The solar industry is relatively young and many new contractors entered the market in the last several years. It’s not uncommon to find the wrong parts used in a solar electric installation. I get to see plenty of solar energy systems installed by other contractors after they are long gone. Some mistakes are understandable (and common). Others are comical (from my point of view). Some are downright dangerous. There are a number of reason this occurs:
- Inexperienced solar contractors simply do not know what parts exist, so they use a common incompatible part.
- Electrical contractors may not be highly experienced with DC electrical components.
- Specialized parts are not available for purchase locally or require long lead times.
- Some parts seem inexplicably high in price, so cheaper alternatives are used.
The picture below (left) shows a strain relief fitting that is not listed for the environment in which it is installed, and is intended for a single wire to pass into an electrical enclosure. The rubber seal is cracking and the metal parts are clearly corroding. Most importantly, water can get into this enclosure because the seal is intended to tighten against one cable or wire.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Multiple hole strain relief fittings are available, but are certainly not well known, and are not widely available, at least in Southwest Florida. Some local electrical supply houses do carry single and multiple conductor strain reliefs, but they are often the wrong size (usually to large) to handle small wires from photovoltaic panels. Strain relief fittings made from nylon with up to 13 holes are not hard to find online, but are not common in local stores.
Part procurement takes a lot of planning, and local solar contractors need to carry an inventory of common parts that are needed in solar electric installations. Knowledge of the availability and suitability of the right parts for solar is key to a long lasting solar energy installation.
It’s just one more reason to hire a Southwest Florida licensed solar contracting professional that does solar installations as a primary line of business.