Article
Solar energy has grown from a niche player in the electricity-generation
 market to a significant contributor to U.S. energy markets. Aiding that
 growth have been notable equipment improvements, including more 
efficient photovoltaic (PV) panels and the introduction of smart 
inverters enabling safer and more productive operation of installed PV 
systems. But some contractors might not yet realize that even the most 
basic connectors and other fittings also have become optimized for the 
harsh conditions they can face in solar applications.

Know the Challenges Solar Project Fittings Can Face

Chuck Ross
Solar energy has grown from a niche player in the electricity-generation market to a significant contributor to U.S. energy markets. Aiding that growth have been notable equipment improvements, including more efficient photovoltaic (PV) panels and the introduction of smart inverters enabling safer and more productive operation of installed PV systems. But some contractors might not yet realize that even the most basic connectors and other fittings also have become optimized for the harsh conditions they can face in solar applications.

Solar installations pose challenges for electrical fittings that can be significantly greater than those raised in more traditional outdoor settings. These can range from added snowpack pressure in the winter to extreme heat and UV exposure in the summer. And, since both residential rooftop systems and utility-scale arrays are expected to continue performing for 20 years or more, ensuring connector durability is critical to long-term project success.

“Solar is a little bit different intended use than electricians are used to,” says Eric Cerasale, technical marketing manager with Bridgeport Fittings, citing gasketed connectors as one example where extra attention to materials matters. “When you have a raintight or liquid tight connector, the gasket has to have some UV resistance. What’s good for an outside air conditioning unit is not always good for a rooftop solar installation.”

So, when selecting connectors for solar applications, Cerasale strongly recommends looking beyond standard-duty options and, instead, focus your attention on those “listed and intended for harsh environments.” Ensuring these low-tech, but still critical, components can withstand the challenging conditions they’ll likely face for two decades or longer will also help ensure customer satisfaction with your work for just as long or longer.
Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Fittings
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