Off Grid system maintenance
Proper maintenance ensures that solar system life is preserved for as long as possible and the original conditions of the system are sustained while compensating for normal wear and tear. Solar systems require little maintenance as compared to other electric systems such as diesel generators; however, they are not maintenance-free.
These should be regularly and carefully maintained to extend their useful life.
These activities include:
1. Inspecting and cleaning regularly
2. Checking the electrolyte level (not required for Gel Batteries)
3. Keeping in a high state of charge
4.A visual inspection should be done to assess the general condition of the system’s batteries. Check for any electrolyte leak, cracks in the batteries, or corrosion at the terminals or connectors.
Batteries need to be clean, dry and free of electrolyte and corrosion residue. Corrosion at battery terminals is seen as a white coating around the battery terminals. Cleaning should be done once monthly
1. To remove a layer of dust and dirt from the modules, simply wash the panel with water. If the module has thick dirt or grime and bird droppings, which are harder to remove, wash with cold water and rub the panel surface with a sponge.
Do not use a metal brush to clean the solar panel surface. Detergents should not be used.
2. A visual inspection of the modules can then be done to check for defects in the modules such as cracks, chips, de-lamination, fogged glazing, water leaks and discolouration. If any obvious defects are found, note their location in the system logbook, so they can be monitored in the future in case further deterioration affects the modules’ output.
3. The condition of the array mounting frame should also be noted to checks and ensure that the frame and modules are firmly secured. The junction boxes should also be checked to ensure that the wires are not chewed by rodents or insects.
This component can be maintained by minimizing dust accumulation. A dry cloth should be used to wipe away any accumulated dirt/dust. A visual inspection should be done to ensure that all the indicators such as LED lights are working and that the wires leading to and from this device are not loose. Note that the charge controller should indicate that the system is charging when the sun is up. If not, the installer needs to be contacted immediately.
Other miscellaneous checks for errors include the following
- check the over-voltage and deep discharge protection, works correctly? (via charge controller display)
- check the connections, cables and connectors (no loose parts)
- for horizontally mounted PV modules (eg. on the camper roof) check the dirtiness and clean it if needed
- visual check of system components (cables discolourations)