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Safety and quality rectification tips for the solar industry

Solar worker installing solar battery
Solar worker installing solar battery

Ten opportunities to improve safety and quality were identified across all Solar Homes Program installations audited in 2018-19.

Solar Victoria manages an audit program to ensure solar installers and retailers comply with all required safety and quality standards.

Our independent auditors look at the safety and quality of solar installations and determine where opportunities for improvement need to be followed up with the solar retailer.

Five per cent of all rebated solar PV systems installed during 2018-19 were audited. Analysis of those audits identified 10 common opportunities for improvement in solar systems that did not meet Solar Victoria’s standards. This accounted for 83 per cent of potential safety and quality issues identified.

The following tips or opportunities for improvement aim to help solar installers avoid these common errors and to install solar systems that meet the standards for this program, and without the need to make rectifications later.

If you have questions about the Solar Homes audit program please contact Solar Victoria at quality.assurance@team.solar.vic.gov.au.

Mismatched DC connectors

Make sure only the same type/model from the same manufacturer are mated together for DC connectors.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.3.7(k)

A mismatched DC connector failing could cause major damage and create a safety risk for occupants due to fire or smoke inhalation.

Energy Safe Victoria has developed new guidelines for DC connectors to help all parties involved in installing, inspecting and auditing solar installations to meet compliance and safety requirements.

Download the ESV Guide – Identifying mismatched DC connectors in PV installations from the Energy Safe Victoria website

Water damage and signs of water ingress in the ground and roof DC isolator

Make sure all DC isolator enclosure(s) at the array and at the inverter are correctly installed to prevent water ingress, including appropriate IP rated cable glands and multi-hole sealing grommets to suit the number of installed cables, and if possible, use external fixing points. Where isolators are mounted outdoors, cables and conduits shall not enter the top entry face of the enclosure. Note: The product Manufacturer's Ingress Protection (IP) rating must be maintained for all a.c. and d.c. electrical enclosures.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Cl. 4.1.2 (e), AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.4.4.6

Inadequate earthing

Make sure that the PV array mounting frames and all modules have an equipotential earth bond connected to the earthing terminal on the switchboard/distribution board to which the inverter is connected, either directly or via the inverter main earth conductor. Ensure the mandatory earthing tests are carried out to verify compliant earth continuity as per the Australian Standard.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Sect 8.3.5, AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.4.2.1

Entries to electrical enclosures (protection of connections)

Make sure all conduit glands and fittings to the electrical enclosure are installed and sealed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, including being glued if required. Ensure glands are installed where required to maintain IP ratings and prevent strain on terminations.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.4.4.6

Inverter not affixed correctly

Make sure that inverters (PCEs) are installed in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Pay attention to minimum fixing sizes, number of fixings, and locking devices; and ensuring that the wall is structurally sound for supporting the inverter and that the location is otherwise acceptable.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Cl. 4.1.2 (e), AS/NZS 4777.1 2.3 and 5.3.

DC cables not enclosed in heavy duty conduit or not adequately supported

Make sure all DC cables within the ceiling, wall or floor cavity are fully enclosed in heavy duty conduit or equivalent. Joints in conduits and fittings must be glued to ensure fittings do not come apart exposing the DC cabling. Ensure all wiring and conduit work is adequately supported by clips or saddles at regular intervals.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Cl. 3.9.3.1, AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.3.6.3.2

PV array voltage greater than 600VDC

Make sure residential solar PV arrays are designed and installed to have a PV Array Max Voltage of less than 600 VDC. Remember, this is not the sum of the PV modules connected in series. The PV Array Max Voltage is calculated using the formula in AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.2, which corrects the voltage for the lowest expected operating temperature.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 4.2, AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 3.1

Mounting frames not installed to the Australian Standards

Make sure the PV mounting structure and attachments to the roof are installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring it is secure. Make sure only approved components are used, such as: mounting feet, rail joiners and correct end clamps to the array. Ensure the PV mounting structure and attachments to the roof are secure by visually double checking to confirm all components are correctly fitted and tight. Refer to the manufacturer's engineering certificate for minimum screw sizes and quantity, and required foot spacing for the installation location.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Cl. 4.1.2 (e), AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 2.2.5

Damage to LV cables

Make sure no LV cables have been damaged during the installation, and that cables are clear of fixing screws when securing covers, components and panel clamps. Ensure mandatory Insulation Resistance testing is carried out that may identify any damaged cables prior to energising, as per AS/NZS 3000:2018 Sect 8.3.6.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 3000:2018 Sect 8.3.6, AS/NZS 3000:2018 Sect 3.9.4

DC isolator at the array(s) not correctly wired

Make sure DC isolators are correctly selected and rated for the connected voltage and prospective fault currents. DC isolators must be wired in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions to ensure the internal contacts can safely operate at the specified loads. Double check all terminals including links and bridges to ensure there are no loose connections, perform a pull test on each cable, and ensure all conductor strands have been captured and secured.

Australian Standards reference: AS/NZS 5033:2014 Cl. 2.2.5, AS/NZS 3000:2018 Cl. 4.1.2 (e) and 3.7

Hear from a solar expert

Many of these opportunities for improving safety and quality are covered in training modules brought to you by the Smart Energy Council and Solar Victoria.  

Presenter Geoff Bragg has worked in the industry since 2002. He provides some tips in these modules to help increase safety and quality for workers and customers. 

The links under each module will take you to vimeo files. They were recorded 11–12 September 2020 and include answers to questions asked by retailers and installers who attended the webinars.   

  • Module 1: The array (1:22:50)

    This module covers:  

    • DC connector mismatch, unsecured array cables, nylon cable ties as the primary method of support, unsecured conduit in roof cavities, appropriate roof penetrations, and appropriate tile grinding over tile brackets.   
  • Module 2: Earthing and water ingress (1:24:21)

    This module covers:  

    • earthing continuity through rail joins, earthing continuity across all rails, and zinc spray on earth bond 
    • no glands at enclosure and exit of conduit, glue missing on conduits, top entry on DCI at inverters installed outdoors, isolator shrouds, PIPs on DCI, and DCI not being readily available.    
  • Module 3: Panel mounting, inverter and signage (1:20:41)

    This module covers: 

    • clamp zones on PV panels – manufacturer’s instructions and the different Pascal ratings, and clearance from the edge of the roof  
    • inverter clearances and best locations, segregation of communications cables, use of RCD on AC connections, and string fusing 
    • incorrect fire signage on voltages (voc) and currents (isc), updating signage after system expansion, and multiple inverters and isolators identified.   
  • Module 4: Miscellaneous errors and functionality (1:23:01)

    This module covers: 

    • missing clamps, inadequate or no clearance for leaf litter, galvanic isolation, loose gland nuts, and PV panels not being installed  
    • AS/NZS 3000:2018 mandatory testing, grid code being set with an inverter, string checks, voltage rise checks, internet connection for earth fault alarms, CT placement and orientation, and export limiting issues.      

Reviewed 03 March 2021