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Solar Panels Not Working

By Benjamin Strusnik April 13, 2022

Solar Panels Not Working

If you’ve noticed that your solar panels aren’t acting as you expected there could be many reasons. It could be anything from the inverter to obstructions. 

Finding a problem is only the first part of the problem, you also have to know how to fix it.

This article goes through some ways to tackle why your solar panels aren’t working and some tips for staying on top of maintenance. 

Don’t Use your Electricity Bill to See if Your Solar Panels are Working

It may make sense. You installed the panels to save money on electricity. Each month you should see a reduction in expenses and that would state that they’re working. 

Reasons your Solar System Might not Be Working

During some months, weather negatively influences affect solar power production. This would reflect drastic fluctuations in how much you’re paying for electricity. The statements also only come once every few weeks so you could lose money before you even start your solar panel repair

Statements don’t show you how much power you’ve produced, making them a terrible indicator of your system's status.

This isn’t to say that checking the bill doesn’t have its uses. You should check it from time to time but it can’t tell you much about the nature of the problem or solution. 

If you suspect you have a problem, it's better to use these next few methods to give you a clearer picture.

Reasons your Solar System Might not Be Working 

1. Check your Breaker Switch is on

Due to surges or glitches, the switches could trip. 

Since you’re likely linked to the grid, you wouldn’t notice until you get that bill two weeks later. This is a simple one. It may be irritating when someone asks if you’ve made sure your system is on but it can turn off without your knowledge.

2. The Weather

Your power output may seem to degrade over time as your bills increase but weather influences this. Output can go down 90% on a cloudy day but what matters is yearly data.

Seasonal changes in output are normal.

solar panel not working

3. Check for Obstructions

Everything from dirt to bird droppings to shade can affect your solar panels. 

If your panels look dull instead of shiny then you may need to have them cleaned. Dirt isn’t that likely to be the problem unless you live in a dry and dusty area. More common problems are tree sap and leaves or bird droppings. 

Your solar panels need direct sunlight to produce power.

Another likely problem is foliage that has grown over the path of the sun. Check at different times of the day to see if your panels are being shaded. You can also get an app that indicates the track of the sun in the sky. 

4. Your Solar Inverter

The inverter usually has a steady green light that shows optimal function. With specific newer models, the green light can blink to show below 90% power output. On a cloudy day, this is fine. 

Inverters can switch off due to drastic fluctuations in voltage.

If there is a red or orange light during the day then there may be a fault. If you’re able to see the inverter’s user interface via web app or screen, check for an error code. Reference that against your user manual or with the installer.

What’s on the Inverter Screen?

Depending on the maker, there can be different measurements on the inverter screen. Here are some that you’re likely to have.

The amount of power supplied to the house/grid at the given moment in kW.

The amount of energy that the panels generated since the day began, is measured in kWh.

The amount of energy that the system has produced in total, is measured in kWh.

how to tell if solar panels are working

Solar Panel Charge Controller

Larger solar systems run at high voltages and are dangerous to tamper with. You would also nullify the warrantee by making any changes.

Some inverters designed for smaller systems come separate from the charge controller and the display will be on the charge controller.

These controllers are responsible for regulating the voltage that charges your batteries. Sometimes they can break, resulting in a nonfunctioning system. 

Solar panel charge controller troubleshooting takes a multimeter. It needs to be able to measure DC Voltage and Amps. It must be able to read the number of Amps (Current) that your charge controller can produce.

Consult your user manual for the proper way to test the charge controller.

5. Solar Meter

You’ll know how much power you’re supposed to be produced by checking the user's manual for an estimation. Note that your system usually won’t be meeting that number exactly.

With a solar meter, you can see how much power you're generating and compare it to what your system should produce. 

This is, however, another link in the system that could break.

Additionally, solar meters can become obsolete. Some meters run on 2G which is being replaced with 4G and 5G. Some also run on Wi-Fi which can disconnect due to many reasons like changing ISPs or outages. 

If you aren't getting accurate readings from your meter or it's broken you will have to get a new one. Make sure that it uses the latest connection technology so that you won’t have to run into problems down the line.

6. Components

If there’s any noticeable damage to your system, you must take action as soon as possible to avoid further degradation. 

how to understand if solar panels are working

Damage is sometimes caused by improper installation, corrosion, or weather like hail. These are usually long-term problems but can halt operations. 

Solar Panel failure rates are around 0.05%. This is extremely low. But like anything, the solar panels can degrade as they age, so it's good to maintain them. 

Disruptions of voltages can occur if the panel components are at different voltages. This can reduce production by  30% and is usually caused by mechanical degradation. 

Are Solar Panels Toxic?

Solar panels have toxic materials which are usually housed in a safe casing. That is why they must be recycled and why it is recommended that you replace a broken panel immediately.

Flexible Solar Panels

There are particular problems with flexible solar panels. They don’t have any airflow underneath. Combined with their dark color, they can overheat. This will result in lowered efficiency. At the hottest time of day, they could lose as much as 19% of their production.

Installing a Solar Monitor

To make sure your system is running optimally, you could check your Solar Meter regularly. This has clear flaws when compared to an automatic Solar Monitor. 

why your Solar System Might not Be Working

A Monitor will track your system in real-time, notifying you about irregularities in power production.  You can also connect from any device to find data and history about your installation.

Summary

  • Don't only use your electricity bill to check the function of your panels.

Common reasons for solar panels not working:

  • Breaker switches being off
  • Cloudy weather
  • Obstructions causing shade
  • Solar inverter malfunctions
  • Solar meters being obsolete or broken
  • Damaged or old components

Final thoughts

Solar panels have a long lifespan. They are therefore are a great method of saving money in the long term. Other suppliers can be expensive but Shop Solar Kits provides cheap and easy DIY solutions catered to your needs.

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