As the temperatures rise this summer, solar panels are back in the focus of many homeowners, both those who already have solar panels installed on their homes, as well as those who still don’t have them, but are interested in getting them.
However, there is a lot of misinformation and half-true information available on the internet. One such thing is the notion that solar panels cause house fires.
We reached out to solar panel experts at Action Solar Installation of San Diego in an effort to find out what the truth about this topic is.
Can Solar Panels Cause House Fires:
Just like with any other electrical system, photovoltaic systems can be a fire hazard if they are not installed properly. That is why there are strict laws about who is allowed to handle electrical installations and solar panel installation.
So, if your solar panels have been installed by a certified professional, it is safe to say that solar panels do not cause house fires.
Are Solar Panels Safe:
Even if you accept that proper installation of solar panels ensures that there won’t be problems coming from the installations and the wiring coming from the panels into your house, there is always the concern that the solar panels themselves might be a fire hazard.
As the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors states, the vast majority of solar panels available on the market today have been thoroughly tested by the Underwriters Laboratories. The panels are put through harsh conditions and only certified if they successfully pass those tests.
If you want to make sure that your solar panels are certified, talk to your solar installer before you decide to install them on your house.
When Are Solar Panels a Hazard:
Even though they will not cause a fire, solar panels can be a problem if a fire occurs elsewhere. This problem can be exacerbated if the firefighters aren’t aware that there are solar panels on the roof.
Even when the power is shut down in the house, the direct current running from your solar panels to the inverter is likely going to stay alive. That’s why firefighters need to know that there are solar panels, to avoid electrocution.
Seeing how California passed a law making solar panels obligatory on all new construction from 2020, chances are that firefighter will assume that the house is equipped with a photovoltaic system and be more careful about it.
Blocking Access to Important Places:
Another way solar panels have been reported to pose a problem to firefighters is that they can block access to the roof, which makes it more difficult to reach all parts of the house and can block the smoke and heat from leaving the roof naturally. Finally, the weight of the whole system may put additional strain on the roof structure, making it more likely to collapse during a fire.
How to Mitigate Potential Problems:
Well, the first and most important thing is to only install and buy solar panels with registered and professional solar panel installation companies. They will guarantee their work and will properly connect and label everything, which will make disassembling and disabling them much safer and easier.
Make sure that the solar panels don’t cover the whole roof, but instead leave some room for emergencies. Additionally, a part of the roof should be left for ventilation purposes. It is also helpful to give firefighters the roof plan during the construction, so they have all important info beforehand.
Solar panels are a great move forward both for reducing pollution produced by large-scale fossil fuel power plants, and your personal electrical bill costs. Even though they can pose a problem during a fire, they do not cause fires directly, and proper installation and planning ahead can mitigate any potential problems.