It’s important to understand how to turn your solar installation on and off for when it needs maintenance. Turning the PV system off is a vital first step to ensure you stay safe when inspecting your solar system, or when there is a safety concern in the house such as a kitchen fire or electrical fault.
Many households who install a solar power system aren’t exactly sure how to turn their solar panels on and off, so we’ll outline the entire process to give you peace of mind next time you need to turn off the system.
How do solar panels work?
The solar modules on your roof absorb sunlight and then generate direct current (DC) electricity. However, your home runs on alternating current (AC), so an inverter or microinverter is used to convert the power your solar arrays generate into energy that your household appliances can consume.
The inverter is typically situated near your meter board or in the garage, while microinverters are installed underneath each panel.
When turning off your solar system, you have to take into account what type of system you have, and the fact that if you have a string inverter you will be dealing with two types of current, DC and AC. You will need to make sure that both are powered down and then turned on again, at the right time.
How to Turn Off Your Solar Installation
To turn off your solar system, you should:
Go to your switchboard and open it. Locate the solar supply main switch and flick the switch to the off position.
If your solar power inverter is more than 3 meters away from your switchboard, you must locate the switch marked, solar AC isolator. This will be located next to your inverter. If your inverter and switchboard are within 3 meters of each other, disregard this step.
Go to your inverter and find the switch marked PV Array and DC Isolator. Flick this switch to the off position (in some cases there will be two switches). Switch labelled “PV Array Main Switch” (Generally located below the inverter)
Your inverter may have a switch marked Inverter Isolator. If it does, flick this switch to the off position. If you cannot locate this switch on your inverter, skip this step. Your solar PV system should now be completely switched off. All lights and screen displays will be dead. Keep the system off for a minimum of five minutes.
Please also check the information of shutdown procedure provided on the inverter. To re-start your system, follow this guide in reverse order. ie. DC isolator on first, followed by AC isolator, followed by your solar supply main switch. Note: Never disconnect the MC Plugs while power is connected.
1. Turn off the AC side of your system. To do this, go to your meter box and turn off the AC inverter’s main supply
2. Then switch off the AC breaker. Once this step is complete, your solar modules won’t be providing energy to the grid anymore.
3. Now that the AC side is powered down, you must turn off the DC breaker. You’ll most likely find this in the combiner box of your installation. However, if you can’t find it give our service team a call on 1300 221 586.
4. Turning off the DC breaker prevents the flow of electricity to the inverter.
Once the above steps have been completed, your entire PV system is powered down.
How to Turn Your Solar Modules On
Thankfully, there are no hidden secrets to getting your panels back up and running again. It’s just a case of repeating the steps above in the opposite order.
1. First, turn on the DC breaker
2. Then Switch on the AC breaker
3. Turn on the AC inverters main supply
If your inverter does not power up again after following these steps, please call our support team on 1300 221 586.
What if you have a battery installed?
Batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall are becoming an increasingly popular option for many families who want to reduce the cost of their bills even further. There are a few additional considerations when turning your solar installation on and off if you have a battery integrated into the system.
If you have a Tesla Powerwall it will also have a DC breaker of its own. We recommend switching off the battery’s DC breaker after you have disconnected the solar system’s DC breaker from the combiner box. You’ll need to do this if you want to completely shut down the system.
Disconnecting the main PV system’s DC breaker from the combiner box stops it from continually producing power, but the battery will still be connected. In a grid-tied system that has a battery, two AC breakers need to be turned off. One to the connection on the main panelboard, and the other to the critical load to be backed up.
You must turn off both the AC breakers; otherwise, your installation may still work on island mode, which means it is still unsafe for anyone to do maintenance work. By switching off the DC breaker from the battery, you guarantee it will be entirely without power.
Rapid Shutdown Systems
Rapid shutdown systems from Enphase are an essential safety measure that removes powers from all components of the system, including the modules themselves. They are a quick and accessible way to lower the risks associated with fire.
They come in the form of a single button located in an accessible place in the house, that once pushed disconnects the PV installation from the electrical circuits of the house. This feature of an Enphase system can be important during an emergency because it prevents unnecessary time being lost to climbing on the roof and switching off the DC breaker.