As rising floodwaters continue to wreak havoc and devastation across New South Wales and Queensland this week, homeowners with solar panels are being warned of the dangers associated with inundated electrical systems. Even if the power supply is cut and turned off at the switchboard, solar panels can still produce electricity and pose a serious safety risk. Master Electricians Australia CEO Malcolm Richards has issued an urgent warning, urging homeowners to be careful around solar panels during a flood event.
“Homeowners who are forced onto their roof due to flooding need to be extremely careful around solar panels as they present a real electrical safety risk,” Richards said.
“This also applies to people in boats or other craft moving around near submerged homes,” he said.
“Even if the network supply is turned off, solar panels still produce electricity and the associated wiring is also live.
“This is a very serious threat affecting thousands of homes and has the potential to cause death or serious injury if people come into contact with the wiring to the panels.
What you can do if your home is affected
Richards has advised homeowners in flood-affected areas to take the following precautions:
“Flood-affected residents can use the shutdown instructions to safely turn off the isolation switches located next to the solar inverter and these instructions are usually located on the switchboard,” he said.
“If you’re unsure of anything we urgently recommend engaging a fully qualified electrician. Where a solar PV system has been flood inundated, an electrician can check the system and safely isolate water-damaged components.
“It is vital that residents ensure that the system is electrically safe before it is recommissioned.”
The Clean Energy Council agrees, stressing that homeowners should not attempt to turn on their rooftop PV system after a storm or flood, and should stay away from the solar panels and wiring until they are professionally assessed as safe to approach.
For further details, the Clean Energy Council website has extensive advice on what solar homeowners should and shouldn’t do before, during and after a severe weather event, including advice for homeowners with off-grid, stand-alone systems.
Free electrician hotline
Master Electricians Australia has also launched a free hotline to connect homeowners affected by flooding with local electricians. Residents affected should phone 1300 889 198 and a contractor will assist them to get back on the grid quickly and safely.