Can Solar Panels Cause Fires?

There are over 2 million distributed solar installations in the US. As such, many people may have growing concerns about fire safety. Notably, solar panel system fires are rare. However, many home and business owners like to be informed of all the risks, including solar panel fires.

It’s also worth noting that though you can install solar panels properly following all the current safety codes, a solar fire can arise. For this reason, there are many safety processes involved to ensure safety. In this article, we are going to look at solar panel fires in detail. Let’s dive in.

The Risk of Solar Panels Causing

solar fire

As earlier stated, the risk of solar panels catching fire is negligible. However, there is no official percentage around this, but it is around 0.006%, according to a German roofing company. This is relatively low, making the chances of your PV catching fire negligible.

Additionally, solar panels have been in use in the US for several decades now. In that period, we can only link a few fires to PV modules. Notably, electrical systems always have a risk of causing fires, and solar panels are no exemption. However, if you understand what causes fires, you can eliminate the problem.

What Can Make Solar Panels to Catch Fire?

There are various reasons solar panels can cause house fires. Such include:

  • Poorly designed systems
  • Improperly installed electrical equipment
  • Faulty products
  • Over-voltage
  • Power surges
  • Lightening

Any of these reasons can lead to hot spots within the system, which can be flammable. Additionally, they can cause arcs between the ground and the conductor, which is a fire hazard.

Each home and business owner needs to be aware that solar PV systems contain live wires with electricity. For this reason, one needs to follow correct configurations when making the connections. The wires also need to be the right ones for the job. Remember, all wires also need adequate insulation to avoid issues. Failing to do this can cause arc faults, short circuits, reverse currents, and ground faults that can lead to a fire. It’s worth noting that these are some of the same problems that you can face when installing electricity from the grid in your home.

How to Prevent or Reduce Solar Panel Fire Risk

Some of the precautions that you can take include:

Choosing experienced solar PV installers

An experienced solar installer is likely to have a good reputation in the area. Apart from looking at their reputation and years of experience, the technician should have the required licenses. It ascertains that they know how to do a good job and that they have a trusted business. Additional industry certificates also show they have a well-trained workforce.

Get Quality Solar Panels and Parts

The temptation to buy low-quality solar panels is high because of the low price. But avoid this at all costs. Such panels can malfunction, causing a fire, leading to higher costs in the long run.

Buy quality solar panels to avoid this issue. Manufacturers also provide long-term warranties for solar panels. The same case also applies to all the parts that make up your system. As such, you should ensure you do not choose flammable frames and mounting systems.

Regular System Maintenance

Any electrical system needs regular maintenance. Ensure you regularly check out any damages from pests, rodents, and other small animals. Look for holes in the cables which can lead to problems in the future.

Avoid DIY Solar Installation

Often, people can rely on DIY solar installation. If you want to ensure safety, you should avoid this. Though you may reduce installation costs, it can lead to more problems in the future. Solar panel systems are complex. For this reason, you should not attempt DIY installation if you are not a trained electrician or solar PV installation expert. Doing this can increase the risk of solar panels catching fire.

Solar Panels Impact on Firefighters

The fire department takes various precautions in the event of a fire in a building with a solar panel system. Since the system contains live wires, they are a potential risk to firefighters. Informing the fire department that you have solar panels installed on-site is important. You can clearly label your building or call them, allowing them to come prepared. One of the main things they will do is switch off the system and later determine the cause of the fire.

Owning solar panels is safe and reliable. It can help reduce your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint. However, it is vital to ensure you follow the precautions indicated to prevent solar panel fires.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many fires are caused by solar panels?

Solar panel fires are rare. Previous industry reports indicate lower than 1 incident per 10,000 installations.

2. What causes solar panels to catch fire?

Solar panels can catch fire due to poor designs, defects with the components, faulty installations, high voltage among others. Employing professional installers reduces these risks significantly. 

3. How can I prevent solar system fires?

The main way to prevent this issue is having professional solar panel installers. Routine and regular maintenance of the system also helps pin-point problems before they cause major issues.