How to mitigate fire risks associated with solar panel PV installations
The fire risk associated with solar panel PV installations is extremely low, and there are several easy ways to keep that risk even lower, from choosing high-quality products to ensuring that installation is carried out by a professional.
9 steps to ensuring fire-safe solar PV installations
Solar PV systems are considered to be very safe, and research indicates that they pose less fire risk than many common household appliances like toasters and washing machines.
However, with over a million solar installations now on homes across the UK, there have been a few cases of fire related to the systems – and everyone from developers to homeowners and occupants are looking to mitigate the risk in order to save lives and property. Here are our top tips for preventing fire with solar installations.
1. Choose products that meet safety and quality standards – For solar panels to be sold in the UK, they must have a UKCA mark. Also known as the UK Conformity Assessed marking, this indicates that a product meets all the applicable standards.
2. Hire professionals – Most of the fire risk around solar panels comes from the electrical installation. So, it’s therefore essential to have a skilled and knowledgeable professional to install the solar system and a qualified electrician should deal with all the electrical components and connections.
3. Ensure that electrical connections are made by the same manufacturer – Both ends of a DC connection should be from the same manufacturer. This is a common mistake, but it’s critical for fire safety. This is because the design of DC connectors is not standardised, and even connectors that are marked as “M4 compatible” may have differences that lead to electrical arcs, mechanical failures or fires.
4. Use fire-safety products like Marley’s ArcBox – ArcBox is a DC connector enclosure designed to add an extra level of fire safety to a solar system. It's easy to install – just snap it on over any DC connector – and ensures that if an electrical arc ever occurs, it is safely contained and can't spread to combustible materials in or around the solar installation.
5. Opt for roof-integrated solar panels – There are two main types of solar panels: bolt-on panels, which sit above the roof tiles, and roof-integrated solar systems like the Marley SolarTile. Because roof-integrated solar tiles act as part of the roof covering, there is no gap where debris can build up or where pests can build homes, thus reducing fire hazards.
6. Ensure easy access for the fire brigade – In the event of a fire, every second counts and whether you’re working on a single home, or an entire development, it’s important to consider how the fire brigade will access the property if there is a fire.
7. Educate building owners and occupiers about how the system works – Having a basic understanding of how a home’s solar system works can help to ensure that owners and occupants use it safely and know what to do if there’s a fault.
8. Regular maintenance and inspections – While a solar system requires very little maintenance, regular visual inspections of the panels and their electrical connections can help to ensure that any problems are spotted early. Maintenance mainly involves keeping the panels clean, which will ensure they perform efficiently and reduce fire risk.
9. Choose fire-resistant roofing materials – While the fire risk associated with solar installations is minimal, if a fire risk does occur, the choice of roofing materials could help to prevent or minimise any damage. Clay and concrete roof tiles are classed as non-combustible and are an excellent choice for use with a solar array.
Solar PV as part of a complete roofing system
As experts in roofing, Marley offers everything you need to specify and build a high-quality roof from the battens up.
Our complete roofing system includes base layers, clay and concrete roofing tiles, dry-fix accessories and fire-prevention equipment, as well as the Marley SolarTile and associated products such as the ArcBox. All of our products have been designed for complete compatibility, so you can rest assured that the finished roof system will be attractive, durable and safe.
To find out more about Marley’s solar products, please visit the SolarTile product page. You can also get in touch with a member of our team to discuss your project in more detail.