Solar energy systems require periodic inspections and routine maintenance
to keep them operating efficiently. Also, from time to time, components
may need repair or replacement.
You might be able to handle some
of the inspections and maintenance tasks on your own, but others may require
a qualified technician. Ask for a cost estimate in writing before having
any work done. For some systems, it may be more cost effective to replace,
shut off, or remove the solar system than to have it repaired.
Periodic inspection list
Here are some suggested inspections of solar system components. Also
read your owner's manual for a suggested maintenance schedule.
Collector shading Visually check for shading of the collectors during the day (mid-morning,
noon, and mid-afternoon) on an annual basis. Shading can greatly affect
the performance of solar collectors. Vegetation growth over time or
new construction on your house or your neighbor's property may produce
shading that wasn't there when the collectors were installed.
Collector soiling Dusty or soiled collectors will perform poorly. Periodic cleaning
may be necessary in dry, dusty climates.
Collector glazing and seals Look for cracks in the collector glazing, and check to see if seals
are in good condition. Plastic glazing, if excessively yellowed, may
need to be replaced.
Plumbing, ductwork, and wiring connections Look for fluid leaks at pipe connections. Check duct connections
and seals. Ducts should be sealed with a mastic compound. All wiring
connections should be tight.
Piping, duct, and wiring insulation Look for damage or degradation of insulation covering pipes, ducts,
Roof penetrations Flashing and sealant around roof penetrations should be in good condition.
Support structures Check all nuts and bolts attaching the collectors to any support
structures for tightness.
Pressure relief valve (on liquid solar heating collectors) Make sure the valve is not stuck open or closed.
Dampers (in solar air heating systems) If possible, make sure the dampers open and close properly.
Pumps or blowers Verify that distribution pumps or blowers (fans) are operating. Listen
to see if they come on when the sun is shining on the collectors after
mid-morning. If you can't hear a pump or blower operating, then either
the controller has malfunctioned or the pump or blower has.
Heat transfer fluids Antifreeze solutions in liquid (hydronic) solar heating collectors
need to be replaced periodically. It's a task best left to a qualified
technician. If water with a high mineral content (i.e., hard water)
is circulated in the collectors, mineral buildup in the piping may
need to be removed by adding a de-scaling or mild acidic solution
to the water every few years.
Storage systems Check storage tanks, etc., for cracks, leaks, rust, or other signs
water heating system freeze protection
Heat exchangers for solar heating
Heat-transfer fluids for
solar heating systems
Solar water heaters