Can solar panels cause a fire?

2020 was great for the solar power industry in Australia. The number of solar PV systems installations jumped significantly in every Australian state. However, fires caused by solar panels have also increased significantly.

In 2018, the federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor indicated that a large number of rooftop solar installations may be unsafe. As a result, he has launched an inquiry into the industry in August 2020, estimating that around 400,000 installations could be substandard.

Fire damage caused by a faulty solar isolator
Fires caused by faulty solar isolators are a major risk

According to the Fire and Rescue NSW, in the last 5 years, solar panel related fires have increased five-fold.

Energy Safe Victoria has encouraged homeowners to get their solar power systems serviced after a series of house fires.

That said, solar panel systems in general usually pose a low fire risk. Most of the fires associated with solar systems are caused by poor installation or defective parts like DC isolators, sensors, or junction boxes rather than solar panels. A correctly installed and well-maintained solar system is incredibly safe and shouldn’t pose a fire risk issue. Take care of your solar PV system as you would any other electrical system in your home by hiring a licensed technician for regular solar inspections or any repair work.

Find out more – What is a solar isolator switch?

Rooftop Solar Panels

Incorrect installation of Solar PV System

Loose joints due to poor installation, corrosion or low-quality connections can trigger a DC arc fault. Electrical arcing is like mini lightning, it generates a lot of heat and can ignite the solar panels. DC arc faults are common in string inverter systems but do not occur in systems that use microinverters and DC optimised systems.

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Rooftop Solar DC Isolator faults

A DC isolator is a switch located adjacent to the solar panel array, it is used to shut off the DC current between solar panels and solar inverters. According to Fire and Rescue NSW, DC isolator switches account for around half of PV fire incidents in the state.

Burnt Solar Isolator
Damage caused by a faulty DC isolator

How to manage your Solar PV System?

  • Ensure you hire licenced, CEC accredited solar installers
  • Consider using microinverters or DC optimised systems as they can mitigate the risk of fires
  • Monitor the solar output once a week. If you notice that the output has dropped significantly, it could be due to a broken or dirty panel
  • Regular cleaning of the solar panels is also essential to maintain the output
  • Get your system serviced and inspected annually by a solar technician

Request a Solar Inspection from Fallon Solutions

Ensure your solar power system is safe with our $99 Solar Inspection from our accredited and qualified solar technicians. Our experienced team of accredited solar installers and solar electricians can carry out a complete review of your solar PV system and diagnose faults ensuring your system works efficiently. We provide specialist solar inspection services across Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Book a solar inspection today on 1300 054 488 or complete our online solar inspection booking form today.