How to Disconnect Your Solar Panel (Complete Steps)

Imagine sitting outside enjoying a cold one, admiring your solar panels. You hear a weather report that says a big storm’s rolling through your area soon.

Should you disconnect your solar system? Will my panels still work?

Whether you’re moving, performing repair and maintenance, or preparing for a big storm, disconnecting your Solar PV system first is always a good idea.

In this post, we’ll explain how to disconnect your solar panel and provide the following suggestions if you’re new to solar power.

  • Steps To Disconnect Your Solar Panels
  • Am I Off-Grid When Disconnected?
  • How to Disconnect a Portable Solar System
  • Can You Leave Panels Disconnected?
  • What Happens When the Power Goes Out?
Solar Panel Connection
Solar Panel Connection

Steps To Disconnect Your Solar Panels

There are two steps here: turning off the PV system and disconnecting the solar panels. Most repair work involves disconnecting the system, whereas a physical move incorporates the second set of instructions.

Follow These Steps First to Disconnect Your Solar PV System:

  1. Safety Measures: Wear a hard hat and work boots, if possible. It’s also essential to wear insulating gloves to protect yourself.
  2. Disconnect In the Early Evening: Solar energy is produced from the sun and can’t be “turned off.” Because the sun is still generating electricity, you work with a “live wire” daily.
  3. Disconnect DC and AC Switches: Most systems have two circuit breakers – the AC and DC. The AC side, which stands for alternating current, must be turned off first. Then turn off the AC breaker.

    The system is not producing energy at this point, and you’re safe from electrocution concerns. Next, turn off the DC or Direct Current Side, and you can start safely working on your system.

Follow These Steps to Disconnect Solar Panels:

  1. Check to see if your system has a disconnect switch. If not, cover the solar panels with a reflective or opaque surface.
  2. Use a voltage or multimeter to make sure the voltage measures zero.
  3. Disconnect the wires. MC4 connectors make this easy, or you can use a socket wrench.
  4. Remove the bolts and clamping devices, if applicable.
Connecting Solar Panels Arrays - Solar Panels From Behind With Wires
Connecting Solar Panels Arrays Solar Panels From Behind With Wires E1629661888323

Am I Off-Grid When I Turn Off My Solar Power?

Some people might think because they’ve unplugged the panels, they might be “off the grid,” but that’s not true. You’re off-grid only if you have a separate system installed with batteries.

Most homeowners are grid-tied, meaning you pull energy from the power company. This system is called Net Metering (NEM).

What are the Benefits of Grid-Tied vs. Off-Grid?

Grid-Tied: Most homeowners benefit from grid-tied because there are fewer installation fees for the battery system. Being connected to your utility also saves money through net metering.

Whatever electricity you don’t use, the utility company stores it for later use. The grid is also a “virtual battery,” meaning the utility company handles all the storage for you.

There’s no need for replacement parts or maintenance, and you have access to backup power if your solar systems stop functioning for some reason.

Off-Grid: These typically run for $12,000 more but are more suitable in remote areas or if you experience many power outages. Off-Grid also allows you not ever to lose power.

Another advantage is you’re independent of the electric company, as long as you have backup power, such as a generator.

Being energy-independent gives some people security in knowing they’re not relying on anyone but themselves for their power.

If you’re also conscious of global warming, off-grid presents another advantage. 100% clean energy is attainable with an off-grid system, as you don’t rely on any fossil fuel for your power.

Charge Controller Wires
Charge Controller Wires

How Do I Disconnect a Portable Solar System?

A lot of people are starting to live the nomad lifestyle. Solar is a popular power option whether you’re an RV nomad or have a boat. If you need to move them, you’ll follow the same steps.

Turn off the circuit breaker, cover the panels with a dark cover, and disconnect the wires with an MC4.

Can You Leave Panels Disconnected?

Leaving your panels unplugged is not recommended. Solar panels not connected leave the circuits open, which leaves nowhere for the power to go. The result can be an overloaded system and damaged panels.

If you are going out of town for a few days or want to shut down your panels before a storm, that’s fine. Just make sure it’s no longer than two or three days.

What Happens When the Power Shuts Down?

Storms are the biggest cause of power outages. Most homeowners with solar are grid-tied and will lose power with the rest of the neighborhood in such instances.

Protecting workers and troubleshooting are the main reasons for this.

What Can You Do To Prevent a Power Outage?

  • Backup Generator: Your entire house can effectively run using a 9,000-watt gas generator. Usually priced around $1,000, it also requires fuel costs.
  • Hybrid Solar System: Less money than an off-grid, a hybrid solar system eliminates the need for a gas generator. Hybrid solar systems use battery-based inverters that are tied to the grid.
  • Stand-Alone Solar Battery: These come in many varieties and keep your power on by completely disconnecting themselves from the grid when an outage is identified. These are powerful and sometimes expensive options and can run for a long time.
  • Solar Generator: A solar generator might be the answer if you’re not into spending several thousand dollars on a solar battery. Just be sure to charge them before the power goes out, as they won’t charge during a power outage.

Rapid Shutdown System

Some places incorporate a solar PV rapid shutdown system. A rapid shutdown is a way to bring the entire system to zero in case of an emergency, such as a fire.

These systems can be placed anywhere in the house, as long as it’s not on the roof. In an emergency, press the button located inside the system, and your PV automatically shuts down.

Sources:

  • https://www.resinc.com.au/blog/this-is-how-to-turn-your-solar-pv-system-on-and-off
  • https://www.sunpoweredyachts.com/single-post/how-should-i-disconnect-my-solar-panels
  • https://www.rvandplaya.com/can-you-leave-solar-panels-unplugged-or-disconnented/

Solar Panel Maintenance FAQ

Do I need to clean my solar panels?

Unless you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain, or you live in an area with high amounts of smog or dust, cleaning solar panels is not usually necessary. Fine dust or dirt do not have much of an effect on the efficiency of your panels, although this can eventually build up into hard grime that will begin causing problems. We recommend cleaning your panels once or twice a year just to be safe. 

How do I maintain my solar panels? 

One of the best aspects of solar panels is that they are basically maintenance-free; you simply set and forget. However, it’s good to make sure they are not being shaded too much and to keep an eye on your charge controller to make sure the batteries are being charged properly. 

Do solar panels need to be serviced? 

Solar panels have no moving parts and are thus basically maintenance-free! They do not need to be serviced at all, other than occasional cleaning. Inverters and batteries are arguably the most vulnerable part of your solar system and will need serviced or replaced every decade. 

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