Many people ask: “are solar panels safe for the average Aussie home?”. We believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!”, but let’s take a look at how solar systems work and some of the potential risks you could encounter.
What are the components of a solar system?
Before considering “are solar panels safe?” and the risks of a solar installation, let’s take a look at the components of the whole system. Remember, your solar system generates electricity for your home. So, with electricity there is always a small element of risk. That’s why it’s important to buy certified, high-quality components. The most common parts you need for safe solar systems are listed below.
We’ve all probably seen solar panels before. Many household rooftops have them installed, and we’ve probably seen them in other places around the community. Solar panels are responsible for harnessing the energy from the sun and delivering it to the next part of your solar system – the inverter.
There are several different types of solar panels, all with varying features and even different ways they capture and transfer power. They can come in different sizes, of course, and the number of panels you install on your roof can have a direct impact on how much solar energy you can generate. To ensure solar panels safety, it’s important to have the right equipment.
The next stage of the solar system is the solar inverter. This is a box installed somewhere around the home, usually on a wall in a nice shady spot. The inverter is responsible for converting the solar energy from your panels into usable electricity for the home. It’s linked into your switchboard or smart meter, because this allows excess energy to be exported back to the main grid.
Solar inverters have different capacities, measured in kW (kilowatts). It’s important to get an inverter that can handle the amount of energy you need to power your home. It also needs to align with the number of solar panels you have. The general rule is that your inverter capacity should be around 30% less than your solar panel capacity.
Some solar energy customers choose to add a battery storage option. This is known as off-grid solar. The battery allows you to store excess energy which can be used at night or when the sun isn’t shining. It’s a great way to further reduce your electricity costs, because you have virtually no reliance on the main electricity grid.
The Tesla Powerwall home battery system is one of the popular items on the market today, helping customers break away from electricity companies for good.
The solar power danger myths
Are solar panels safe? Let’s look at the myths surrounding the dangerous elements of solar power.
There are several myths out there about the safety of solar panels in Australia. One of the more ridiculous ones is that solar power causes cancer. We won’t even address that one in detail because it’s so absurd. However, people have some more legitimate concerns with solar energy, and we’ll discuss these in more detail.
Naturally, whenever you deal with electrical components, there is an element of fire risk. In fact, Fire and Rescue NSW reports that electrical appliances cause around 40% of household fires. But how does that relate to solar energy?
Well, a study by Renew in 2016 found that only about 1.5% of fires were linked to solar PV systems. In those cases, the highest known cause was from an unspecified electrical component of the solar system.
So, while any electrical components around the home present a level of fire risk, it’s pretty clear that solar systems are much less of a fire risk than general household appliances. By ensuring you buy quality equipment and have it installed by a professional, you can limit the risk of a solar-related fire considerably.
Again, just like anything involving electricity, shocks are a possibility. How much of a possibility though? Well, not very much. Statistics from 2014 – 2016 show that nearly 1,100 people were hospitalised due to electric injuries. 5% of those cases were from exposure to lightning. The rest were a mix of exposure to electrical currents in various forms. Contact with cords or switches from general household appliances and machinery accounted for 73% of those cases. There is no mention of specific incidents relating to solar PV systems.
However, 11% or 121 cases were caused by exposure to electric transmission lines. It isn’t specified if any of these were residential solar PV systems, but the likelihood is very low as you can see from the numbers. Once again, proper installation by licensed contractors should eliminate much of the electrical injury risk.
We’ve all seen solar panels on people’s roofs, and they look pretty big! Solar panels come in all different sizes, and while not excessively heavy, they could certainly do some damage if they fell from the roof. Solar panels are secured extremely well to the roof, with a series of frames and support to keep them in place, even in the wildest weather conditions. So, the risk of solar panels falling from your roof is extremely low.
Of course, if you use dodgy installers, there’s no telling how their safety standards stack up, so while the risk is extremely low, it pays to always use professionals.
How to ensure your solar system is safe
While the risks mentioned above are certainly real, they’re also very uncommon. That’s because the majority of solar installers around Australia do the right thing and follow all industry standards and guidelines for solar panel installation. However, just like any other profession, there are a select few who don’t do the right thing and could put your house and family at risk.
The best way to ensure your solar system is safe is to only use fully licensed and insured solar installation companies. For solar panels safety, it’s important to work with someone that you can trust. These professionals are trained electrical and solar experts, so they ensure your system is installed according to manufacturer guidelines, as well as following Australia’s strict standards.
In addition, always look for reliable, well-credentialled products. Cheap, nasty solar panels and inverters are more likely to cause you a problem, whether it’s by way of a fire risk or simply a performance issue. Buy solar products with good warranties, and only buy from properly licensed, reputable solar companies. This should keep your home safe while you enjoy all the benefits of solar panels! If you’d like to talk to the solar panel experts, call Captain Green today!