Author Topic: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!  (Read 3990 times)

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Offline floobydust

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #50 on: August 23, 2019, 07:43:49 pm »
Specialty tools I never see people have them on the jobsite. These are general labourers doing the work.
Amphenol H4 crimping tool H4TC003 is $500, they are expensive so I would expect installers to improvise... unless their employer supplies hand tools.

Is there some irony here, Walmart sells MC4 connectors https://www.walmart.com/c/kp/mc4-connectors

 

Offline bdunham7

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #51 on: August 23, 2019, 08:04:24 pm »
https://www.solaris-shop.com/amphenol-helios-pv-670508-000-h4-crimp-tool/

And I'm not sure the MC4 tool wouldn't work fine, although not approved by Amphenol of course...

https://www.amazon.com/BougeRV-Solar-Crimping-Tools-2-5-6-0mm%C2%B2/dp/B07C2N6CKM/ref=pd_cp_86_4?pd_rd_w=4wjF1&pf_rd_p=ef4dc990-a9ca-4945-ae0b-f8d549198ed6&pf_rd_r=0NETK989GE0ZNN1WTH3F&pd_rd_r=a84bc074-a939-4589-88f5-2fcc128f237d&pd_rd_wg=XcVL6&pd_rd_i=B07C2N6CKM&psc=1&refRID=0NETK989GE0ZNN1WTH3F

Plus another $5 for the wrenches.

Not having the necessary tools is pathetic, for a professional installer company not to have them is criminal (literally in some cases...).  There isn't a single field-installed connector anywhere on my roof, but if there was, the proper tools would have been used even if I had to buy them myself for one use.
 

Offline G7PSK

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #52 on: August 23, 2019, 08:18:25 pm »
Don't know about the US but here in the UK solar panels come with the Amphenol plugs already fitted. I have not heard of them catching fire here, but then we don't have California sun. Must one thing though whenever I have fitted solar panels I have cut the Amphenol plugs off and replaced them with Powerpole, That is because I have only ever put solar panels on vehicles in order to charge batteries for radios.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #53 on: August 23, 2019, 08:49:11 pm »
Don't know about the US but here in the UK solar panels come with the Amphenol plugs already fitted. I have not heard of them catching fire here, but then we don't have California sun.

California has more sun in the UK but the solar insolation is no greater because of all of the proposition 65 stickers stuck to the front of the solar panels.
 

Offline G7PSK

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #54 on: August 23, 2019, 08:59:54 pm »
Don't know about the US but here in the UK solar panels come with the Amphenol plugs already fitted. I have not heard of them catching fire here, but then we don't have California sun.

California has more sun in the UK but the solar insolation is no greater because of all of the proposition 65 stickers stuck to the front of the solar panels.

Every thing in California is known to cause cancer,which is why I am glad I don't live in California, I can bath in all these noxious substances with impunity safe in the knowledge I wont get cancer. :-DD
 

Offline orion242

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #55 on: August 23, 2019, 09:43:19 pm »
TBH the H4's look not so great- special crimp tool, strip tool, unlock tool, wrench tool etc. which installers would likely never have.

Looks fiddly, but they likely to need similar with most of the DC connectors I have seen on panels.  I wouldn't suspect those cheap plastic wrenches to last a wally scale install. 

I'm not sure how it seals against the wire(end) or what OD it can accommodate.

Has to be that white rubber grommet.  The ferule compresses it as you tighten the nut down.  If hand tight, water surely is getting in which is just a matter of time then.

Has there been problems with this specific connector?  Why rush to replace them if not?
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 10:05:27 pm by orion242 »
 

Offline orion242

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #56 on: August 23, 2019, 09:45:55 pm »
Don't know about the US but here in the UK solar panels come with the Amphenol plugs already fitted.

See many with whatever connector also factory fitted.  They may be field assembling the longer runs from the panels to the inverters and mating with the factory assembled connectors on the panels.  If they are series strings, at some point your + & - need to get back together.

If the same person walking on the panels is in charge of crimping...  Using pre-made 25, 50, & 100' cables might be a better option.

I'm surprised Wally is going to work with Tesla now to correct these.  Bet that's going to be miserable for that team.  Wonder if Telsa's lawyer is keeping the non-solar store fire list current or back to public defender.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 11:14:48 pm by orion242 »
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #57 on: August 23, 2019, 10:12:40 pm »
I'm not sure how it seals against the wire(end) or what OD it can accommodate.

Has to be that white rubber grommet.  The ferule compresses it as you tighten the nut down.  If hand tight, water surely is getting in which is just a matter of time then.

That is exactly how it works.  There is a cable gland inside the connector which compressed against the surface of the cable.  With care these are suitable even in washdown environments but drip loops should still be used.

Quote
Has there been problems with this specific connector?  Why rush to replace them if not?

They might figure that the cost of replacement is no worse than the cost of inspection and then replacement if necessary.  Improper installation which seems likely at this point could have left the cable glands damaged anyway.
 

Offline orion242

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #58 on: August 23, 2019, 10:23:53 pm »
That is exactly how it works.  There is a cable gland inside the connector which compressed against the surface of the cable.  With care these are suitable even in washdown environments but drip loops should still be used.

Looks fairly solid to me.  Just surprised they would rush to remove them with something else unless there was/are real issues with them.

They might figure that the cost of replacement is no worse than the cost of inspection and then replacement if necessary.  Improper installation which seems likely at this point could have left the cable glands damaged anyway.

