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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Safety When Building DIY Solar Panels

There are a few safety notices we ought to go through when building DIY solar panels. Some of these may not be relevant to you, but read through them all first just to make sure.

Remember, you are working with electricity, dangerous chemicals and heavy but fragile objects. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Your First Aid Kit

You will need a good first aid kit on hand, including some items that you won’t normally have to hand. Most specifically, you will need an eye-wash and a wash kit or gel that can be applied to skin in case of contact with battery acid.

Chemical Clean Up kit

You will be working with lead acid batteries which contain chemicals that are hazardous to health. You will require the following:
  • A chemical clean up kit suitable for cleaning up batteries fluids (sulphuric acid) in the case of a spill.
  • You will also need a supply of strong polythene plastic bags
  • A good supply of rags/disposable wipes to mop up any battery spillages.
Chemical clean up kits and chemical first aid kits are available from most battery wholesalers. They only cost a few pounds. You probably wont need them, but if nothing else they buy you peace of mind.

Considering the general public

If you are working in an area where the general public has access, you should use barriers or fencing, and signage to cordon off the area. Clear diversion signage should explain an alternative route.
  • In this scenario, I would recommend employing a professional team of builders to carry out the installation work on your behalf. They will already understand the implications of working in a public area and the relevant Health and Safety regulations.
Working at height

You are very likely to be working at height and quite possibly crawling around on slanted rooftops.

Make sure you are using suitable climbing equipment (ladders crawler boards, safety harnesses, scaffolding). You can hire anything that you haven’t got at reasonable prices.

If you have any concerns about working at heights, or it you are working beyond your area of competence at any time, remember there is no shame in hiring a professional. A professional builder can fit a solar array to a roof in 2-3 hours – typically less than half the time it takes an amateur DIY enthusiast.


Batteries, large inverters and solar arrays can be heavy. Solar panels themselves may not be heavy in their own right, but when several of them are mounted on a frame and then lifted they are heavy, bulky and fragile.

Moving and installing much of this equipment is a two person job as a minimum. More people can be useful when lifting a solar array into position.

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