Making sure that your solar power system is designed and installed by a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited installer will ensure the performance and longevity of your investment. CEC accredited installers and designers undergo significant training and must follow strict quality standards and procedures.
However, not all ‘installers’ are CEC accredited nor do all installers care about you or the quality of the system that they are selling you… Here are 12 rules that your installer should be following to ensure you are getting a quality system.
1 – Panels should NOT be mounted hanging over the ridges or gutters of your roof
Most solar mounting manufacturers do not allow the panels to be installed over the ridge and gutters and the very few that do, require extra mounting points and independent engineering approval for that specific building. Having the panels mounted incorrectly over the gutters and edges can weaken your roof, affect the structural integrity of the panels and void the panel manufacturer’s warranty. A Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited designer should be able to provide information about the type of mounting system that will be utilised in the installation.
2 – All frames need to be engineer approved
If your installer is using a frame that hasn’t been engineered approved you can run into a variety of issues, including:
- Increased pressure on, and to, the panels, which can affect its structural integrity.
- Increased risk of the panels and/or roof being ripped in gusts of wind.
The majority of the solar mounting frames that CEC accredited installers supply already come with engineering approval and specific installation instructions. However, if you have made one yourself, bought one second hand or have been supplied one without engineering approval, you will have to get an engineer to approve, and potentially redesign the frame – this process can be very costly.
3 – The panels need to be installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions
Every solar panel manufacturer (for example LG and REC) have different installation instructions that need to be followed by the installers. These instructions outline how to safely mount the panels, including clamping zones (how far from the ends of the panel the clamps can go). If these instructions are not followed by your installer, your warranty may be voided which could leave you in a world of hurt if you need to call on that warranty in the future. Your accredited installer should be able to provide you with this documentation on request.
4 – A CEC accredited installer must be present on site
It’s easy for a company to claim that their systems are ‘installed by a CEC accredited installer’, BUT what many people don’t realise is that the licensed installer who signs off on the installation needs to be physically on-site. Not just at the job set-up (beginning), but also mid-installation (during), and testing and commissioning (end). As the homeowner, you should be asking to see the CEC accredited installers license on the day of installation. If the system is installed without the licensed person on site, you run the risk of NOT being eligible to claim Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) meaning your system cost would be much higher.
5 – All people working on the roof should be trained in height safety
It may seem like common sense, but not all companies take the time and effort to properly train their employees, who work on the roof, in height safety. For example, at Electrical Sensations, Working Safely at Heights training is mandatory for every worker who steps foot on a roof. Do some research on your installers. Find out what certifications/qualifications they have – if they haven’t done any height safety training, this is a definite red flag. The last thing you want is for an accident to happen at your own house…
6 – The inverter must be installed with the correct clearance
Similarly to the panels, every inverter manufacturer has a list of rules that the installer has to follow; one of these is the clearance around the inverter. Having the recommended clearance ensure adequate heat dissipation and prevents it from overheating and failing – or worse, catching fire. This is why it’s super important to check these details with your installer. For example, the SMA Sunny Boy Inverters require a minimum of 100mm on either side, 300mm above, 500mm below and 50mm in front, as seen below.
7 – All the cabling should be supported and installed correctly
There are different cabling rules for each system: Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC).
In a DC system, the conduit has to be compliantly installed and adequately supported. For example, glued, secured and labelled. Heavy Duty (HD) conduit should be used for optimal protection. Having your cable installed and labelled correctly prevents damage from rodents as well as accidental damage/removal.
For an AC system, the cabling may not need to be in conduit but has to be installed correctly according to the AS3000 (electrical wiring rules).
8 – Not all inverters can be installed outside – Check your individual inverter!
While most inverters are okay to be installed outside, some are not. Some inverters are just not built to withstand the Australian outdoor climate and need to be installed undercover, for example, inside the garage. Most inverter manufacturers also suggest that the inverters be installed out of the direct sun. This often means that they should not be installed on the north or west exterior walls of a house unless there is some sort of shading.
To check if your inverter can be installed outside or not, you need to look at the IP rating. The IP (Ingress Protection mark) rating indicates how well the inverter seals to prevent water, dust and other foreign particle ingress. A higher IP rating indicates that it’s more suitable to be installed outside. However, keep in mind that even though it has a high IP rating, if it is not installed correctly, this will greatly affect the longevity of the inverter.
9 – All cabelling through the roof should go through Dektites or similar leak protection materials
Dektites (as pictured below, left) are used to protect against leaks and water damage in both tile and tin roofs. They stretch over the penetration through your roof and seal tight – preventing water from getting inside. They may be small, but they are mighty – withstanding temperatures between -50°C to 200°C! That’s something that standard liquid silicon sealant can’t compete with!
10 – Any conduit exposed to the sun should be UV rated
The Australian sun can be very harsh, so all equipment installed exposed to the sun should be UV-rated. UV rated simply means that the conduit is protected from UV (Ultra-violet) rays. UV-rated conduit can last 100+ years, however, if you use NON-UV rated conduit they can start to degrade the first year! Having your installer use high quality, UV rated conduit will prevent it from becoming brittle, breaking down over the years and creating a multitude of issues. If the conduit were to fail, moisture could enter, creating a potentially hazardous situation for you and your property. Some of these dangers include: creating a fire, water ingress into buildings and other water damage to the building.
11 – The direction of the panels should be personalised
Three main things need to be considered when deciding the direction of your panels: when you consume the most electricity, shading and the physical size and design of your house.
1- While panels installed facing north will usually produce you the most kWh of power per day, installing panels in other directions may be more beneficial for your specific energy needs. For example, for people who use a lot of their power in the afternoon and some in the morning, installing a system with panels facing west (produce later in the day) and some east (produce in the morning) would be more beneficial than a north facing system.
2- Shade is also another thing that needs to be considered and can majorly impact the efficiency of the system. No matter what inverter, optimizer or microinverter you have installed, shade should always be avoided.
3- The location, physical size and design of your roof is a major factor in deciding what direction the panels should be installed.
12 – All panels should be transported safely
If transporting the panels by truck, trailer, etc, panels should be strapped down securely to avoid movement and possibly breaking the glass. Panels can typically be transported on pallets IF packed and secured adequately. Over-stacking can add stress to the module and cause the panels to break and should be avoided – most panel manufacturers do not recommend stacking more than 2 pallets on top of each other.