A solar electrical generation system in residential settings is fairly low-maintenance, and most homeowners don't need to do much in the way of upkeep. However, one integral component, the solar inverter, requires regular cleaning to prevent failure. The solar inverter transforms the often-irregular direct current flowing from solar cells and storage batteries into usable alternating current. If it becomes clogged with dust, cobwebs or other debris, it can overheat and burn up its internal components. Cleaning a solar inverter isn't difficult, but it does require attention to detail to keep you safe and protect its parts from damage. Below is a guide to cleaning your solar inverter:
Tools and materials needed
Screwdriver set – you will need either cross-slotted or Phillips head screwdrivers, depending upon the specific model in use.
Air compressor and blowgun or canned compressed air – canned compressed air is available at many general retail stores and office supply stores.
Soft horsehair paintbrush – gentle bristles are important due to the sensitivity of internal electronic components.
Shop towel – the towel doesn't need to be new, but be sure it's clean to avoid contaminating the electronic parts.
Water foil tape – this tape can be purchased from air conditioning contractors and home improvement centers. Be sure not to purchase ordinary duct tape, as it isn't waterproof.
How to maintain your solar inverter – step-by-step procedure
1. Remember that safety is paramount – A solar inverter is a potentially hazardous device, especially if it is handled carelessly. Solar inverters utilize several capacitors that store electricity, and the current that passes through capacitors can be high enough to cause a dangerous or even lethal electric shock. Take these important precautions to help keep you safe:
Physically disconnect the solar inverter from the system.
Allow capacitors to discharge for at least an hour once the system is disconnected from the inverter.
Never attempt to modify the internal components of an inverter.
2. Remove the panel cover from the inverter – After disconnecting the inverter from the system and permitting the capacitors to discharge, it is safe to remove the panel cover. Locate the screws that hold the panel cover in place, and unscrew them with an appropriate screwdriver. Carefully remove the panel cover and set it aside.
3. Inspect the inside of the inverter – If the inverter is mounted in a dark location, then use a flashlight to help you see the inside of the unit so you don't accidentally touch or break any components. Search for potential problems such as loose wire connections, scorched electronic components, melted wiring, and insect or animal damage. If you find any problems, contact a licensed electrician to assist you with repair or replacement.
4. Carefully clean the inverter – After inspecting the interior of the inverter, use a wide-diameter, soft-bristled horsehair paintbrush to remove dust and debris. Be careful not to snag wires or knock loose any components with the brush. Wipe down flat surfaces with a dry, clean shop towel.
5. Blow out any remaining dust and debris – Once you have removed the bulk of the debris inside the inverter with the brush, use a blowgun attachment on an air compressor to blast out any stubborn dirt or residue. If you don't have access to an air compressor, use canned compressed air as a substitute. In either case, be sure to wear eye protection while using compressed air to clean the inverter.
6. Replace the panel cover on the inverter – After cleaning, screw the panel cover back on to the inverter. If the inverter is exposed to rainfall or other external sources of moisture, place a strip of waterproof aluminum foil tape on top of seams to keep out stray drops or dripping water.