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Friday, July 19, 2024

How Solar Conduits Enhance Home Solar Systems

Although often overlooked, solar conduits are vital to the performance and longevity of home solar systems.

Rising power costs have led to more requests among homeowners for residential solar installations, which suggests a gradual overall shift towards greater adoption of renewable energy in the market. With increasing demand and competition, solar service providers will need every edge to get ahead – which is why even the humble solar conduit can make a difference.

Solar conduits refer to the tubing or piping used to contain and protect the electrical wiring that connects solar systems. With the right type and design of solar conduit, technicians can optimise solar panel performance and ensure compliance with Australia’s Solar Installation Standard, as well as perform safer and more streamlined installations.

Function of Solar Conduits

Most of the components of a solar system, such as the panels, inverter, meter, and more, are installed on the exterior of a home. However, they need to be wired together to create a functioning system. The durability and reliability of these wired connections have a direct impact on the solar system’s overall safety and effectiveness.

Wires used in solar systems can become cut, cracked, and frayed due to animal activity, improper handling, and exposure to rain and sunlight. Depending on the severity of the damage, this can result in everything from low power output and system failure to – if the wires are exposed and if flammable gases or vapours are present – even fires and explosions.

Solar conduits enclose these wires and provide added protection as they are routed between panels and to power inverters or the home grid. Whether they go over or through the roof or even through the ground, these conduits work to preserve the integrity of the wired connections and maintain the safety, longevity and performance of the overall solar system.  

Types of Solar Conduits

While there are many different types of solar conduits available, the most common types are usually made either from metal (galvanised steel or aluminum) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Some conduits, like a PVC coated conduit, will use a mix of materials for more robust properties such as UV resistance, structural strength and more. They also come in rigid or flexible models, allowing versatile application depending on what the environment and setup requires.

It is common for a mix of conduits to be used in a home solar system based on the parameters required. For instance, PVC conduits could be used in the earth as they are corrosion-resistant, while metal conduits could be used in areas with animal activity due to being bite-resistant.

PVC conduits are:

  • Lightweight, durable, affordable, and versatile
  • Easy to install
  • Designed to be rigid or flexible
  • Usable both indoors and outdoors
  • Insulated against electricity
  • Resistant to corrosion and moisture.

Metal conduits are:

  • Very strong and durable, providing more heavy-duty protection
  • Heavier and more rigid
  • May need reinforcement against water and corrosion to be suitable for outdoor use.

Benefits of Solar Conduits

While solar cables are already designed to be durable, solar conduits still provide many advantages in solar design and installation.

Ensuring safety and compliance

According to Australia’s wiring standards, if DC cables for solar panel arrays leave the arrays and enter a domestic building, they must be covered in heavy-duty conduit and visibly labelled ‘Solar DC’ every 2m or wherever the conduit changes direction.

Wiring systems for solar panels also need to be fixed firmly in position at intervals to prevent fatigue and sagging, which can lead to joint disconnections. Additionally, they need to be properly sealed for safety, especially if near combustible materials.

Providing additional protection

Solar panels are often placed in locations that are consistently exposed to animals and the elements – such as roofs – which means the wiring also faces these hazards. However, solar conduits are designed to be sturdy enough to protect sensitive wiring from being chewed on by rats or pecked apart by birds, as well as from degrading due to moisture and extreme temperatures.

Additionally, solar conduits provide an extra layer of protection for tradespeople that may work on the roof, such as for emergencies (fire department) or maintenance (roof, satellite and more). Being clearly identifiable allows them to avoid tampering with the wrong cables and reduces the likelihood of dangerous accidents.

Enhancing performance and longevity

Given that faulty or damaged wiring is one of the leading causes of inefficient solar panels or system breakdowns, solar conduits play a direct role in ensuring efficient electrical transmission.

Any disruptions to the wiring can cause energy losses or lowered output. By preserving the integrity of the wiring system, solar conduits optimise overall system performance and extend its lifespan, thus improving the homeowner’s return on investment.

Streamlining installations

Standard solar conduit designs require technicians to manually feed the wiring through the conduit, which can be slow and time-consuming. However, there are now new pre-wired solar conduit designs on the market, which greatly reduce the labour required to set up a solar system and can lower installation times by up to 20 percent.

Conduits can also offer more versatile options when it comes to planning the wiring design. Different types of conduit allow experienced professionals to safely and efficiently route wires through roofs and in-ground trenches as needed, which may not be feasible without the protection offered by the conduit. If done well, this can also minimise the conduit’s impact on a house’s aesthetic.

For Safer, More Efficient Energy Generation

While solar panels are naturally the focus of solar systems, the importance of solar conduits in ensuring a successful installation and stable operation cannot be overlooked. They perform a critical role in protecting critical wiring, sustaining consistent performance and preserving system longevity.

As with many installation projects, it is often the details that make or break a project. Innovations in solar conduits have already proven to have a positive impact on streamlining solar installations and are likely to continue to be a game changer. Thus, solar players looking to gain a key advantage in the renewable energy race should not overlook these understated but important elements of solar systems.

M Asim
M Asim
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