Imagine you’re 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, it’s always a good idea to disconnect your Solar PV system first.
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?
Steps To Disconnect Your Solar Panels
There are two categories of steps here: turning off the PV system itself 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:
- Safety Measures: Wear a hard hat and work boots, if possible. It’s also essential to wear insulating gloves to protect yourself.
- 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’re working with a “live wire” during the day.
- 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.
At this point, the system is not producing energy, 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:
- Check to see if your system has a disconnect switch. If not, cover the solar panels with a reflective or opaque surface.
- Use a voltage or multimeter to make sure the voltage measures zero.
- Disconnect the wires. MC4 connectors make this easy, or you can use a socket wrench.
- Remove the bolts and clamping devices, if applicable.
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. The only time you’re off-grid is 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 lots of 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 on 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.
How Do I Disconnect a Portable Solar System?
A lot of people are starting to live the nomad lifestyle. Whether you’re an RV nomad or have a boat, solar is a popular power option.
If you need to move them, you’ll follow the same steps as outlined before.
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 itself from the grid when an outage is identified. These are powerful and sometimes expensive options and can run for a long time.
- Solar Generator: If you’re not in to spending several thousand dollars on a solar battery, a solar generator might be the answer. 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.