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How to troubleshoot a solar system?

This article describes how you can troubleshoot a solar system in basic steps. Common issues are zero power and low voltage output.

Troubleshooting a solar (pv) system

Below I will describe basic steps in troubleshooting a PV array. Quality solar panels are built and guaranteed to produce power for 25 years. For that reason, it’s most likely that a problem is caused by a defect in system components other than the panels, such as the solar inverter, charge controller, wiring or batteries. However nearly every pv manufacturer has seen defects in solar panels over the past years, and I’ll also describe common quality issues that might shut down a pv module.

Two common problems that require troubleshooting

As mentioned above, most of the problems are caused by the inverter and charge controller. There are two failure modes which the solar system may be experience. These two conditions which may require troubleshooting are:
  1. Zero Power Output (No Power)
  2. Low Voltage Issue

Troubleshooting: Zero power output

Zero output is a common problem and in nine out of ten cases, it is due to a faulty inverter or charge controller. It’s also possible that one solar panel in your pv array failed. As the pv modules are connected in series, one failing pv module will shut down the entire system.

Troubleshooting: low power situation

If your solar system is not delivering sufficient power for which it is rated for, the resulting situation is called a low power situation. This is the most common type of problem and a few, quick, troubleshooting steps will help you find the source of the problem. The factors that could contribute to a low power problem are:

Shading

This is possibly the most common cause of low voltage. Ensure that there are no trees around and that the solar panels are not blocked by shadow at any time during the day. Keep in mind that a solar systems lasts for more than 25 years and trees grow over time.. Conducting a bi-annual survey of the installation site is a good idea.

Temperature

If shading is not an issue, most likely it will be the higher than normal operating temperature of the solar panels. It has been scientifically proven that the voltage drop rises with the rise in temperature. The higher the temperature, the lower will be the power output. Adding more modules in series, and therefore increasing the string voltage, will eliminate this problem. Also make sure that there’s sufficient air circulation beneath the panels and that this open space is not blocked in any way.

Bad Connections

If the modules are not overheated, the best bet for you will be to check for a bad connection. You can use a multi-meter to check the voltage levels at various points to find out the point beyond which the problem of low voltage begins. If your system was professionally wired, chances are that you may not experience this problem, but it is worth checking for.

Solar panel defects

It’s uncommon for a solar panel to fail as they’re meant to last 25 years in the field. However nearly all large pv manufacturers have seen product recalls over the past years, and therefore you mean come across failing solar panels when you troubleshoot a solar system. There are a dozen of problems that may occur, let me mentioned the most common ones:
Hotspots
The series resistance of the solar cells in a panel could have increased overtime. This may be the result of hotspot that may occur when micro cracks appear in the cells. The result is a lower voltage in the panel, which will bring the overall voltage of the solar array down.
Junction box
An increase in resistance is also likely to happen in a junction box that may be exposed to moisture. Nowadays quality junction boxes are IP67 certified, which means they’re completely water proof. There have been numerous recalls in the pv industry due to bad design junction boxes. The good thing is that junction boxes can be changed fairly easily.
Delamination
Delamination is another common defect. You should be able to see delamination with your own eyes. When delamination occurs, moisture can enter the electrical circuit of the panel, which may create a current leak or a short. Other solar panel defects are PID (Potential Induced Degradation), micro cracks, UV discoloring.

A certified pv installer can help troubleshoot a solar system

After performing these basic troubleshooting steps, if you are not able to locate the source of problem, it is better to call a certified or licensed electrician. Keep in mind that while doing any troubleshooting, there is always a potential of getting shock. Make sure that you wear insulating shoes and gloves when performing any such work.  
Emmanuel
By

Emmanuel

on 17 Apr 2020

I have a solar system with four 300watts mono solar panels. During the shinning day the battery voltage is fully charged as indicated from my charge controller, but when I connect the loads on it, the battery voltage starts dropping until it gets to zero and the system goes off. When the system has gone off, the battery rises again to fully charged immediately and the same issue occurs when I power on the inverter. Please advise. Thank you.

Aayan
By

Aayan

on 15 Apr 2020

Hi, my 24v hybrid solar inverter is showing PV REVERSE as it was kept on during night and it was lightning whole night. Before all this it was working smoothly. All of a sudden when lightning stuck somewhere in vicinity the led of inveter turned red and was showing PV REVERSE. could anyone suggest how to fix this issue.

