The incidence of solar panel fires could become more frequent as solar power increases in popularity while owners corporations continue to put price over quality, one body corporate management company has warned.
Ace Body Corporate Management said that apartment blocks are well suited for solar networks, but inexperienced operators using cheap products have exposed owners to serious fire risks.
CEO Stephen Raff said that fire departments in Queensland have attended to more than 50 fires caused by solar panels in the past two years, and that New South Wales and Victorian departments have also seen a rise in incidents.
“After hearing advice from our trusted suppliers in the fire safety field, we’re advising strata property owners to understand that savings should start after making energy-efficient upgrades, and cutting corners during the upgrade could be a costly mistake,” Mr Raff said.
“Solar power is becoming increasingly popular for strata properties as more owners corporations look for alternative ways to power their building, limit their environmental footprint and reduce energy costs.”
Mr Raff said that while the motivator in the push to go green comes “from the hip pocket”, the savings start after installation, not before.
“The key benefit of solar is it enables a building’s often costly [power source] to maintain common areas to be supplied with renewable energy, reducing the overall cost of electricity supply and creating value for owners,” the CEO said.
“But we have observed some cases of ‘cowboy’ operators out there trying to take advantage of consumer ignorance.”
He said that these operators typically use cheap products manufactured overseas to drop prices and cut out good local installers.
To be safe, Mr Raff gives these pieces of advice for those considering to install solar networks:
1. Use a reputable supplier, with references.
2. Ensure the proposal covers guarantees and other protective elements.
3. Have them provide proper information on the panels and inverters so you know exactly what you are buying and can be confident that the equipment will work as promised.
4. Check on where it is being used and the amount being paid if sold back into the grid.