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Fire Resistance of Modules - Test and Certification

Solar modules are subjected to the elements as they generate power on your roof. They are regularly exposed to dirt and dust, strong winds, heavy rain and even hailstorms. Although it is rare, solar panels must be able to cope with the risk of fire, to keep everyone safe if there is a problem on the roof.

With the recent media attention around DC Isolator failures and fire-related damage we have decided to reflect on the fire testing of solar modules to ensure safety on Australian roofs. These certifications push the solar modules to their breaking (or more appropriately boiling) points.

DC Isolator Fire, Image FRNSW
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DC Isolator Fire, Image FRNSW

Testing For Fire Resistance

Several international testing procedures exist to simulate fire damage to solar modules. Each test will simulate a variation of the impact of fire and heat on a material, appliance or in this case solar module. Here is a summary of the different international certifications:

Standard Fire Testing Procedure

For Solar Modules to be installed on Australian rooftops, all modules must complete certain certifications to ensure that pass a minimum safety rating. The Clean Energy Council requires modules to pass the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61730 test which includes fire simulations.

The IEC 61730 standard includes testing to UL 790 and UL 1703 for integrated solar modules on rooftops. One test from this certification places a burning brand on the module surface for 90 minutes and is illustrated by the video of rooftop shingles below:

Another component of the IEC 61730 fire tests are the spread of flame simulation. A module is exposed to fast-moving streams of fire in close proximity. The impact on the surfaces of the module are observed, as illustrated here:

UNI 9177 and 9174 Fire Certification

Another Fire Test for solar modules is the Italian designed UNI 9177 and 9174 simulations. Unlike the fire test required by the CEC, the Italian UNI certificate applies radiative heat on the backside of the solar module which would stimulate an intense burning house, tree or DC isolator near the solar module and back sheet.

In the video below, note the marker lines near the intense radiative heater. By measuring the time to reach certain markers during the degradation from extreme heat exposure, modules are classified by their fire safety classification.

The following table demonstrates the Levels or Categories of the UNI 9174/9177 certificate. Good quality solar modules must achieve Level 1 results to be considered for passing this examination. This includes:

  • Flame does not spread past 300 mm within the allocated time
  • After Glow lasts less than 180 seconds
  • No dripping or debris that can cause subsequent fires.
UNI 9177 and 9174 Fire Resistance Classification
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UNI 9177 and 9174 Fire Resistance Classification
DC Isolator Failure, Source: SolarQuotes
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DC Isolator Failure, Source: SolarQuotes

WINAICO Fire Certificates for Safety

WINAICO believes in testing our modules above and beyond the required standards to ensure the highest level of safety for our customers. With hot summers and bushfire conditions this is essential for Australian buildings. You can be confident that WINAICO panels will provide the best protection against the elements over their 25 year lifetime.

Please see the attached fire resistance simulations that certify their safety for your home.

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