Patricia
By

Patricia

on 19 Feb 2020

Why does my inverter show "No Input"

Sakiusa Senivutu
By

Sakiusa Senivutu

on 11 Feb 2020

On my solar inverter the indicator always shows that by 9.00am every it is fully charged, but as soon as night falls we do not have enough to turn on even one light bulb. The system has been in our family for 4 years. Please help. There are no other alternative powers here in the village.

Patricia
By

Patricia

on 06 Oct 2019

Hi, I am Patricia. my inverter is not charging and writing " no sun" when the sun is shining and its very hot. We cleaned the panel and check for faults,but no change.Please help trouble shooting.

Peta
By

Peta

on 08 May 2019

i have a powertech 4000s surge inverter and readout show 12.2 volts and operating lights are on but there is no power coming into my camp

Jack James
By

Jack James

on 29 Mar 2019

I have 2 180w panels connected in parallel. If the clouds pass, the output drops to 11.2v. with sun its 13.7v. If I hook in series the controller has no output. I have a 12v solar batt. A mppt 30a controller. The panels are set at 45°.

benn lines
By

benn lines

on 23 Dec 2018

The display on my Omny 3.6/4.0KW invertor indicates that the output has dropped to 0w. It tries to reset every 180secs but does not. Then the screen on the Invertor goes blank for a period of anything up to 2 to 3 hours when it suddenly springs to life and starts generating electricity. This lasts for about 3 to 4 hours before in fails again.

Christian
By

Christian

on 15 Aug 2018

Hi my new hybrid solar system does not find any voltage from the cells, before switching the cells on to the system, i can measure between 307 and 330 V form them, but when i switch them on the voltage drops to 2 V. can it be the connectors between the cells?

nick tabamo
By

nick tabamo

on 21 May 2018

i have a 1 pv at 260 watts and 200 watts ang charge controller at 30 amp ang power inverter at 3000 watts i have also 2 batteries connecting in parallel, my connection of panel to contoller is good, controller to batteries is good, from batteries to inverter is also good but why it charge very slow, ang when i use 1 electic fan, my bettery charge lost slowly even the sun was in 12 o clock, pls help me ang give me advice on what i do to make my solar usefull

jerry
By

jerry

on 14 May 2018

mine jarrett solar charge controller shows the error code "E01" what do I have to do??

chip
By

chip

on 19 Mar 2018

my bp275 panals are discolered are they still good

Pankaj
By

Pankaj

on 14 Mar 2018

I have one 12v 100w solar panels which is mono crystalline It is giving 20.8v and max 0.70 amp under lord when I short two wires it gives around 4 amp I have contacted two 12v 200w mono crystalline they are giving around 10.5 amp please suggest a way to improve my 100w solar panel amp

Kathy Holmes
By

Kathy Holmes

on 12 Mar 2018

My mother put in a solar system (started in July, was fully up in December) and has yet to get any benefits from it. The company we used out of California has been awful. Is there anyone I can talk to who can help me trouble shoot the system. On the SolarEdge site it shows power is generating but the meter (digital for solar systems) is not running backwards and the electric company does not recognize any change. I don't know much about systems and this has been a nightmare.

Resa
By

Resa

on 10 Mar 2018

My inverter shuts off immediately l turn it on. Can you help me out? My model no. is XPI-Lxxxx-B series

David
By

David

on 29 Nov 2017

Hello , i have solar system complete with one battery but it has not served for a year and when i measured the charging of the panel and to from the charge controller it is giving me different voltage only decreasing after from the charger and to the loads from the battery there is very high/very fast discharge of voltage what can i do about it....

mark norman
By

mark norman

on 05 Nov 2017

Got 16 suntilite 250 watt modules on a south roof with power one inverter two strings. Inverter been changed twice and cant stop the outputs from the strings swopping over Under 1000 watts all fine output from both constant but over 1100 watts the output are 100watts different and the out puts will swop over string one 1100 string two 1500watts then swops around when sunny no cloud or shade Any ideas please voltage and amps seem ok and no error codes on inverter

Peter
By

Peter

on 08 Oct 2017

What does 'Ground 1 fault PAC +0.0W actually mean other than it is not generating? It has happened once or twice before but corrected itself eventually.

Dipak Rudra Pal
By

Dipak Rudra Pal

on 09 Sep 2017

i have a 2 KW SPV power plant. its running for 2 years. now, i have seen that for last 10 days its performance is not good. i can run only 300 watts of electronics machines by this power plant. now, i have chequed that no shading are there, how can i identify that what happen to my solar system....

