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.
What to do if your inverter fails
It is uncommon for solar equipment to fail, but in the event that it does, it’s important to know what to do and where to turn. In the event that your solar inverter fails, the best resource to turn to is your solar installation company. (If you can’t remember who installed your solar energy system, check the junction box or inverter itself 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 both the unique nature of your solar energy system as well as the specifics of the equipment installed. The company can help diagnose what the issue is, determine a course of action, and order any replacement equipment as necessary.
In the event that 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 get in touch with the company that manufactures your solar inverter. That company can point you towards the installers they work closely within your area. And, finally, a number of solar repair service companies and operations and maintenance (O&M) providers are popping up throughout the country, who 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 what the length of the warranties are for the various pieces of equipment installed in your system.
How to diagnose different potential inverter issues
Anecdotally, the majority of 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 at all 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 is a very simple 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 individual 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 will be able to either quickly fix the problem by, for instance, reconnecting your inverter to the internet, or work proactively with the manufacturer of the equipment to replace defective equipment.
What to ask your solar installer about maintenance
During your solar installation, there are a few key questions to ask your solar company to make sure you are 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, as well as the warranties for each individual 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 instance, 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 as to who is responsible for which type of maintenance, as well as what your personal 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 in the future.
Find qualified solar vendors to install high-quality equipment
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.