Hurricane Safety Tips – Solar

Hurricane Safety Tips for Your PV System

As you are aware, Hurricane Florence is a major hurricane heading towards the Carolinas. We understand that during this time you may have questions about your PV system and perhaps this can help to answer some common questions.


What happens if the powergrid goes down?


If the powergrid has a surge or goes down, your PV system is designed to automatically shutdown.  Additionally your PV system utilizes over-current protection, the same as your house, through a fused disconnect or breaker which, if needed, will trip or blow to protect the PV system during a surge. 

If it’s just a surge and the powergrid comes back up momentarily, your PV system should restart on its own after a period of time.

If the power grid is down and you do not have battery backup, your system will shutdown.  This is to protect the utility company personnel from electric shock as they will be working on the damaged powerlines.  When grid power is restored, your PV system should reconnect and be operational again, unless it has been damaged by severe weather.  If the system does not appear to be damaged and is not functioning, please call us for assistance.

If the power grid is down and you have a battery backup, it will depend on your installation:

If you have a power outlet for backup, you should have power to that outlet.  In most cases that is rated for a maximum of 25 amps.  The outlet should be powered unless it has been damaged by severe weather.  If the system and battery do not appear damaged but are not functioning, please call us for assistance.

If you have a backup panel, the loads in that panel should function normally unless it has been damaged by severe weather.  If the system and battery do not appear damaged but are not functioning, please call us for assistance.

Lastly, it is not necessary to take this action, but if you are concerned that a surge from the power grid may damage your PV system, you can always manually disconnect the system.  This is done by finding the Customer Generator System Disconnect, typically located near your meter, although if not, there should be a placard noting it’s location.  It should look like the following image, typically with a red handle: 

 

 

Simply move the handle from ON to OFF.  Know that while the system is OFF it will not offset any electricity you use and no power from your PV system will be sent to the grid.

After the hurricane passes, you can turn the handle back to ON and the system will restart after a period of time, your PV system should reconnect and be operational again, unless it has been damaged by severe weather. 


After the hurricane, what should I do with my PV system?


If your power is out, contact your local utility.  You can report an outage online, by phone or mobile app.  

Make sure you have your address, your situation, time the outage started and the likely cause of the outage if you know it.  DO NOT TOUCH OR APPROACH any downed powerlines as they may still be conducting electricity and are hazardous.  Make sure to notify others and keep them and pets away from the downed line.


How to check your PV system after the hurricane:


First, review your PV equipment to be sure it’s operating.  Assuming you turned on your PV system after the hurricane or never turned it off and assuming you have power from the utility, check your online monitoring site to see if the system is working or check the inverter mounted on the side of your property.  If the system is giving a warning, please call us for assistance.

Second, check for any debris on the PV panels or any impact damage to the panels.  If there is no impact damage and it’s just leaf debris on your panels, remove it to restore full production if you can safely do so.

Third, if your system is damaged or non-functional after the hurricane, DO NOT TOUCH the PV panels or racking.  PV panels produce current in any amount of light and the damage may have disrupted the system grounding.  This means those metal components could be conducting electricity and may be hazardous.  Immediately call your solar company and make sure to keep family and pets away from the system.

We hope that you and your family will remain safe during this hurricane. 

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