Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Inverters are complex electronic systems designed for domestic, office and/or factory use. The batteries that power them contain acid and metal parts that decompose with use. If they are used carelessly, they run the risk of being damaged prematurely, causing damage to the appliances that use them, not performing at all or performing with reduced efficiency. This will cause financial losses as well as losses in work time and anger and frustration. While the first port of call is the technicians and electricians to avoid electrocution, it is necessary for the direct users to know how best to take care of their inverters.
INSTALLATION AND STORAGE
Once the system is properly installed, subsequent maintenance is not difficult. Our team of engineers at SolarKobo, alongside manufacturers advise the following:
Electric parts are generally affected by heat, insist on having the inverter and battery installed in a well-ventilated enclosure, preferably away from the domestic areas of house.
Inverters of a certain power come with a cooling fan to regulate the temperature of the inverter. It is advised to not cover or limit the airflow around your inverter as this will prevent adequate cooling.
As a general rule, if your inverter has a fan for cooling, you should leave 12 inches clear around the unit.
Also, batteries form a major part of the inverter system. They often get heated up during use as well. It is advised that they are installed in airy places for cooling. As batteries have provisions for water to cool them, installing them in well-ventilated places reduces the frequency of the water-topping procedure.
The area in front of the installation space should be reserved as work space and not used for storage of any kind. Operators should be able to walk up to the inverter equipment without any obstruction.
Have clear instructions laminated and posted on the wall beside the installed system where in your absence, another operator, a friend or family member, may want to use the system.
All electronics are to be kept away from the reach of children.
Advisably, the inverter system if not mounted on the wall should be installed atop a metal rack. Solarkobo requires this as a standard installation procedure.
The batteries alongside the inverters are to be installed at places where children cannot reach them or where there is not much disruptive domestic activities.
The batteries should be installed properly and by professionals. Inverters in the market have high-grade battery protection technologies and are able to withstand short-circuiting, or misplacement of the batteries across terminals mostly by shutting down. But this does not remove the necessity for proper installation of the batteries.
INDICATORS, ALARMS AND DISPLAYS
Inverters have displays that show the state of the inverters or batteries. It is necessary that you are able to read, interpret and inform our engineers and technicians. Error messages, beep sounds, alarms and other displays are to be taken seriously and reported to an electrician.
The purpose of inspection is to find signs of failure or malfunction by comparing current state of operation with the last observed. Inspection can be either on a regular basis or periodically. These inspections are to be conducted with the eyes, in person and by an adult. Any unusual changes should be reported immediately.
The area in front of the installation space should be reserved as work space and not used for storage of any kind. The inspection is to be conducted in this area.
Regular inspection can be done as often as possible. It is suggested that inspection be daily and that the operator maintains a daily log of the information to be able to advise an engineer or technician properly.
You are advised to always check for changes in the environment in which the inverter is installed. Check for dust, humidity, gas, any unusual dropping of water and other liquid, increase or decrease in room temperature.
Conduct regular checks on the component parts and units. Check for unusual noises, smell, discoloration and vibration in the inverter and in the environment. For the batteries, check for the indicators for their operating state. Also check for spilled electrolyte or corrosion of terminals.
You are also advised to check the operation data, that is the voltage, current and temperature. If the inverter is operating outside the range, report to technicians. The operation data of every inverter is often given in the user manual. It is advised that you the operator, intimate yourself with them.
The liquid level on the batteries should be checked at least once every week. They may not need filling but it is important to check them everyday.
Periodical inspects are to be made every three or six months depending on operating conditions. This inspection is to be conducted with the eyes and hands. When touching the battery, make sure to wear protective clothing. Lead-acid batteries hold a liquid electrolyte with sulphuric acid which can cause serious burns. Always wear protective clothing and eye protection when near them. Acid spilt on the floor or equipment must be diluted with water and neutralised with sodium bicarbonate. Keep all personal protective equipment and other safety materials easily available.
Most importantly, make sure that the inverter is from the mains when conducting periodical inspections.
You are advised to check if any wire terminals are loosened. If any, tighten it with a screwdriver.
Make sure visually that there is neither poorly clinched part nor overheated clinch in wire terminals.
Check if there is any damage on wire or cable.
Clean up any accumulated dust using a dry rag.
Do not make any pressure test, because it may cause damage to internal parts.
Any unusual changes in the state of the inverter must be reported immediately to the technicians.
REPLACEMENT OF DAMAGED PARTS
If the inverter is used under normal operating conditions, it may have to be entirely replaced after a specified number of years. Otherwise, the inverter has expendable parts, like the cooling fan or any other part of the circuit which deteriorate with time, which will have to be independently replaced at some point. Continual use of such parts may cause the inverter itself to deteriorate in performance and to become faulty.
The lifespan of the inverter is not necessarily fixed, there are a number of factors which determine how long an inverter will last, which of course, includes how it is being used. Majority of Solarkobo installations since Jan 2017 are still working optimally. Factors that may determine the life of an inverter system include
Service life of part differs depending on operating environment.
The temperature and humidity at which the inverter is used.
Frequency of operations and shutdowns
Nature of power or load.
long -term storage.
Power capacity being greater than the inverter capacity.
It is the electrician that will decide which part to replace following a failure. Certified replacement parts should be used in case a replacement is recommended.
The following are advised:
Batteries are to be used regularly and not kept idle for a long time as this may cause inactivation of the battery cells.
The battery is not to be charged with very high rate of current because high rate of charging causes high temperature rise and excessive gassing resulting in heavy loss of water and sometimes overflowing of electrolyte from the battery cells.
Also, batteries should not be discharged below the depth of charge, which for most batteries is 80%. In most cases, not up to 50%.
Some inverters are able to carry up to 110% overload soon after they will go into safety mode or sound an alarm. However, it is very important to ensure that only the designed loads are connected to the system. The operator is advised to read the manual, information on product or demand information from the dealer or installing engineer or technician.
The job of the operator is to ensure that only the equipment on the design sheet is plugged into the system, and this equipment is only used for the number of hours that the designer indicated as part of the operation data.
The water level should be maintained. If the electrolyte level inside the battery cell comes down, it must be filled with distilled water up to the level marked on the cell itself. This is to compensate for the loss of water due to evaporation.
The batteries are constructed so there is a reservoir above the plates, but this must be checked frequently, and the cells topped with water whenever needful.
Distilled water is to be used to top up the battery. Tap or rain water is not to be used because of minerals and impurities which affect the life and performance of the battery.
The surfaces and sides of the battery are to be kept clean.
The battery terminals should be kept corrosion and rust free. When corroded, use hot water and baking soda solution to clean the terminals. After cleaning them, apply vaseline to avoid further corrosion. Rusting in terminals restricts the flow of current which results in slow battery charging which ultimately reduces battery life.
Do not short across the battery terminals.
The terminals must be covered to prevent accidental shorting. Tools, such as spanners, used on the battery terminals should be single ended and have fully insulated handles.
System owners should read and fully understand the manufacturer’s manual for their battery bank accessible at all times and kept near the battery bank.
The battery should be refilled with fresh electrolyte once in three years interval to maintain the battery in proper operating conditions.
Batteries should be replaced when damaged.
Following permanent damage, batteries are to be properly disposed.