What happens if your solar inverter fails?

solar inverter failure

Solar energy systems are built to last and are designed to produce solar electricity reliably for 25 years or more. In some instances, though, individual components of a solar energy system may malfunction or break altogether. If you've installed solar, here's what to do if your solar inverter fails.

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It is uncommon for solar equipment to fail, but it's important to know what to do and where to turn if it does. If your solar inverter fails, your solar installation company is the best resource to turn to. (If you can't remember who installed your solar energy system, check the junction box or inverter to see if the solar company left a sticker with their contact information.)

The company that installed your solar energy system is likely familiar with the unique nature of your solar energy system and the specifics of the equipment installed. The company can help diagnose the issue, determine a course of action, and order any replacement equipment as necessary.

If you can't find any information about who installed your solar energy system or if that company has since gone out of business, there are a couple of alternative options and resources. First, one option is to check out a list of active, pre-screened solar companies in your area on EnergySage. One of these solar companies may be willing to help in these instances. Second, one option is to contact the company that manufactures your solar inverter. That company can point you toward the installers who work in your area. And finally, a number of solar repair service companies and operations and maintenance (O&M) providers are popping up throughout the country that can take over the ongoing maintenance of your solar energy system.

Importantly, many or all of the potential malfunctions with solar equipment are covered under either your solar company's or the equipment manufacturer's warranty. As explained in further depth later in the post, be sure to check when installing solar equipment the length of the warranties for the various pieces of equipment installed in your system.

Anecdotally, most issues with solar equipment are discovered soon after the solar energy system is installed. There's a slight possibility that a piece of solar equipment is defective out of the box, and that type of malfunction can be caught very quickly. In this event, you likely still have the contact information for your solar installation company on hand, and they'll be willing to promptly schedule a time to come out and replace any equipment that's not functioning correctly.

Beyond these quickly-discovered, out-of-the-box malfunctions, there are a couple of steps you can take to help your solar company diagnose what the problem may be. The first thing to look at is the production estimate for your solar energy system. Has the overall system output dropped from what you expected, or are you not seeing any production from your solar energy system? If the answer is no production recorded at all, the issue may be as simple as your inverter losing connectivity with the internet. This is perhaps the most common way that an inverter "fails," and it's a straightforward fix that your solar company may be able to walk you through over the phone.

If your solar energy system's output is lower than expected or lower than it has been in the past under similar weather conditions, check to see if your production monitoring app provides insight into the production of individual solar panels. Given that the majority of solar installations in the country include module-level power electronics (i.e., inverters or optimizers on each panel), your solar consumption app may provide insight into how each specific panel and inverter or optimizer is performing, allowing you to pinpoint exactly where the problem exists.

Finally, if neither of these quick diagnostics uncovers the issue, the failure could be at a central location, such as at the large central inverter included in with string inverter or string plus power optimizer set up, or at the junction box included in a microinverter system.

In any of the three events, your solar company can fix the problem quickly, for instance, by reconnecting your inverter to the internet or working proactively with the equipment manufacturer to replace defective equipment.

During your solar installation, there are a few key questions to ask your solar company to ensure you're prepared in the unlikely event of an equipment failure. The biggest question to ask is about warranties. You should be aware of the solar company's workmanship warranty and the warranties for each piece of solar equipment installed on your property. Importantly, in some instances, there may be a mismatch between the warranties for different components included in your installation. For example, your solar panels may have a longer warranty than your inverters. Alternatively, if you install a string inverter plus power optimizer system, the central inverter and the optimizers may have different warranty lengths.

Otherwise, you should feel free to inquire who is responsible for which type of maintenance and what your role would be in connecting with and interfacing with solar equipment manufacturers in the event of an equipment failure. Knowing ahead of time how to act or respond in the event of various contingencies can help you feel confident and prepared for the future.

As solar equipment quality has increased, the likelihood of equipment failure has decreased over time. Installers on the EnergySage Marketplace quote and install higher quality equipment than what’s offered and installed on average nationally. If you’re interested in receiving custom quotes for high-quality solar equipment, register for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to connect with pre-screened solar companies near you today.

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