Solar panel switches fire prone

WA's energy safety watchdog is warning that thousands of homes could be firetraps after being fitted with faulty solar panel switches linked to dozens of blazes in the Eastern States.

EnergySafety said it had banned the sale of the "defective" switches but was powerless to force a recall of the devices that may have been installed on thousands of households since January 1, 2012.

The devices, which are technically known as DC isolators but are effectively switches installed with rooftop solar panels, are supposed to disconnect the electrical currents the systems produce.

This isolates the solar panels and allows electricians to carry out work in a building safely.

EnergySafety said there were several types of faulty switches including those branded Avanco, PVPower and some GEN3 and SMP versions.

Although many of the faulty isolators are believed to have been distributed out of Queensland, it is understood thousands could have been installed locally.

No fires have been attributed to the devices in WA, but a senior industry figure said yesterday that "it's only a matter of time".

It emerged this week that Queensland and NSW regulators had ordered a recall of suspect products after they were blamed for almost 60 fires.

EnergySafety director Ken Bowron urged anyone who had bought solar panels since the beginning of 2012 to check whether they had one of the dodgy switches.

However, he asked people not to attempt to replace the switches themselves and instead call a solar company to do it.

"I have issued a stop sale order . . . they are subject to recall notices in Queensland and NSW and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been informed," he said.

Concerns about the risks posed by the faulty devices have been heightened by the huge demand for solar panels in WA, where there are 150,000 systems in Perth and the South West alone.

Unlike in Queensland and NSW, authorities cannot force the recall, but Western Power and Horizon Power are likely to step up inspections of installations and order switch replacements.

The West Australian

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