People are consistently worried about solar fires and the risk of solar panels catching fire. But are solar panels a fire risk? We evaluate the key considerations you need to know when you buy and install solar panels.
Are Solar Panels a Fire Risk?
Over the last two decades, several homeowners have turned to solar power to get light and warmth in their houses. Solar panels have become exceptionally popular because of the fact that they are environmentally-friendly, affordable, and make you less dependent on municipal power supplies.
However, in spite of the numerous benefits of solar energy, people still hesitate to invest in solar panels due to their concern about solar fires.
All credit goes to press and media that have been continuously putting a lot of scare stories about photovoltaic panel fire, raising anxiety.
So, are solar panels really catch on fire? Are solar panels actually ever blame for house fires?
Well, according to some experts, in comparison to electrical equipment that carries live wires, solar panels have negligible risk under normal circumstances.
In this post, we will attempt to resolve your concern related to solar panels fire hazard, but before that, let’s have a quick look at some solar panel safety facts.
Solar Panel Safety Facts
According to a report of Green Tech Media, the United States alone has more than 2 million solar power systems installed across the country. Abigail Ross, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, says, “ the rapid growth of the solar industry has reshaped the energy conservation in the country.”
Speaking of Japan, the country has about 2.4 million homes with rooftop solar, whereas Germany has around 1.4 million solar panels installed.
In the last ten year, Japan reported only 127 solar panel problems that include some solar fires while Germany reported 350 solar power fire cases in the last two decades.
Although the percentage of disaster caused by solar panels is negligible, many reputable solar manufacturers have started following strict safety guidelines to make their products as safe as possible.
If you’re planning to get solar panels installed, but you have concerns about solar panel fire risk, read the following section in which we’re going to provide answers to your most common concerns.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Before we decide whether or not solar panels are responsible for fire, let’s know how solar panels work. Well, solar panels work by permitting photons of light to enter electrons free from atoms and generate a flow of electricity.
Generally, solar panels have smaller units known as photovoltaic cells that are responsible for converting sunlight into electricity — all these cells connected together to make up a solar panel.
Photovoltaic cells observe sunlight and produce direct current (DC) and then convert it into usable alternating current (AC) with the help of inverter technology.
Do Solar Panels Themselves Cause Fires?
Although it is infrequent, litigation by Walmart against SolarCity shows that solar fires are possible.
But wait, are solar panels are actually the culprit for fire? On a sunny day, the solar panels on the roof may generate thousands of watts of power. By itself, this is not a risk at all because already a fat cable coming from a utility pole carries up to thousands of watts of electricity.
By itself, a large amount of electricity is not a fire risk, but still, electrical fires do happen due to reasons like loose wire connection of the equipment and similar faults. Similarly, a solar panel may cause a fire if there is an improper connection in the device.
In other words, just like your house lights, TV, and toaster, the solar panel has flowing electricity, and therefore, electrical faults may arrive occasionally.
It is important to understand the solar fires are usually the result of electrical issues like incorrect installation, poor insulation, and damaged wires. Often, these fires happen in the combiner box that contains wires connected to your panels before they go through the inverters.
This type of fire is only a problem for solar panel systems that use string inverters. The latest microinverter systems that come without a combiner box because the inverters are installed next to the solar panels.
Electrical surges can be a reason for an electrical issue. Usually, electrical surges occur when higher voltages flow through your electric wires. This high voltage may damage a device that is not designed to deal with a surge.
There can be plenty of reasons for these surges — for instance, sudden power drops, lightning strikes, and more.
You might have noticed it when turning on a high-power appliance like a room heater or air conditioner at your home.
Fortunately, solar fires caused by damaged wires, incorrect installation, and poor insulation can easily be avoided by ensuring that all your home’s electrical appliances are well maintained.
Considering everything, it would be right to say that solar panels do not cause fire themselves. A well designed and installed solar panel system with accurately operating equipment presents no fire hazard to your home.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to hire a professional to get solar panels installed. A good electrician can quickly check for these dangers in advance.
Can Solar Panels Impact the Ability of Firefighters to fight a fire?
Another big concern that bothers most people is how well firefighters are capable of controlling a house fire with solar panels.
Since solar panels are everywhere – from home roofs to roadside signs to supermarkets, firefighter training is intended to deal with all the challenges that may arrive when fighting fire with solar products involved.
The National Electric Code, which is adopted in all 50 states, mandates the automatic shutdown of solar inverter. This code is the benchmark for safe electrical design and installation, protecting first-responders and help them work safely.
Besides this, building codes also reflect firefighter safety as they ensure firefighters have adequate space on the roof to walk around solar panels.
In short, much like any other industry, people associated with the solar industry working toward creating a safer place for firefighters to do their work.
See Related: Solar Panel Insurance Guide
Do Solar Panels Cause a Fire Risk?
Like other electronic appliances, solar systems are certified and rated for electrical safety. Solar panel certification labs situated across the country verify the electrical safety and performance of new solar panel technologies before they are launched in the market.
Apart from this, a large number of firefighters have suggested and developed arrangements of solar installations that can be positioned on roofs in a way that does not intrude with firefighting work.
International Building Code 2010 and International Fire Code also address safety concerns related to solar rooftop system placement that let firefighters work safely.
What May Cause Solar Panels to Catch Fire?