James Van Vranken
By

James Van Vranken

on 11 Jul 2017

My system is not changing my batteries, in fact I charged using a generator and battery charger but 6 hours later I have lost about 20 percent of the charge. My system is struggling to achieve 12 volts. I have the inverter shut down and am not using it currently. Just trying to get the batteries charged again. This system is small, only 660 Watts. It has only been in service for about 2 months. My troubles seem to have started when I tried to run a refrigerator. I ran the refrigerator for about 24 hours and the battery should have not recovered. Is going on 4 days now.

Chris
By

Chris

on 12 Sep 2017

Good chance you killed your batteries. Solar batteries, especially AGMs, are highly sensitive to low-voltage or overdraw. Having a low-voltage disconnect (something that shuts your system down when your batteries drop to a certain voltage) will protect you in the future.

Will
By

Will

on 13 Jun 2017

one of my solar panels looks different to all the others so got on a ladder to see what was going on...looks like there is water or moisture trapped under the surface even though no rain in the past couple of days and the sun is out and the panel feels very hot...has something gone wrong? From a distance it looks as if the panel has shattered but if close this was not the case. How can i know if it is generating power or not?

abdul wahid
By

abdul wahid

on 13 Jun 2017

Please some Body Help me my 150w solar panel out only 12volt and 0.5 amp show i am change diode but problem not solve my solar panel only 150w and 3 diode please help me reply babafreedcomputer@gmail.com

Jim Whit
By

Jim Whit

on 25 May 2017

How can junction boxes be changed easily. They are adhered with a very strong adhesive.

Larry Rollins
By

Larry Rollins

on 27 Jun 2020

Adhere another next to it and rewire. Leave the old one in place...disconnected.

Bhunjun niraj
By

Bhunjun niraj

on 20 May 2017

Why solar panels cracks at the junction boxe and explodes?

Ademola
By

Ademola

on 24 Apr 2017

After implementing Solar solution I notice that whenever I on d breaker from the combiner the current raises to the acquired value but within a few seconds the current starts dropping until it reaches 0amps.will like to know if it's d charge controller faults or otherwise?

Karen
By

Karen

on 22 Apr 2017

My solar system says arc detected and DC generator error. The solar company yI purchased from went out of business and I cannot find anyone to come pout and trouble shoot. We have not greeted power since 2/17/17 after Edison came to check the meter. Any suggestions?

Johnny
By

Johnny

on 05 Nov 2017

I have the same problam mine sayes arc detected that one section does not work at all

sunwell kahondo
By

sunwell kahondo

on 07 Mar 2017

my solar system says grid failure and I have checked the sub board breaker its tripped. Tried to reset it and its not holding. It trips instantly as I try to reset it. Please help

Gary
By

Gary

on 14 Apr 2017

Inverter issue usually when breaker trips like that the inverter is blown. Please check cabling from inverter to breaker is ok if so then it's the inverter

Ckelectrical
By

Ckelectrical

on 05 Dec 2016

I have also a problem with no output from combimine box so what is a problem?at first everything was working good.

Asiimwe Richard
By

Asiimwe Richard

on 04 Dec 2016

i have a charge controller which shows charging even to maximum during shining day but whn it comes to evening time it drops to zero and even disconnects lights. could it have issues or its battery? thax

Ismail
By

Ismail

on 26 Jan 2020

Use a mult-metre and measure the voltage from the PV, battery and inverter

Syed
By

Syed

on 28 Jun 2019

Surely it's battery issue

AFUWAPE OLUWAFEMI
By

AFUWAPE OLUWAFEMI

on 28 Nov 2016

hello, which country are u?

Louisa van Rooyen
By

Louisa van Rooyen

on 31 Oct 2016

How do i test a panel with the multy metre? How many volts must n single panel put out on n sunny day?

Sharon baldwin
By

Sharon baldwin

on 12 May 2016

I have the same problem as this guy our reading on the meter is the same as last week even with all this brilliant sunshine we've had X only had the panels 2 years but no answers from the company when I try to ring them how do we check this the box has Elster / enphase on it

julius lubguban
By

julius lubguban

on 29 Feb 2016

Mate i have my solar the inverter is no fault but there's no output everyday b4 i can see everday how much klw loading a day i want ask a help if you know someone to help me check my solar coz the installer of my solar great solar i think already bankrupt so & the my solar still warranty tnx.

Dricus
By

Dricus

on 03 Mar 2016

Hi Julius, what's the brand of the solar inverter?

LOGISA GOWRI SANKAR
By

LOGISA GOWRI SANKAR

on 29 Jun 2019

ABB INVERTER PVS 800

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