solar o&m plan

Should you get a solar operations and maintenance (O&M) package?

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For many, solar panel systems are mostly a “set it and forget it” investment, requiring very little maintenance over the 25+ years. However, if you’re looking for extra peace of mind, one upgrade to consider is a solar operations and maintenance (O&M) package. Simply put, O&M packages are essentially protection plans for your solar investment. You can think of them as a sort of “homeowner’s insurance” for your solar panels; if a tree falls on a portion of your house, a home insurance plan will likely cover a large portion of the repair costs –  the same is true of solar energy system repairs under O&M plans.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2020

If your solar system is underperforming because of environmental, equipment, or other reasons, an O&M provider can perform physical repairs to your panels, inverters, or whichever portion of your array is affected. Solar operations and maintenance plans will also cover regular checks on your system to confirm that it is operating at peak performance.

Benefits of solar operations and maintenance packages

A strong solar operations and maintenance service package provides many benefits to homeowners with solar panel systems. When you’re comparing your options, consider whether the following services are covered:

Site visits

O&M plans often include regular times throughout the year for your provider to come and physically inspect your solar system. From these site visits, your O&M provider will be able to diagnose any problems with your system and take action to bring your electricity production back up to normal.

Pest control

A common nuisance with solar panel systems is pests: birds and rodents may nest in and around your array, leading to the potential for electrical damage to your system. Critter guards help to alleviate this issue, but O&M companies often include pest control in their plan to counteract any problems that occur.

Cleaning

Importantly, a well-designed solar panel system rarely needs cleaning (regular rainwater is usually sufficient!) However, if you live in an area with high amounts of particulates and dust floating around, an O&M provider can clean your system if your panels are underproducing due to dust or any other material dirtying your panels.

Electrical systems checks

Electrical systems connecting your solar array to your home and the power grid need to be maintained as well. O&M plans should cover proactive checks to all of your wiring and electrical systems to help make sure that your system is supplying the right amount of electricity to your home or business.

Solar inverter maintenance

Solar inverters (particularly string inverters) have a shorter lifespan than solar panels themselves, and need to be closely monitored for degradation. A good solar O&M plan will pay extra attention to your solar inverters to ensure your panels will continue converting direct current (DC) energy from your panels into usable electricity.

Hiring solar crew and personnel

In order to complete maintenance projects on your solar array, specialists and panel experts need to work with your system. A good solar O&M plan will include a network of reputable repair crews to perform any regular or one-off maintenance you need.

Importance of a solar service package

If your installer is available and you are still covered by their labor warranty, it is always best to first consult them for system maintenance – they know your system setup and equipment best, and they already have a relationship with you. Even so, there are a few reasons why you may want to consider a separate O&M package.

Solar installers make most of their money from an initial installation. As a result, some companies may prioritize working with new customers over maintenance on existing installs, whereas a service package prioritizes your already-installed system. For the same reason, solar installers may send their best talent to work on new installations, rather than fix your damaged solar panels or inverters.

In some cases, your local solar installer may have gone out of business, meaning they’re unable to service you equipment even if you’re still within the original warranty period. If this is the case, it can be difficult to diagnose and fix issues with your solar panel system without an O&M coverage plan.

Commercial vs. residential O&M plans

Commercial and residential solar panel systems vary in terms of size and equipment. Because of this, the logistics behind your O&M plan depend on whether your system is a small-scale rooftop system or large commercial project.

Plans for larger commercial projects tend to focus more on preventative strategies, while rooftop installations are typically more “reactive.” This is due in part to commercial properties being able to handle regular truck visits from solar maintenance crews. Additionally, residential systems are typically much smaller, and in the event of a problem, a small crew can be easily dispatched by an O&M company to repair that system. On the other hand, an issue with a commercial system can take up more resources on the service company’s end.

Explore solar installation options on EnergySage

Installing the right solar equipment and working with a reputable solar installer will help reduce the maintenance requirements of a solar panel system. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you can receive up to seven custom solar quotes from local installers. These quotes will include information about the proposed equipment, including the number of panels, type of inverter, and more. Want to start with a quick estimate of potential solar costs and savings? Try our Solar Calculator.

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is a researcher and content writer at EnergySage, where he focuses primarily on current issues–and new technology!–in the solar industry. With a background in environmental and geological science, Jacob brings an analytical perspective and passion for conservation to help solar shoppers make the right energy choices for their wallet and the environment. Outside of EnergySage, you can find him playing Ultimate Frisbee or learning a new, obscure board game.

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