There can be numerous reasons for solar panels causing a house fire. Although natural hazards such as overvoltage, power surges, lightning may play a significant role, wrongly-sized, and defective equipment can also be a big culprit behind the fire.
Like other electrical installation, solar panel systems are subject to electrical faults like reverse current, short circuits and ground faults.
Additionally, faulty connections may also result in hot spots that can fire flammable material nearby. Besides this, defective AC/DC inverters have also been known to cause solar fires.
See Related: Best Solar Panel Installation Jobs
What Precautions Should You Take When Getting Solar Panel Installed? (solar panel fire safety)
- It is good to be picky when it comes to choosing an installer. Make sure the installer you choose has MCS accreditation and relevant experience.
- Ensure that the mounting system and frame you’re using with solar panels are not flammable.
- Moreover, systems should regularly be checked for any possible damage from rodents and other pests as holes gnawed in cables can cause problems.
- Also, routine testing and maintenance can keep you out of trouble.
- Do not fall into the trap of buying a cheap solar panel. Such panels are more likely to malfunction and may cost you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. Always look for MCS-certified solar panels, and don’t forget to ask your installer what they can do to minimize the risks.
See Related: Do Solar Panels Cause Cancer?
So Are Solar Panels A Fire Risk?
Building codes, product standards, and related organizations have been working together to ensure solar panels are as safe as possible to use. If you think your home is safe with electrical appliances, then it’s just as safe with a solar panel.
To avoid any possible risk, always make sure that you have an updated home electrical panel along with a whole-house surge protector.
According to the National Electrical Code, your rooftop solar must have an automatic rapid shutdown mechanism in place. This mechanism gets automatically set off when the AC is not flowing to the inverters, indicating that your electrical systems are not working correctly.
So, in that case, if your home electric systems are damaged, your solar panels will automatically shut down to prevent any further damage.
So, when placing an order for solar panel, ask your manufacturer about solar panel safety features. They will be happy to make you understand and evaluate your risk and benefits.
If you’re planning to buy a solar panel, take a look at the following options. Below, we have put together a few popular solar panel brands that you should consider.
SunPower Corp is one of the leading names in the solar industry. Across the world, a significant number of businesses, residential customers, government agencies rely on SunPower solar cells. You can read more about SunPower in our review of their solar panels.
Popular SunPower solar panels:
- Maxeon A-Series: Made out of the latest generation 5 solar cells delivering up to 22.3% efficiency.
- Maxeon X-Series Panels: They use Maxeon solar cells. These panels deliver up to 22.7% efficiency and power up to 370 watts.
- Maxeon P-Series: Solar panels provide efficiency up to 19%.
REC Group has been in the Solar industry for more than two decades now. Today, it is counted among the world’s trusted brands of solar panels.
In the year 2016, the REC group was ranked #1 most popular brand of solar panels in California, the United States, and Germany.
Some of their popular solar panels include:
- REC ALPHA: HJT, 120 half-cut cells provides 360-380 watt-peak
- REC N-PEAK: Mono-crystalline, 120 half-cut cells provides 310-330 watt-peak
- REC TwinPeak 2, Multi-Crystalline, 120 half-cut cells with 285 – 300 watt-peak
REC solar panels are known to provide excellent output and the highest polycrystalline module efficiency.
Panasonic was founded in 1975, and since then, the company has been a leader in the solar business. Till now, they have manufactured high-quality and efficient solar panels. Their solar panels have an efficiency rate of 20.3%.
The range of solar panel series Panasonic make are
- HIT Panels: These panels are available in 2 types of efficiency: HIT N325 and HIT N330 with 96-cell
- HIT Black Series:
- AC Series – AC Module
This US-owned company was founded in the year 2012. Located in Riviera Beach, Florida, the company implements cutting-edge technology and brings out a range of quality solar panels. The highest recorded efficiency of their solar panels is 19.9%. Most of their solar panels are of watt capacity between 300 to 325.
Some of their popular solar panel models include:
- STU-HJTB-W-310: 310-watt capacity (efficiency 19%)
- STU-HJTB-W-315: 315-watt capacity (efficiency 19.3%)
- STU-HJTB-W-320: 320-watt capacity (efficiency 19.6%)
- STU-HJTB -W-325: 325-watt capacity(efficiency 19.9%)
LG Solar is also a reliable name when it comes to high-quality solar panels. The solar panels they produce have the second-highest efficiency of 21.7% in the world.
They use Cello Technology in their solar panels, therefore come with state-of-the-art solar panels come with a 25-year performance warranty. The company claims that all its solar panels go through a strict quality check to ensure top-quality products and performance.
LG Neon R solar panels are their best solar panels to date that come with 90.8% efficiency.
Summary Table of Top Solar Panels
Have other questions about solar? Check out our Q&A about solar guide to get the answers you need.
Conclusion on Solar Panels & Fire
It would be safe to say that solar panels are an extremely reliable and sound investment for anyone who wants to reduce electricity bill without causing any harm to the environment.
Since solar panels are like any other electrical appliance, they have similar risks as your microwave, refrigerator, or HVAC unit. You don’t worry about them because they’re overwhelmingly safe.
Likewise, your solar panel is safe, you just need to give it routine testing and maintenance.
- How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce?
- Solar ROI Calculator
- Solar Panel Size Guide – How Many Do You Need?
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