Photovoltaic Panel Installations and Ground Bars

NEC Panel and Ground Bar Regulations

The National Electric Code is what electricians and electrical engineers follow to maintain safe electrical environments for their customers. Within the National Electric Code are guidelines that electricians can follow to meet or exceed the minimum safety standards in terms of grounding and the use of ground bars. These standards are the base minimum that is required, but most electrical engineers and electricians attempt to exceed those standards. The basic guidelines for grounding state that all equipment that is electrically charged must be grounded through a direct connection to a grounding device. Ground bars are typically what are used to accomplish that, as well as ground rods. So, all of the computers, coffee makers and copiers that are connected to outlets, are along the process, attached to ground bars.

National Electric Code

The National Electric Code, while very thorough, is not all encompassing. This is especially true when it comes to new electrical generation technologies such as photovoltaic panels. There has been some confusion in the installation of PV equipment and grounding, not necessarily by professional electricians or installers, but predominantly by do it yourself-ers. Photovoltaic panels, to a non-qualified installer, may appear not to be electrical equipment. So improper grounding is occurring. When the aforementioned installer is working on the PV system, they then run the risk of being hit with four hundred volts.

The practice in the professional electrical community for grounding and using ground bars is not being followed for photovoltaic installations and it may cause some dangerous situations to arise.

Ground Bars

Think of these bars as a surge protector, on a much larger scale. Surge protectors are crucial pieces of electronic equipment take the energy from a lightning strike or power surge and displace it to where it won?t cause any short circuiting of your electronics. Ground bars act the same way, taking the electricity that is in a bolt of lightning and dissipating it completely. This can help to prevent any kind of fires as a result, and from people getting injured as a result of a lightning strike.

While one photovoltaic panel incorrect installation couldn?t produce as much voltage as a lightning strike, it can produce enough voltage to stun or kill an installer. Because these panels are typically installed on roof tops, the added danger of falling can also be factored in. However, the danger does not stop there. The homeowner could potentially experience an electrical fire if the equipment is not properly grounded.

Following the National Electric Code Produces Optimum Levels of Safety

Improper installation and the failure to adhere to long practiced grounding procedures when installing photovoltaic panels needs to be addressed on an industry-wide scale. As it is addressed, that information will trickle down to non-professionals that are taking on the installation work themselves. Ultimately, following the National Electric Code will produce the optimum level of safety for professional electricians as well as homeowners attempting to conduct electrical installations and repairs.