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Manufacturer vs electrician: who’s to blame for Sydney’s dodgy solar wiring?

The Sydney solar market is polarised about who’s to blame for the one-in-five dodgy solar panel installations uncovered by the Department of Climate Change, with some blaming the DC manufacturer and others pointing fingers at the electricians.

SolarPV, a Sydney solar panel retailer, has blamed a DC component commonly-used in solar installations for causing potential fire risks in Sydney homes.

The DC component manufacturer incorrectly labelled some of the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ outlets on a line of DC converters supplied to a range of Sydney solar retailers and installers, according to Josh Nester from SolarPV in Somersy, New South Wales.

"This DC component was supposedly used by everyone for a while, but the problem was found and it was corrected within a few months," he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

One in five Sydney solar installations have been found to be at risk of fire, with 18.5% of these showing ‘major’ defects, according to an audit performed by the Department of Climate Change and Sydney solar retailers and installers.

Retailers, installers and the government have apparently known about the defects for some time, however it has been claimed the federal government didn’t announce the problems to the public in fear of bad press being generated around solar and the solar panel rebate.

"Energy companies are sending letters out to customers, and we have customers calling us up. We’re spending 10, 15 minutes on the phone to each of them to work out if they have a faulty installation," said Nester.

"It’s definitely a problem for us. But it’s slowing down now. People are waiting to see what the government’s going to do about solar so not as many are buying any more."

According to another solar retailer in the greater Sydney area, Solarscape, the fault is purely with the electricians installing the device.

A spokesperson for Solarscape said the fault is with the electricians performing the installations, with about 30% of them confusing the solar panel’s inverter as a power source (rather than a DC to AV power converter), and wiring the system’s circuit breaker incorrectly.

The spokesperson said this incorrect wiring caused the system to overheat, potentially bursting into flames.

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