Solar panels are one way to save energy by recycling earth’s natural resources through it like the sun but as with all power sources, they carry some risks.
A Texas father, Austin Nathaniel, learned the hard way that there is a rare possibility that solar panels can catch fire just like his did, according to KTVT. Nathaniel told them that about four months after he installed them, his neighbor called him to tell him they caught fire.
“They contacted another guy, who ran and cut the power off and jumped up on the roof with a hose and actually sprayed it out. My child sleeps right underneath that, which is terrifying,” Nathaniel said. Luckily, thanks to his neighbor’s fast actions, just the panels burned in the fire and not the rest of the house.
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has been working to get more first responders such as firefighters and code officials to understand solar panels and has so far trained over 11,000 of them. The hope is that they are trained on how to use them, how they are installed, and so forth, before an emergency so they know what to do when one involving the equipment happens.
“The success of this important initiative –training more than 10,000 firefighters and local building inspectors and planners in less than two years – reflects IREC’s commitment to quality training not only of clean energy professionals but of those who come in contact with solar and other clean energy technologies in their work. We are proud to have worked with such outstanding partners, whose dedication to continued professional development and training is vital in the wake of the exponential growth of solar,” says IREC President/CEO Larry Sherwood.
How common are solar panel fires
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) says that as long as the solar panels are installed correctly and properly, they do not cause fires. Most of the panels are tested by Underwriters Laboratories before they can be certified for installation. However, they can still be a hazard especially if fire crews don’t know how they work or how to cut off power.
There isn’t clear data but according to Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the United States has about 1.8 million solar panels installed. It states in a report from Germany they have about 1.7 million installed, resulting in about 430 fires involving solar panels. Of those 430, 210 fires were caused by the solar panel itself, the rest had been damaged as a result of a fire.
“Design flaws, component defects, and faulty installation generally cause solar rooftop fires. As with all electrical systems, these problems can cause arcs between conductors or to the ground, as well as hot spots, which can ignite nearby flammable material,” says Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
How to prevent solar panel fires?
The Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy first off suggests that when solar panels are installed, the installation should be done so by qualified professionals so that they can be in compliance with regulated and mandated safety codes.
InterNACHI inspectors say they look for a few things to help prevent a house fire. These include:
- Inspection before installation and regularly checking them
- Clear labeling to help technicians and firefighters
- Having a rooftop shut-off valve
- Enough space around the roof where the solar panel will be
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