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Warning to flood victims on solar panels and building repairs 

31 January 2012

Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning flood victims with solar panel installations to stay well clear when returning to their homes and businesses.

Mr Stowe said there were possible electrical hazards with solar panels or Photovoltaic Arrays (PV Arrays), which can generate an electrical current regardless of whether or not the electrical supply from the state grid has been turned off.

“People should be very cautious when re-entering flood affected premises fitted with solar panels,” he said. “Just because the power is off, does not mean solar panels do not pose an electrocution risk.

“Home owners should be aware that solar panels can continue to generate electricity during daylight hours.

“If you are unsure about the state of your solar panel installation, contact the installer or get the advice of a licensed electrician. Do not turn on the equipment without checking first.”

Mr Stowe said when inverter or switching gear was immersed in water, electrical arcing was highly probable within the equipment.

“If this arcing is left unchecked, it may lead to a fire,” he said. “Solar panels will generate potentially lethal voltages during day light hours and these voltages will be present in all cables between the array and the inverter.

“People should also apply caution when using any electrical items affected by water, such as toasters and home entertainment systems. Get them checked first by a licensed electrician.”

The Commissioner urged residents in NSW flood areas to be cautious about flood related fundraising and to check licences when choosing tradespeople for repair work.

“Fair Trading was aware of several flood related scams last year, so people need to be careful and have a healthy suspicion,” he said. “People needing to repair homes and businesses should be wary of shonky builders looking to make a quick buck.

“Some tradespeople perform poor quality work and then move on as soon as they are paid, well before their shoddy work becomes obvious.”

Fair Trading can: advise consumers if the builder or tradesperson they are planning to use is appropriately licensed; provide information about deposits and contracts; and, offer advice to renters, landlords and real estate agents on their rights and responsibilities in relation to flood damaged properties – including urgent repairs and compensation.

Mr Stowe said Fair Trading would replace documentation for flood victims, such as business licence certificates, for free.

Call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or go to the Fair Trading website. Free language assistance is available for customers from non-English speaking backgrounds, including an interpreter service on 13 14 50.

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