NEC Universal PV Connector Standards
The National Electrical Code (NEC) sets the standard for electrical safety. Updates to the NEC occur every three years, and individual states typically enforce the new standard within a couple of years from the update.
These updates increase the safety of electrical components added to a variety of different products. While most of the solar-related updates in the NEC 2020 minimized labeling issues, a significant update that every homeowner should be grateful for includes the update that prohibits cross-mating connectors.
The practice of cross-mating connectors means connecting connectors from different manufactures. Each connector connects solar modules into a series string. Connectors also attach the solar panels to the inverter or optimizer. While cross-mating connectors may seem like a harmless practice, it can cause issues in the solar array.
The Risk that Cross-Mating Connectors Pose
Unfortunately, the bad practice of cross-mating PV connectors from two different brands has occurred in the past several years. While mismatching connectors may not seem like that big of a deal, connectors need a snug fit for them to function throughout the lifespan of the array, and this is compromised by cross-mating patterns in PV connectors.
Even if the company claims to have a third party test report, the connectors shouldn’t mismatch. Installers should only consider mismatching connectors if the two manufacturers entered into a joint certification, which isn’t a common practice.
How Cross Mating Increases the Risk of Fires
The main concern behind the mismatching of connections comes from the potential fire hazard that they can cause. PV connectors require perfect matches for them to function as designed. If they don’t have that match it can cause a misalignment within the connector.
Mismatched connectors have the potential to create burnt connections, arch, and start structural fires. Many PV fires have started due to mismatched PV connectors; for example, the PV fires in the Netherlands.
NEC 2020 Requirements in Section 690.33
To help increase the safety of PV installations, section 690.33 of the NEC 2020 now requires installers to list connectors that aren’t the same type and brand. It also requires proof that these connectors can cross-mate.
This requirement will increase the electrical standard that city and utility inspectors have for PV installations. It should encourage installers to use the same connectors, which will decrease the chance of fires.
Now that stricter regulations have started for PV connectors, homeowners have even more reason to invest in residential solar. Look into the savings adding solar to your home can bring by starting a quote today.
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