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THE SOLAR FIRE RISK

Did you know that since 2010, firefighters have attended on average, two solar-related fires each week in Australia1?
An audit of the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found that potentially hundreds of thousands of homes across the country have substandard solar installations and tens of thousands, are considered unsafe2.

The majority of solar fires only cause property damage, though there have been instances of homeowner injury. The good news is that if you make an informed purchasing decision based on facts, you can get all the benefits of solar power for your home without any fire risk.

Firefighters attend two solar related fires every week in Australia.

Total Solar System Fires in Australia

WHAT CAUSES SOLAR FIRES?

Solar system fires are often attributed to poor workmanship or faulty components. However, this is not the full story. In fact, all solar system fires are caused by DC arc faults, which only occur in DC solar systems.

What is the difference between AC and DC current?

There are two different types of current:
Direct Current (DC) = current flows in one direction continuously, often at high voltage
Alternating Current (AC) = current changes (alternates) direction rapidly.

Our homes and appliances are all powered by AC electricity.

ACDC

Why is this important?


Electrical fires are usually caused by an arc when current jumps from one point to another in a continuous flow.

Conventional DC solar systems can generate up to 600 volts of high-voltage DC, which must run from your panels through your ceiling to the central inverter located on the side of your home. Even the smallest equipment failure, such as a damaged cable or a loose electrical connection, can cause a DC arc fault that can result in an immediate and violent fire.

Arcs can happen in AC solar systems. However unlike DC, AC power switches direction constantly. As there is no continuous flow of current AC arc faults are self-extinguishing.

In summary, solar fires stem from DC arc faults that only occur in systems with conventional string inverters and unprotected DC circuits.

How big is the problem?


Despite the widespread availability of safe solar technology, most solar systems sold in Australia use dangerous DC voltages that pose a serious fire risk.

Unfortunately, Australia has not been as quick to adopt safe solar regulations as our international counterparts. For example, in the United States, safety standards preventing the installation of conventional DC solar systems have been in place since as early as 2014.

The lag in regulatory oversight means it is up to you to do your solar system research and select a solar installer with a reputation for quality and safe solar.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • In a typical 5kW DC solar system circuit there are approximately 50 joints connected on-site by the solar installer. Each joint is a potential point of failure.
  • There are two main causes of DC arc faults:
    • The insulation on one or more of the DC cables is compromised
    • A connection anywhere in the DC circuit is compromised
  • DC arc faults can reach 1,085°C, quickly igniting many building products.
  • Contributing factors that lead to DC arc faults include animals damaging cables, extreme weather events, accidental damage, incorrect component selection, water ingress, moisture build-up and poor installation workmanship.

THE SOLUTION

Safe Solar systems eliminate the risk of DC arc faults, which are responsible for all solar-related fires. There are currently two types of safe solar technology available in Australia.

  1. Microinverters that provide a safe AC solution by converting DC to AC at each solar module.
  2. DC optimisers that control the DC voltage and power between the modules and the main (string) inverter.
AC Solar Roof

EXPLORE THE BENEFITS OF SAFER SOLAR

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FIRE SAFETY

When you select the right safe solar solution, you can protect your home from fire.

LEARN MORE >

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ENERGY FREEDOM

Reduce your reliance on the grid and protect against rising energy prices.

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INVESTMENT SAFETY

Safe solar solutions harvest more power over the life of the system.

LEARN MORE >

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1. https://renew.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/FireRisksOfSolarPV_ATA_D16_Final.pdf
2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-27/australias-obsession-with-cheap-solar-derailing-market-insiders/11139856

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