Maintenance: Devil in the Details
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
Speaking frankly, I dislike maintenance. It would suit me perfectly well if I could plug it in and walk away FOREEEEVEERRRR.
Regretfully in this day and age that just isn't an option. ALL things are subjected to entropy in some form or another.
Our PV systems are intended to last anywhere from 20-30 years, and if you are especially hopeful, 35 years. What's the typical life span of an inverter? Do we even have inverters that have survived that long? According to the "internet", inverters built / installed in the 1990s are showing closer to a 10-15 year life span, newer designs will probably last longer as the technology has progressed quite a bit (hopefully).
The biggest cause of failures in these units? Yes you guessed it, lack of maintenance especially in extreme conditions. Taking the time to go over each inverter at a site may be time consuming, but well worth it if you are already on site. Each site visit, if troubleshooting a down unit, should be maximized. Those site visits are EXPENSIVE, anywhere from $300-$800 just to get a truck out the door. Check off a chunk of maintenance if a team is being dispatched for a different issue! Be sure to RECORD what has been done, when, and by who. MANY inverter manufacturers require a maintenance record to validate the warranty.
What should be checked during a typical maintenance visit? Hat induced failures due to extreme exterior conditions, or equipment heat dissipation issues are the primary cause of failures. Ensure heat-sinks are free of debris and dust, if it has fans be sure the air filters are clean. Internal customer connections need to be appropriately tight per the manufacturers specifications. If anything is loose, it will heat up and cause SERIOUS, or potentially catastrophic issues.
Those two items are critical, everything else should be checked per the equipment's maintenance instructions. You saved those manuals right?
Having a copy of your equipment's manual is important. If you don't have them on hand, get them ASAP. Put them somewhere safe, either physically or digitally, they are "typically" full of good information. They can be life saving when you need to troubleshoot an issue.
All in all maintenance isn't fun, but if performed regularly will undoubtedly provide HUGE returns on your PV system.
Did I miss any KEY maintenance items on my checklist? Let me know in the comments!
Too Long, Didn't Read
Site visits are an opportunity to perform maintenance and save money.
Document site visit and maintenance performed.
Key things to check: Air filters, heat sinks, and customer connections DC / AC
Ensure the manuals are at hand, be sure to check them for additional maintenance items.