WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY SYSTEM?
As much as we love a functioning productive solar system, every now and then solar systems will experience anything from slight hiccups to downright faults – and a system that ain’t running ain’t making money!
These few helpful tips will be sure to help you decide whether it’s an issue you can fix or whether you need to call in a qualified electrician to get your system up and running again.
You’ve woken up in a rush, gone to hop in the car and you’ve noticed this from your inverter:
While this SolarEdge inverter has been kind enough to indicate the type of fault (Meter Comm. Error), it’s more difficult to work out what the issue might be if your inverter doesn’t have a screen, or, worse, simply won’t turn on.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to work out whether it’s a quick fix or a warranty claim – so let’s get into it.
ERROR CODE OR LOSS OF POWER?
Inverters are complex machines that require a number of ideal operating conditions in order to effectively provide power to your house.
Every inverter will come with some form of indicator in regards to what the issue might be. A green LED indicates healthy performance, an orange LED will indicate some sort of fault or potential Wi-Fi communication issue, and a red LED will generally indicate a serious fault that has forced the inverter to shut down completely.
If the inverter has no lights, this may be an indication that the inverter has a serious internal fault, or is simply not receiving power from the solar panels or power grid.
We’ll separate this article into two sections: Troubleshooting your inverter with power & Troubleshooting your inverter without power
IF THE INVERTER IS NOT POWERING ON
Firstly, check there’s power to your home. Unless you own an off-grid system, all inverters are required by Australian law to disconnect in the event of grid power loss. Flick some light switches or check that your meter in the switchboard is running. If you have an old disc meter, turn on a load appliance like your oven or toaster and check that the disc is spinning clockwise.
If you can confirm that your house still has power, move on to the next step.
Your inverter will have something called a minimum voltage window. This is the minimum amount of DC voltage required for an inverter to operate, and some inverters will actually power off if the DC voltage input is below the minimum voltage specification. This can occur at night, early morning, or on a particularly shaded day, so make sure there’s sunlight on the panels before you give yourself any reason to worry.
Check that the issue still exists when the sun is shining in the sky!
Your solar inverter will have a number of circuit breakers that you can check in the event of power loss.
Firstly, check that all your circuit breakers are on in the switchboard – specifically the Solar Main Switch and the Grid Supply Main Switch. Then head over to your inverter and check that all the switches at the inverter are on. This includes the AC isolator and the DC isolator. Both should be clearly labelled. The DC isolator may be built into the inverter, so make sure to check it if you can’t find a separate one (they’re usually under the inverter).
If a circuit breaker is tripped or off, and it is safe to do so, try turning it back on. If it immediately trips, this can indicate a serious fault and will likely require a qualified electrician to attend.
CYCLE POWER ON INVERTER
As stated, inverters can be complex. Just like a computer, they can occasionally experience the human comparative of brain freeze and could simply just require a power cycle to get back to operating smoothly.
Follow the shutdown procedure sticker that should be located on the front of the inverter.
If there is no sticker, a quick online search for the model of the inverter should indicate the correct procedure to reboot.
The standard procedure is to turn the AC isolator off, then the DC isolator, then wait for several minutes, then DC isolator on, then AC isolator on.
INVERTER HAS POWER BUT IS IN FAULT
An inverter that has gone into fault mode could indicate a number of things. If you’re lucky enough to have an inverter that has a fault code on the screen, a quick search on the internet with the inverter model and error code (e.g. “sungrow sg5k error code”) will generally show every issue associated with the fault.
Your inverter manual will also hold an index of potential error codes.
Contacting your installer and being able to provide the appropriate error code will allow a much smoother process to get the problem fixed!
If your inverter is connected to a battery, there’s a chance you could have an issue with your battery that is affecting the inverter. There will be information included in the battery manual regarding cycling the battery to check if it is operating correctly.
INVERTER HAS POWER, NO FAULTS, BUT IS NOT PRODUCING POWER
If you find that your inverter is running with no faults, but is operating at far below normal capacity or even no production at all, this could indicate an issue with the string wiring or panels on the roof, and may require a call back for the solar installer who did the job, as this could indicate an issue with the original installation. Alternatively, it could be abnormally bad weather, or something new could be causing extra shading (such as an overgrown tree).
Inverters and their associated electrics are high voltage machines and troubleshooting should not be taken lightly. Be careful, avoid sticking fingers in your switchboard or nooks and crannies and use your noggin. If you feel unsafe about any work involved, call an electrician and get them to sort it out.
GI Energy only works with reputable inverter companies that keep up-to-date documentation with Australian offices and over-the-phone support.
If you had your system installed with GI Energy and have an issue, give the office a call and take advantage of your lifetime support!