10 reasons it might be time to upgrade your PV testing toolkit

8 March 2022


PV system testing can be difficult, time-consuming, ineffective and at times unsafe.

Megger observed the challenges facing field technicians to develop solutions that help contractors increase efficiency. With innovative testing tools, you can win more jobs and, most importantly, keep your crew out of harm’s way.

The supply chain makes sure EPCs can procure the latest modules and inverters. Suppliers simply don’t carry 10-year-old technology.

The same is not true for O&M technicians.

Here are 10 reasons it might be time to upgrade your PV testing toolkit. If your gear fits any of these descriptions, consider replacing it.

Not sure how to operate this tool

O&M technicians know that an insulation resistance (IR) tester can help troubleshoot underperforming modules and inverters. But many don’t know how to operate the tool.

Seeing this in the field, Megger produces and delivers training programs on performing IR tests on solar arrays and validating results.

What do the test results mean?

When technicians do use an IR tester, some have a hard time understanding real-time results.

Which part of the display is showing current leakage through the insulation versus current leakage over the insulation material?

It would help to know immediately when a circuit has passed or failed the test.

Equipment is weighing me down

Just about everything you need for business fits into a pocket-sized smartphone, and yet some technicians are carrying around a 10-pound briefcase just for testing the effectiveness of electrical insulation.

When traveling from circuit to circuit across a large project site, the extra weight makes your muscles ache and slows you down.

Too many tools in the bag

There’s a reason it’s difficult to get in and out of the equipment supply shop quickly. For many of the tasks that technicians perform, you can find an assortment of specialty tools to help complete the work.

Instead of carrying around too many mismatching tools, look for a streamlined toolkit that meets your needs while taking up less space.

Does thermal imaging have to break the bank?

A thermal camera is a diagnostic tool that shows why a problem has occurred.

A technician searching for hotspots in an inverter might not care precisely how hot each string is. Not enough to justify the cost of acquiring the data.

To do the job, you just need to recognize which string is hotter than the rest.

IR testers need guard terminals

No electrical insulation is perfect. There is always some current leakage out of the wire.

Guard terminals commonly found on briefcase-sized IR testers account for the leakage. When using an IR tester without guard terminals, you get less accurate results and might falsely conclude that a conductor is no good.

The voltage limit on this digital multimeter is too low

In nonresidential settings, the availability of PV system components that are tested and listed to UL standards at 1,500 Vdc has led to the design and deployment of higher-voltage systems.

A digital multimeter that only goes up to 1,000 Vdc is outdated. Consider upgrading to a device with the highest measurement capabilities on the market.

I’m still recording data with pen and paper

For 150 years, clipboards have done a fine job of holding paper in place and providing a lightweight and portable writing surface.

But if you are operating an IR tester or a digital multimeter, the need to manually transcribe results, circuit by circuit, is wasting a lot of time in the field. It also puts data quality at risk.

Batteries died at the worst possible time

Halfway through circuit testing at a 5 MW solar farm, your IR tester flashes a low-power warning.

You reach into your pocket, then your equipment bag, in search of spare batteries. Finding none, you trudge back to the truck knowing valuable time is lost.

Don’t let this happen to you. Carry rechargeable batteries.

Leads don’t seat properly with these PV connectors

When test procedures call for you to shove an exposed conductive tip from your testing device into an MC4 or MC3 connector, you risk exposure to a potential shock hazard or the possibility of inaccurate results.

It would be safer and more effective to use test leads specially designed to fit onto PV connectors, making clean contact with exposed metal as you take your readings.

Learn about better, safer testing

In the weeks leading up to the NABCEP 2022 Continuing Education Conference, March 28-31 in Phoenix, Arizona, Check back to the Megger blog for future posts explaining how you can increase efficiency at the project site and win more jobs. We will also show how to access support to get the most value out of your testing tools and keep technicians safe.

Visit us at NABCEP 2022 Booth #2 to see the Solar Test Kit up close and talk to the Megger team.