If you got your first solar panel system installed in your house, chances are you will see a box with an on/off switch that says “rapid shutdown.” But do you have any idea what does it mean or why is it important to know when installing a solar panel system at home?
In today’s article, we will provide you with an overview of rapid shutdown requirements, and everything you need to know about it.
What is Rapid Shutdown?
Rapid shutdown is an electrical safety regulation that requires every solar panel system to set the solar panel shut-off switch. The National Electrical Code (NEC) introduced it to the public in 2014 with the aim to provide a simple way for firefighters to quickly cut off the current in the DC conductors of the rooftop solar panel systems. It is basically set to make sure that the roof of a building is safe from fire. Usually, when the standard inverter of a solar system is switched off, the DC wiring, from the solar unit, still runs particularly when the sun is up.
Why is Rapid Shutdown Requirement Implemented?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides rapid shutdown requirements and writes them to the NEC to ensure safety measures. Your home may not catch fire so you don’t have to worry about rapid shutdown functionality. However, if it accidentally happens, firefighters can easily use rapid shutdown solutions to de-energize your solar panel system.
Remember that simply turning off the solar inverter doesn’t shut down the unit. Turning it off may not power off some inverter setups, wires, and circuits, increasing the risk of electric shock. But if you have a rapid shutdown device, then you can easily power off the entire unit, reducing the electrical voltage of your solar panel system in less than a minute. Generally, the rapid shutdown code set the standard to quickly reduce the voltage of any conductors.
Is Rapid Shutdown Required?
Rapid shutdown is a safety measure of the National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC releases a new or updated set of requirements for safe electrical systems every three consecutive years. Technically speaking, the rapid shutdown is not required everywhere in the United States, although it’s a good idea to install a solar panel system with a rapid shutdown switch.
Another important thing to note is the NEC is not federally mandated, so individual states can freely choose to follow and abide by the code within their time frame and discretion. Some states choose an independent, state-wide electrical code instead.
Should You Comply with the Rapid Shutdown Regulation?
Generally, solar power systems without rapid shutdown switches are not totally unsafe to first fire responders. If you have a solar power system installed before the implementation of the rapid shutdown, it is less likely to expose your building to more risk. As long as your solar installer is well-experienced with the job, you have nothing to worry about.
However, if you want to be safe and secured, and for your peace of mind, it’s certainly worthwhile to follow the rapid shutdown requirement. Most of the time your installers are highly educated when it comes to changing codes for your state. They also can design your solar power system that can easily comply with all rapid shutdown requirements.