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Check to make sure that your solar panels are mounted correctly

Posted by Stuart Houghton on 26 July 2012 at 9:06 am

As we recently completed a solar PV installation, the customer watched intently as we measured and set up the rails to mount the solar modules on. As always we took our time to get all the measurements right and doubled checked before the first bracket was installed. "Surely the spacing of the rails is not that important" he said.

He could not have been further away from the truth!

A year or so ago we had several modules fail after only being installed for less than a year. The technical representative from the manufacturer was dispatched to the site, and the first thing he did was measure the position of the rails under the modules to see that they were "in tolerance". He explained that if this measurement was incorrect the warranty would be invalid, and the problem of replacing them would have been down to me. Needless to say all of the measurements were correct and the modules were replaced without hesitation.

From the early days back in 2007 we have obtained the installation instructions for every module we install and have followed the guidelines to the letter.

Some modules such as Sanyo/Panasonic are designed to be fixed at a set tolerance from the end of the module on its longest side only. All modules have a defined mounting tolerance range whether the clamps are installed on the long or short side.  As I drive around the south west I have noticed many installations that I know are not installed to the correct specification.

If yours is one of them, where does this leave you? Take a look at your solar modules. Are they clamped on the short edge as in the bottom picture above? This may be OK depending on the module type. If they are clamped on the long side, does the distance from the end look right, unlike the example above.

If you are in any doubt, contact your installer for assurance, and if you are not happy with the response you could Google your module type on the internet and see if you can find the installation instructions.  Lastly you could contact us and we will see what we can do to help.

Remember correctly installed modules are designed to last many years. If they fail as a result of a bad installation, your warranty will be invalid.

Top photo (click on picture to enlarge): The rail spacing is incorrect for these modules which will lead to too much “flexing” of the top module. This could lead to failure which would not be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

Bottom photo: These modules have been fixed to the rail on the shortest side which will lead to too much “flexing” of the modules which could lead to failure which would not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

About the author: Stuart Houghton is director of Abacus Renewable Energy

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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