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Are faulty mini inverters a potential fire hazzard

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  • Are faulty mini inverters a potential fire hazzard

    I want to shut down my system until the inverters are replaced because I am afraid of what I don't know about the potential risk to my home

  • #2
    Any faulty solar equipment failure can be a fire hazard. You might want to talk to your insurance agent as well as the solar installer to make sure you are following the right procedure to protect your home.

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    • #3
      I would expect that there is no more inherent risk to the home than any other electrical appliance. Considering that the inverters are typically outside the home separated from the roof by an air gap its a low risk. I have not heard of or seen any significant issues of microinverters bursting into flames. I expect the biggest risk is to the repair person who had to access the replace inverters that have stopped working in the middle of an array. Without the right rigging and protection, tipping a panel out the center of an array and then replacing the inverter is pretty risky.

      The problem is unless the OP has a factual basis for concern over a particular model and brand of microinverter, the only options outside of yanking the array for good is switch to a string inverter with Rapid Shutdown or solar optimizers. Of course that typically moves the inverter indoors.

      The cynic in me could envision someone not necessarily the OP using an argument like this as leverage against a contractual agreement that may have gone bad for a non owned solar system.

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      • #4
        nearly any faulty power gear or appliance could be a fire hazard. Most have been tested and when CE or UL certified, the hazard is low.
        Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
        || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
        || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

        solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
        gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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        • #5
          My experience, is much of the risk is in wiring failures. Heavy duty equipment may
          be fine for a while, but connections can develop resistance, burn up, and arc. I try
          to keep such things away from flammable stuff. Metal boxes, concrete mounting,
          no wooden power panels. Bruce Roe

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          • #6
            ilyteu2 ,

            Welcome! While I admire you cautiousness, there's really no need to shut down your entire array because of the failure of a few microinverters or optimizers. These are UL and CE marked electronic devices that would have been tested for this eventuality and designed to be safe for most foreseen failure modes (nothing is ever perfectly safe). If you feel better shutting down your entire array -- feel free to do so -- but unless you have a very responsive installer it may be down for weeks while you wait for a repair.

            Many folks with residential PV systems don't routinely monitor their operation so it's very common for folks to have failed micros or optimizers for months even years without noticing.

            -Jonathan

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            • #7
              I checked reviews and found that Sunpower is having consistent failures with 2 year old mini inverters and I am not able to monitor the individual efficiencies of each panel even though I have a monitoring system . The Manufacturer and its distributor, the installer can, I cannot. Sunpower has know about the flawed mini's and has not initiated a recall, they are waiting for the consumer to find out on their own.
              I do not feel that having a faulty electrified device on my roof is acceptable. In my state, PG&E may become bankrupt over their part in the latest California wild fires
              Do you trust that Sunpower will be able to assure that continuing to use their system is safe and not just buying time to initiate a "fix"
              I will shut down my system until they replace parts

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              • #8
                There have been at least two other folks on this board with multiple failed SunPower micros. Repair times have been running several months as I recall. SunPower has had a lot of issues with their "house brand" micros. They recently switched all new installs to using Enphase micros which may have a better track record (at least the newer models seem better than the older models). Unfortunately, Enphase has been having supply chain issues getting enough of the components it needs to build them.

                Holding an electrical company liable for a wild fire, even one caused by down wires, is a farse in my opinion. But in today's litigious society I'm sure someone will sue and win.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ilyteu2 View Post
                  I checked reviews and found that Sunpower is having consistent failures with 2 year old mini inverters and I am not able to monitor the individual efficiencies of each panel even though I have a monitoring system.
                  No one can, not without an accurate pyranometer. About the best you can do is look at relative efficiency (compare one to the other.)
                  The Manufacturer and its distributor, the installer can, I cannot. Sunpower has know about the flawed mini's and has not initiated a recall, they are waiting for the consumer to find out on their own.
                  Yes, a few people have seen failures. Everyone I know of has simply shut down.
                  I do not feel that having a faulty electrified device on my roof is acceptable. In my state, PG&E may become bankrupt over their part in the latest California wild fires
                  Do you trust that Sunpower will be able to assure that continuing to use their system is safe and not just buying time to initiate a "fix"
                  I will shut down my system until they replace parts
                  Keep in mind that there's a big difference between an inverter failing and it starting a fire. I have never heard of a microinverter starting a fire, and you'd have to come up with a pretty unusual set of circumstances where it was even possible.
                  Last edited by jflorey2; 04-01-2019, 06:10 PM.

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                  • #10
                    I'm still curious about this statement:

                    "I am not able to monitor the individual efficiencies of each panel even though I have a monitoring system"

                    Does the OP really mean EFFICIENCY? That is to say what jflorey2 was getting at re: pyranometer -- insolation versus harvest?

                    Or does the OP mean that they cannot see the same type of panel level data (Wattage, kWh, voltages, amps, etc.) we take for granted with SE and Enphase systems? Is this a limitation of the SunPower monitoring solution? Or is this an account access issue? Or some of both?

                    Regardless, the OP needs to be persistent with their installer and SunPower in order to get the failed (or all) of the Micros replaced.

                    -Jonathan

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JSchnee21 View Post
                      I'm still curious about this statement:

                      "I am not able to monitor the individual efficiencies of each panel even though I have a monitoring system"

                      Does the OP really mean EFFICIENCY? That is to say what jflorey2 was getting at re: pyranometer -- insolation versus harvest?

                      Or does the OP mean that they cannot see the same type of panel level data (Wattage, kWh, voltages, amps, etc.) we take for granted with SE and Enphase systems? Is this a limitation of the SunPower monitoring solution? Or is this an account access issue? Or some of both?

                      Regardless, the OP needs to be persistent with their installer and SunPower in order to get the failed (or all) of the Micros replaced.

                      -Jonathan
                      Well, unless the OP does indeed have a pyranometer that is either enabled to be oriented in the plane of the panels (or has an accurate algorithm to convert the usually horizontal oriented pyranometer GHI irradiance to POA irradiance), the OP has no way to measure panel efficiency in the sense of efficiency = output/input. What is possible with panel level monitoring is to compare output of panels within an array and get relative efficiencies between and among panels, but that is not panel efficiency relative to input.
                      Last edited by J.P.M.; 04-03-2019, 09:42 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Good news, Sunpower has notified me that the 20 failed mini inverters will be replaced within the next week!. I will post the results, thanks all for the input

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                        • #13
                          Yes, it can be a potential risk! So, you must hire the --redacted-- professionals for the proper inspection and repair. You can gain extra knowledge also about what can be a potential danger and how to prevent it.

                          Shame on you Matthew.
                          Last edited by Mike90250; 08-05-2019, 09:28 AM. Reason: spam

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ilyteu2 View Post
                            Good news, Sunpower has notified me that the 20 failed mini inverters will be replaced within the next week!. I will post the results, thanks all for the input
                            Now that the spammer has brought this post back from the dust bin, I wonder if/when/how the OP is doing with the promised replacements from Sunpower.

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