Updated 4 weeks ago

Solar panel repairs and servicing: keeping your system working and what to do when it doesn't

Written by Andy Sendy , Edited by Catherine Lane

If you own or lease a solar system, you no doubt did the math and figured that the energy generated by the solar panel system would reduce your electric bill enough to provide you with a good return on investment. This makes sense. In most states, solar panels can produce an ROI that outpaces long-term returns from other investments such as property or shares. According to Zillow, solar panels can also add about 4% to the value of your home over and above the monthly electric bill savings they generate.

However, like any technology, solar panels require regular servicing and occasional repairs to maintain optimal performance. Without that, your solar system may not operate at its full potential, and all that nice math goes out the window. This can leave you in an infuriating position of having to pay both a monthly solar lease or loan payment and also a full electric bill until the system is fixed. 

When it comes to getting your system fixed, for most people, this will mean a simple call to their solar installer. However, things can be a little more challenging for those whose solar company is either out of business or is not responding to their calls. This is where many solar system owners have been left in the lurch, and their systems are referred to as “solar orphans”.

If you have found yourself in that position, the good news is that there are now specialist solar repairs and servicing companies that have explicitly started to service the needs of solar orphans at a relatively low cost. 

In this article, we will explore the importance of solar panel servicing and repairs, the common issues that can arise, how often you should be servicing your solar system, how to tell if you have a fault, and how much solar repairs and servicing costs.

Book an appointment with a local solar system specialist

Why solar panel servicing is important

Solar panel servicing is essential to maximize the energy production and efficiency of the system. It ensures that your solar system generates the electric bill savings that your solar company promised you. Regular maintenance ensures the panels are clean, debris-free, and operating at their peak performance levels. Some of the key reasons for solar panel servicing include:

  • Performance optimization: Dust, dirt, pollen, and bird droppings can accumulate on the surface of solar panels, reducing their ability to absorb sunlight effectively. Regular solar panel cleaning ensures maximum sunlight absorption, optimizing energy production.

  • Longevity: Proper maintenance and servicing can extend the lifespan of solar panels, protecting the investment and ensuring a longer period of energy generation.

  • Safety: Regular inspections can identify potential electrical issues or damage that may pose safety hazards. Timely repairs help prevent accidents or electrical malfunctions.

Common faults that occur with solar systems and common repairs

While solar panels are designed to withstand various weather conditions, they can encounter issues over time. Here are some common problems that may require repairs:

  • Panel damage: Extreme weather events, such as hailstorms or falling branches, can cause physical damage to solar panels. Cracked or broken panels should be repaired or replaced promptly, although this is not a common issue as most solar panels used today are very high quality and robust.

  • Wiring and connection problems: Loose or damaged wiring, loose connectors, or faulty junction boxes can affect the overall system performance. Many of the junction boxes used to run connective wiring for solar systems are sealed with simple silicon caulking, and silicone caulking breaks down in the sun over time. Animals also sometimes chew on wires or nest under panels. These issues should be addressed promptly to prevent power loss or safety hazards, the most serious of which are fires or electrocution.

  • Inverter malfunctions: By far, the most common fault with solar systems are inverter faults. Inverters convert the DC electricity generated by solar panels into usable AC electricity. Inverter failures can significantly impact energy production. Repairing or replacing faulty inverters is crucial for uninterrupted power generation.

  • Monitoring system issues: Solar panel systems often include monitoring devices to track energy production and detect system malfunctions. Addressing any faults or inaccuracies in the monitoring system ensures proper maintenance and early detection of problems.

Best practices for solar panel servicing

To ensure the efficient operation of solar panels, here are some best practices for servicing and repairs:

  • Regular cleaning: Periodic cleaning of solar panels, particularly in dusty or polluted environments, helps maintain optimal performance. Use soft brushes or sponges and gentle cleaning solutions to avoid scratching the panel surface.

  • Professional inspection: Schedule regular inspections by qualified solar technicians who can identify potential issues, check for loose connections and damage from pests, and perform electrical tests to ensure system safety and efficiency.

  • Timely repairs: Promptly address any identified issues to prevent further damage or energy loss. Engage certified professionals with experience in solar panel repairs for accurate diagnosis and effective repairs. Consider asking for solar critter guards if pests are a recurring problem.

  • System monitoring: Regularly monitor the solar panel system's performance using the provided monitoring tools or software. Keep an eye on energy production, system efficiency, and any unusual fluctuations that may indicate potential issues.

How often should I get my solar panels cleaned?

At SolarReviews, we recommend getting your solar panels cleaned at least once every two years. Solar panel cleaning should cost around $15 per panel or $300 for a 20-panel system. The energy payback on this spend should be well and truly worth it as output can decay 10-20% if your panels are dirty.

How often should I get my solar panel installation serviced?

We recommend a full electrical inspection of a residential solar system at least every five years. In this inspection, you should ask the technician to check the logs of the inverter for faults and also to check that each of the cables and junction boxes is free of any water ingress. Junction boxes should then be re-siliconed to ensure a further five years of trouble-free operation. 

How much do solar system repairs cost?

On average, a solar system repair will cost approximately $400, depending on the type of repair. Usually, this will include a $200 call-out fee which is standard with most servicing companies. Some solar system repairs may fall under the call-out fee, while others, like replacing faulty DC circuit breakers, could cost as much as $800.

Unfortunately, the major inverter companies do not pay the labor component of inverter replacements. However, they do supply the replacement inverter if the failed inverter is still under warranty.

Our last word on solar panel repairs and servicing

Solar panel servicing and repairs are vital for maintaining optimal energy production, maximizing the system's lifespan, and ensuring users' safety. By following best practices, conducting regular inspections, and promptly addressing any issues that arise, solar panel owners can enjoy sustained energy generation and contribute to a greener and more sustainable future.

Just as importantly, regular solar system servicing can ensure full lifetime savings from your system. With the average lifetime electric bill savings from a residential solar system above $30,000, a few hundred dollars every five years for servicing is a wise investment to realize these savings.

Book an appointment with a trusted solar panel servicing company near you
Written by Andy Sendy Solar Industry Expert

Andy Sendy is a well-known and trusted figure within the solar industry with more than 15 years of experience. His video reviews of the leading brands of solar panels and home energy storage batteries are a must-watch each year for both homeowners and solar industry professionals alike. In 2021, an article he wrote about a clause in the Tesla solar panel rental contract caused Tesla to change this clause within days. He was the founder of Sola...

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