Solar Power System Inspections – How Often And How Much?

Solar power system inspection and testing

How often should a solar power system be inspected by a suitably qualified professional – and what will it cost? It’s not as frequent or as expensive as some may lead you to believe.

One of the many great aspects of a solar power system is the lack of moving parts. There’s none in the panels and as for the inverter, some have fans, others don’t. It’s the lack of moving parts that helps reduce the need for maintenance.

As for cleaning and as long as your panels are installed on an angle of 10 degrees or more, they should self-clean with rain. In most situations, cleaning solar panels simply isn’t worth it given the time, risk or cost involved.

But because a solar system is exposed to the elements, it will require a proper inspection from time to time so it keeps humming along nicely. This will ensure the system continues to slash your emissions and electricity costs to its maximum potential – and doing so safely for many years.

Recently, a major Australian media outlet mangled some information it sourced from a 9-year-old article published elsewhere, stating it was “too easy to get caught out” by the cost of maintenance. It advised:

“an annual inspection for a household rooftop solar PV system is approximately $330 if it costs $18 per panel.”

That’s a lot to be forking each year – and that appeared to be referring to a 2kW system – tiny by today’s standards. Combined with some other odd figures concerning annual maintenance (estimated $798 in total for an 8kW system), it didn’t make a lot of sense.

Solar Power System Inspection Cost And Frequency

The good news is the overall cost of system inspections are lower as they are required far less frequently than annually. What the article didn’t mention was the costs noted in the 2012 piece were for a yearly inspection *and* solar panel cleaning. And as already covered, annual solar panel cleaning shouldn’t be necessary in most circumstances.

Regarding inspection frequency, SolarQuotes Founder Finn Peacock says for a good quality, well installed system, he recommends a system inspection and test by a Clean Energy Council accredited professional every 5 years, costing approximately $200 – $300. In South Australia, Victoria and the ACT, this isn’t optional. Distributed Network Service Providers (DNSP) in these jurisdictions require your system be tested every 5 years.

That’s a big difference; maintenance costs working out to around $40 – $60 per year vs. $798 for an 8kW system as the article seemed to suggest. It’s a drop in the bucket. For example, SQ’s solar calculator on its default settings indicates a 8kW solar system installed in Sydney can provide savings of around $2,160 a year.

As mentioned, Finn’s inspection recommendation is for a good quality, well installed solar power system. Unfortunately, not all systems installed in Australia are in this category (even though this situation could be easily fixed). Some installations are so crappy, an electrician on retainer and the local firies camped in the front yard are probably more appropriate.

Substandard performance and safety issues from poor quality components and installation contribute to the high cost of cheap solar.

To learn more about PV system maintenance, check out The Good Solar Guide. Additionally, Solar 101, Part 3 – Owning Solar offers some more tips to help you to make the most of your system.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. George Kaplan says

    Assuming the mangled article is today’s hidden news.com.au piece, I’d call it less mangled than simply truncated and unhelpful due to a seeming lack of familiarity with the field.

    In his 2013 article Blanch stated it was $150.00 for an inspection, $10.00 – $20.00 per panel for a clean.

    As regards cleaning – the $10-$20 per panel \ majority of the panel upkeep in the article, my installer said they recommend getting it done professionally every year, and not to get them to do the job as they do a clean + inspection which is a more expensive option and something only needing to be done every 5 years.

  2. Great article. Responsible, no B S advice. Plenty of dodgy installs. We had to replace a under spec. a c switch on the roof. It should have been d c. Daughter had fused panel junctions melt. Had to repair from underneath by moving tiles. Warranty on install is too short. That is what fails, not the panels. Feel sorry for people without the skills. They get shafted.

  3. Am I to understand that my existing solar system installed in 2017 is going to need a compulsory inspection next year?

    What does that entail? Does it check the resistance between each PV panel to see if there are any bad connections and all the other wiring involved or is it just some meter reading that says ok/fail?

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