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Thread: Inverters In Living Areas: Safety Concerns?

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    Inverters In Living Areas: Safety Concerns?

    Hey, does anyone have any thoughts about potential safety concerns when it comes to where to locate inverters within a house? For a typical residential PV system, you're potentially running at several hundred volts. I have some prior experience as a PV installer, but right now, I mostly work as a commercial electrician. In every commercial facility I have worked in any kind of panel or equipment running higher than 120/208 is usually in an isolated, out of the way location and more often than not is behind a lockable door. From what I understand the NEC doesn't really say much about where one can or cannot put an inverter in a residential installation. If you have a house where the service panel is in, say a living room or kitchen, is this a potential safety concern and what are the possible ways to mitigate any risks, especially if cost is a concern for the customer? I feel like if you picked an inverter whose terminals and/or switches were not too easy to access and made sure any external DC disconnects were mounted too high for any kids to reach or put a small lock on them then you should be alright. Unless you're dealing with a completely massive house, your modules are current limited to around 50 or 60 amps at the high end, so you don't need to worry too much about arc flashes and everything is supposed to be run in metal up until your inverter disconnect, so it doesn't seem exceptionally dangerous to me to put an inverter in a frequently occupied area; but what do y'all think?

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    I'm still trying to figure why rooftops look better than tracker stantions , especially those with the multiple micro inverters.....~RJ~

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg H View Post
    Hey, does anyone have any thoughts about potential safety concerns when it comes to where to locate inverters within a house? For a typical residential PV system, you're potentially running at several hundred volts. I have some prior experience as a PV installer, but right now, I mostly work as a commercial electrician. In every commercial facility I have worked in any kind of panel or equipment running higher than 120/208 is usually in an isolated, out of the way location and more often than not is behind a lockable door. From what I understand the NEC doesn't really say much about where one can or cannot put an inverter in a residential installation. If you have a house where the service panel is in, say a living room or kitchen, is this a potential safety concern and what are the possible ways to mitigate any risks, especially if cost is a concern for the customer? I feel like if you picked an inverter whose terminals and/or switches were not too easy to access and made sure any external DC disconnects were mounted too high for any kids to reach or put a small lock on them then you should be alright. Unless you're dealing with a completely massive house, your modules are current limited to around 50 or 60 amps at the high end, so you don't need to worry too much about arc flashes and everything is supposed to be run in metal up until your inverter disconnect, so it doesn't seem exceptionally dangerous to me to put an inverter in a frequently occupied area; but what do y'all think?
    I've installed thousands of residential systems and never had this thought.

    Inverter output is the same voltage as the rest of the premises wiring, so the location of the service panel really doesn't matter. If you've got micro-inverters it really doesn't matter. For ungrounded string inverters, the DC voltage to ground when operating is half the positive-negative voltage. I've never seen a DC inverter disco that doesn't require a tool to open. Does 500V DC really put you in a different realm than 240VAC? It doesn't really.

    With all that said, I don't think I've ever put equipment in a living room or kitchen, because nobody wants it there.

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    I would be concerned about sound. Some inverters make noise. I wouldn't want my sunny boys in the living room.
    Ethan Brush - East West Electric. NY, WA. MA

    "You can't generalize"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by electrofelon View Post
    I would be concerned about sound. Some inverters make noise. I wouldn't want my sunny boys in the living room.
    Yeah, that's a good point. We had an issue with an inverter on the exterior of a bedroom wall. The relays clicking on in the morning we echoing in the wall and waking the customer up.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaggedben View Post
    Yeah, that's a good point. We had an issue with an inverter on the exterior of a bedroom wall. The relays clicking on in the morning we echoing in the wall and waking the customer up.
    Should have put a rooster sticker on it and said it's a feature of this model.

    NEC 690.4(E) says you can't install an inverter in a bathroom. The only restriction I know of.

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