels.
To avoid this issue, you’ll want to buy a system with high-quality components and a 24/7 monitoring system. (Just like the solar power systems offered by Palmetto.) This way, as soon as there is an issue, someone can immediately get called out to fix it.
Maintenance Tips for Your Solar Inverter
A solar power system is designed to be reliable and not require a lot of ongoing maintenance, but there are still a few steps you can take to ensure peak performance from your equipment. Here are a few solar inverter maintenance tips you can do to keep your inverter working as it should:
Keep The Inverter Cool
As your inverter changes electricity from DC to AC, it naturally gets hot. To ensure the inverter gets proper airflow, it's recommended you keep at least twelve inches of open space around your equipment.
If your inverter has a fan, make sure nothing blocks it or could get sucked up into it. If your fan stops working, the inverter could overheat and lose efficiency.
Lastly, make sure nothing flammable sits near your inverter, as that object could catch on fire if the equipment gets too hot.
Keep The Air Intake Filter Clean
Depending on the location of your inverter, the air intake filter can get dirty over time. If the filter accumulates too much dust and debris, it won't be able to cool as well, which affects the inverter's efficiency.
If the filter does get dirty, we recommend that you call a professional to clean the filter instead of doing it yourself, as you may need to take apart some of the equipment.
Check for Error Codes
While you don't need to check your inverter daily, you should check it periodically to make sure everything’s working as expected. This includes looking on the inverter screen for any error codes, or a different light than normal. If anything seems amiss, call a professional to assess the situation.
Use Solar Monitoring Technology
If the manufacturer of your solar power system provides you with technology like a smartphone app to monitor the system, you should use it. This solar tech can provide regular updates about the status of your solar panels and inverter, and give you prompt access to customer service and technicians if needed.
Keep in mind, however, that all technology can occasionally have issues, so it’s still good to regularly check the inverter in person for any signs of trouble.
What Should I Do If My Solar Inverter Stops Working?
Unfortunately, no matter how much care you take to maintain your inverter, it can still have issues that cause a decrease in performance. If your inverter does stop working, you have several options for how to fix the problem:
Contact Your Solar Installation Company
A good first step is to talk with the company that installed your solar panel system. They may be able to send out a technician to assess what is happening with your inverter. They should also have the manuals and technical knowledge to either fix the inverter or replace it entirely.
Contact The Company That Made The Solar Inverter
If the solar company that installed your inverter has gone out of business, your next step is to contact the inverter manufacturer. That company may be able to send a technician to analyze your inverter and determine the problem. They may also ask a local solar company to send someone out to get your inverter repaired or replaced on their behalf.
Contact An Established And Trusted Solar Company
Another option is to reach out to an established and trusted solar company near you, like Palmetto. At Palmetto, we can send out a technician to diagnose any issues with your inverter and help fix or replace it.
If possible, you should provide any paperwork or information from the installers to that solar maintenance company to help speed up the process of determining the issue.
Can I Repair My Solar Inverter Myself?
No. You should never try to fix an inverter yourself. It is a complicated piece of technology that requires a lot of technical knowledge, and you could end up making the problem worse, or hurting yourself if you try to fix it.
Along with making the issue worse or injuring yourself, attempting to fix the inverter on your own could void the maintenance and service agreement for your entire solar system. In addition, you could face repercussions from your utility company and other government entities because you aren’t a licensed solar technician.
Ultimately, if you notice that something seems off with your inverter, it is best to call in the professionals. They should be able to easily determine the problem, and either fix or replace the inverter as needed.
Can I Hire Someone To Monitor My Solar Inverter?
Your solar installer may offer a professional monitoring solution, or you can purchase one from another solar company like Palmetto. Our Palmetto Protect service is available to any homeowner with a solar power system, whether we installed it or not.
With 24/7 proactive professional monitoring, you can enjoy real-time energy monitoring, one-click customer support, comprehensive energy recommendations, and best-in-class service and solar panel repair, so your system can run at peak efficiency.
Guide To Solar Inverter Maintenance, Repair, and Service
Solar panel care and solar inverter care are intertwined. You can't take care of your solar power system properly if you aren't caring for your solar inverter. That’s why solar inverter maintenance, solar inverter service, and solar inverter repair are so important.
Without a fully functioning inverter, the DC electricity created by your solar panels can’t become the AC electricity your home needs. Your inverter must be working properly for your system as a whole to work efficiently.
If your inverter does stop working, you need to contact a licensed solar professional to diagnose the issue and provide a solution. This could be the company that installed it, the manufacturer of the inverter, or a trusted local solar company like Palmetto.
To protect yourself before your solar inverter even needs maintenance, repair, or service, talk to Palmetto today to learn about our Palmetto Protect monitoring service and solar inverter maintenance package.