A fire truck parked on the side of a small road with another truck further down the road

Why rain and solar on the roof can be a fire-hazardous mix

Sunshine Coast woman Kathy Sundstrom was at the local beach with her husband when her teenage daughter called to report smoke coming from their solar power system.

“We were like, ‘Oh you know, it’ll be fine.’ We enjoyed the beach. We hadn’t seen the sun in so long,” said Ms. Sundstrom.

When the Sundstrom’s eldest son called moments later, they knew the situation could be more serious.

“He was a little more panicky and he said, ‘Should we call the fires?'”

“Even though we had the main power and with the isolator switch turned off, the solar energy apparently continues to generate on your roof, and that’s how many sunburns tend to start.”

Ms Sundstrom says she doesn’t like to think about what could have happened if her family hadn’t been home at the time and her children hadn’t noticed the smoke coming from the insulated box at the side of their house.

Kathy Sundstrom came home to find firefighters with a fire in her solar system’s isolator switch.Provided: Kathy Sundstrom

The firefighters who attended the incident explained to the family that the recent wet weather had allowed water to enter the insulator box.

She said the box was under a roof next to the main power box.

“It has a cover, it’s not just an open box.

“They said if they hadn’t come it could have been a lot worse because they turned it off” [at the mains] does not stop the electricity being produced on the roof,” said Ms Sundstrom.

Power plant on the roof

Jock Howard, owner of a solar energy company on the Sunshine Coast who has worked in the industry since 1987, says wet weather can affect solar system insulators.

Mr Howard said weeks of rain can cause water to seep into cracks and bad joints so it can reach the system’s insulator, causing it to spark and burn.

“If you have water in your insulator box, you’re basically setting up an electrical reaction with the water acting as a conductor between the positive and the negative,” he said.

Two men install solar panels on the roof of a house.
Jock Howard says regular testing is the key to safety.Pixabay: MariaGodfrida

As these wires corrode, they can break and create a spark and burn the plastic parts.

Howard said the best way to prevent a solar system fire is to have it checked regularly.

#rain #solar #roof #firehazardous #mix

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