Installation: Never without a data logger
A solar installation in the Bavarian county of Weilheim experienced a fire in the connector sockets of their solar arrays that lasted for several days following a lightning strike last June. The lightning also put the inverter out of action. As a result, the operator lost the income from the feed-in remuneration and endangered himself, the premises and the equipment.
If the installation had been equipped with a data logger and a monitoring system, it would have disconnected from the grid immediately. A specialist technician would have been notified of the damage by e-mail or text message and the damaged solar panels and the inverter would have been replaced or repaired right away.
In addition to lightning strikes, flooding, improper handling or the interventions by unauthorised people can damage solar installations. Dust, damp or wear and tear of components can also affect their functionality. To ensure flawless operation and high yields in the long term, when building a solar installation, it is important to also consider the monitoring concepts and customer service that the manufacturers have on offer.
Contact the service hotline
For those not willing to constantly check on the status of their solar installation from the readouts of the inverter’s display, installing a data logger and monitoring it remotely is the best option. In case of a fault, the specialist technician is notified automatically and can directly get in touch with the manufacturer’s hotline.
From the error code that will in most cases be shown in the inverter’s display, the service agent will be able to see what the problem is and take appropriate measures. In addition to the error code, they should also be informed of the inverter’s serial number and type.
Solarmax provides this customer service hotline in German, English, Italian, Spanish and French. Based on their training and because of regular refresher courses, the agents will be able to solve many problems directly over the phone. With the help of a service management tool, they are able to record every service operation and each repair.
Replace or order new units
They then create a replacement ticket for defective string inverters that transfers the remaining warranty period to the replacement unit. These units are refurbished inverters that have been repaired using original spare parts.
They are refurbished to the latest state of the art and, if required, updated to the newest firmware. Individual components that no longer perform properly are modified.
This comprehensive quality management which also includes hours-long endurance tests allows the manufacturer to guarantee reliable operation of their units. To keep yield losses to a minimum, Solarmax replaces defective string inverters within 24 hours.
And to speed up the exchange further, the company has introduced their programme Solarmax Premium Installer in 2016. As part of this concept, the manufacturer establishes an external warehouse with the required inverters on the customer’s premises. This saves time when getting them to where they are needed.
Repowering of private and commercial installations
The replacement units usually cost about half of what a new component would be. However, their warranty is also only one year. In the case of older units and for customers that would like to have more features, Solarmax offer so-called repowering inverters. These new units come with a five-year warranty.
For single-phase systems, the Solarmax 5000 P is ideal. With 4.6 kilowatts it has the same output of those inverters that used to be favoured between 2004 and 2010.
For repowering commercial installations, there are the new series of HT inverters that Solarmax has been offering since May 2017 and which has a nominal output of 20 to 25 kilowatts. They were designed to replace inverters of ten to 20 kilowatts: A number of manufacturers of such units have disappeared from the market since 2010, so that replacement units or spare parts are very scarce.
Repair of central inverters
Because of their size and weight, central inverters are usually not replaced, but repaired on site by service engineers or certified partners. Again, the first contact is via the service hotline.
The staff there will put together a repair order and passes it on to the responsible service technician. He will then negotiate the call out and the costs with the customer, repair the unit and record the work done to allow transparency on the original damage and their repairs at any time.
Preventive maintenance and monitoring
In addition to the new data logger Maxweb XPN, the online portal Maxweb and the free monitoring software Maxview, there is the all-inclusive service package Maxcontrol for customers of central inverters. This allows the manufacturer to remotely monitor the installations, directly deal with faults and limit the causes of failure. The package guarantees shorter response times in case units develop faults and 97 percent availability of replacement inverters.
As a preventive service concept, Solarmax further developed Maxcheck. This maintenance service encompasses diagnostics, including the testing of cables and cleaning of the inverter. Further, the service engineers will update the firmware and will put together a status report with specific action recommendations if required. (Iris Krampitz)
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