Lightning is a serious concern for solar inverters.
It can cause damage to the electronics, which will lead to your production being interrupted and could even result in fire.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to protect your equipment from lightning strikes!
Here are 4 ways how you can protect your solar inverter from lightning.
1. Separate The Inverter
Separate the inverter from other equipment by running a separate metal enclosure for it.
This will allow you to have your solar panels on one side of your roof and place the inverter elsewhere, ideally in an area that is more protected from lightning potentials.
Related article: Do Solar Panels Attract Lightning?
2. Ground Your Inverter
You need to make sure that your inverters’ metal cabinet is properly grounded and bonded with the roof of the house or building where it’s installed.
The grounding should be done in accordance to local electrical codes, which usually means using a separate ground rod for every eight feet of inverter height.
Grounding wire should be attached to the ground rod and then run back into your house or building where it is connected to a visible metal part such as an appliance outlet box cover.
3. Use Surge Protectors
Using a surge protector with your solar inverter is one of the best ways to protect solar inverters from lightning.
This will prevent surges and spikes that may damage or kill sensitive equipment such as microchips, capacitors, transformers and even modules in some cases.
Surge protection devices should be connected between the inverter and the power source.
Surge protectors are available in two types, AC or DC type depending on how you intend to use them.
A good surge protector should have a metal oxide varistor (MOV) which is basically an electronic component that acts as a voltage-dependent resistor at normal operating voltages but becomes very low-resistance when the voltage exceeds a certain level.
The resistance of MOV declines sharply with increasing voltage and provides protection against overvoltage events such as lightning, line surges and power surges from other sources like AC generators or electric motors.
It’s important to remember that you need to replace surge protectors every five years because they wear out over time.
Protecting your inverter with a surge protector is not enough!
You should also protect the grid power supply to your house or building so that surges will be diverted away from your solar inverters and other equipment before they ever reach them, especially during storms when lighting activity increases dramatically.
For this purpose you can use a whole-house surge protector.
A whole house surge protector installed in your electrical panel can divert surges from grid power to the ground before they reach your inverters through the utility lines, thus protecting them from harm and preventing you from losing production when lightning strikes occur.
Whole-house protectors are usually rated at around 200 joules, which is the minimum recommended surge protection level for most solar inverters.
The higher your joule rating, the better since it will provide more comprehensive and effective power line defense against lightning strikes in particular.
Whole-house protectors can handle heavy surges that are caused by nearby lighting strikes when installed properly on your main electrical feeder lines.
To make sure that your whole-house surge protector is installed properly, you should hire a licensed electrician to do it for you instead of attempting the installation yourself and risking injury or worse in case something goes wrong when doing so.
4. Install Lightning Rods
Lightning rods are designed to attract lightning strikes.
They act as conductors that transfer the electrical charge of lighting safely into the ground without damaging anything in its path.
It’s important to understand how your local weather patterns affect how well a lightning rod works so you can decide how many and where they should be installed if at all.
For example, a lightning rod will work better in areas where cloud-to-ground lighting strikes occur more frequently than it would work well in locations that don’t experience as much frequent thunderstorms and lightning activity.
A ground wire is connected to the base of the pole and then buried into the earth using an auger or other digging tools.
The ground wire must be connected to the home’s grounding system and should not be attached directly to electrical cables or wires, appliances, metal pipes or water lines because it can result in electric shock if lightning strikes near this connection location.
It is important that you hire a licensed professional who has experience with how best to install your lightning rods and how many you should install to be effective before trusting them with this job.
Grounding systems are very important for your home or building since they help divert electrical power safely into the ground in case of an overvoltage event such as a lightning strike so that it doesn’t reach any appliances, wiring or other electronics.
If you have a grounding system, it is best to use a licensed electrician to ensure that lightning rods are installed correctly and safely.
Grounding systems should be inspected regularly by professionals as well because they can become damaged over time from weather conditions such as rain or high humidity levels which cause corrosion of the grounding cables.
In severe cases where your grounding system becomes damaged, it may be necessary to have a professional re-install your grounding cables and rods in order to ensure the safety of all people and electronics that live or work at this location.
As you can see, it’s important to take the necessary precautions before installing a solar panel system so that your inverters and all other electronics connected to it are protected from damage.
A whole-house protector is installed in an electric panel which reduces how much of an impact a lighting strike or other power surge event has on your solar inverter system.
By using lightning rods, grounding systems, or installing whole-house protectors in the electrical panel, you’ll be able to reduce how much of an impact a lighting strike or other power surge event has on your solar inverter system.