Agree.  They may have switched connectors because the new ones require a lower IQ to install.  Labor pissed off either way.  Inspect, make a call (which wally will claim is wrong 25% of the time requiring a return trip) vs just replace all.

Even the MC4 connector uses cheap plastic wrenches to tighten?  Seems to be fewer parts, but its going to need a good tighten to seal properly and the factory tool is crap.  Handful of uses, sure.  100+ panels, plastic wrenches???  Asking for problems IMO.

I would love to know what "plumbing tool" exactly was referenced being used and if that had anything to do with the connectors.  Whatever it is, has to make a good story.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 11:18:46 pm by orion242 »
 

Offline orion242

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #59 on: August 24, 2019, 01:37:34 am »
Still, the panels have XYZ connector factory supplied.  To replace all likely means field modifying that termination.  Doing so assumes some liability of that connection that shouldn't be.  The panel warranty is almost certainly done if you wack off the supplied connection.

There has to be more to the connector story.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2019, 02:00:21 am by orion242 »
 

Offline madires

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #60 on: August 24, 2019, 09:02:52 am »
Tesla working to resolve dispute with Walmart over solar panel fires
https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/08/tesla-working-to-resolve-dispute-with-walmart-over-solar-panel-fires/

My guess is that Walmart tried to talk to Tesla before the lawsuit and Tesla declined.
 

Online oPossum

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #61 on: August 24, 2019, 11:14:16 am »
"On Friday, Amazon.com Inc. said a June 2018 blaze on the roof of one of its warehouses in Redlands, California, involved a solar panel system that Tesla’s SolarCity division had installed. The Seattle-based retail giant said by email that it has since taken steps to protect its facilities and has no plans to install more Tesla systems."

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-23/amazon-joins-walmart-in-saying-tesla-solar-panels-caught-fire
 

Online maginnovision

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #62 on: August 24, 2019, 05:29:53 pm »
"On Friday, Amazon.com Inc. said a June 2018 blaze on the roof of one of its warehouses in Redlands, California, involved a solar panel system that Tesla’s SolarCity division had installed. The Seattle-based retail giant said by email that it has since taken steps to protect its facilities and has no plans to install more Tesla systems."

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-23/amazon-joins-walmart-in-saying-tesla-solar-panels-caught-fire

Don't worry, Electrek, teslarati, or cleantechnica or whoever will let you know what REALLY happened soon.
 

Offline bdunham7

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #63 on: August 24, 2019, 05:46:09 pm »

Even the MC4 connector uses cheap plastic wrenches to tighten?  Seems to be fewer parts, but its going to need a good tighten to seal properly and the factory tool is crap.  Handful of uses, sure.  100+ panels, plastic wrenches???  Asking for problems IMO.

I would love to know what "plumbing tool" exactly was referenced being used and if that had anything to do with the connectors.  Whatever it is, has to make a good story.

You can go pro and get the twice-as-expensive metal MC4 wrenches...

https://www.amazon.com/Sunway-Solar-Connectors-Wrenches-Assembly/dp/B01MT9UEYH/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_86_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=395VYTHP2H0X3Y2RPT1A

The "plumbing tool" was probably channel lock pliers...
 

Offline bdunham7

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #64 on: August 24, 2019, 06:29:33 pm »
This article is good, but scroll down for the pictures!  Lots of them!

http://www.acsolarwarehouse.com/news/solar-fires-dc-arc-faults-on-solar-systems/
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #65 on: August 24, 2019, 08:01:54 pm »
I would love to know what "plumbing tool" exactly was referenced being used and if that had anything to do with the connectors.  Whatever it is, has to make a good story.

Tongue and groove pliers would be my first guess.

I assume the connector housings have a torque specification to properly compress the cable gland but I do not know anybody who used a calibrated wrench.  Maybe that explains the high price for the official tool?

I have installed similar connectors before and learned how much to tighten them by testing for leaks.
 

Offline floobydust

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #66 on: August 24, 2019, 08:03:13 pm »
Tesla is faulting Amphenol. It's a typical trainwreck with Amphenol being so complicated and obtuse with their datasheets and part numbers, no dates or revision numbers, across seven corporate divisions. It's hell to find datasheets, install instructions, tools etc. There is a coded part number and ATS china part number.

H4 PV and new H4 UTX connectors total four different pins: stamped-and-formed or cold-formed (machined w/Radsok insert), and each needs a different crimp die, and not clear which pins are compatible.  I found over ten crimping tools out there, some obsolete for some reason.
The back cap (cable gland) must be torqued between 2.6 and 2.9N⋅m, let me get my magic cable gland torque wrench for that.

These connectors are too complicated for average Joe to properly assemble- the tools/pins are terribly documented.  Connectors are under the panel so for many you'd have to unmount every panel to get access for replacing them, very labour intensive.

Can't they do a IR thermal cam scan and look for hot spots, something preemptive ?
 

Offline Bud

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #67 on: August 24, 2019, 08:45:20 pm »
Tesla is not an average Joe. They what, were unable to reach Amphenol for proper information?
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Offline bdunham7

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #68 on: August 24, 2019, 09:24:25 pm »
Tesla is faulting Amphenol. It's a typical trainwreck with Amphenol being so complicated and obtuse with their datasheets and part numbers, no dates or revision numbers, across seven corporate divisions. It's hell to find datasheets, install instructions, tools etc. There is a coded part number and ATS china part number.

H4 PV and new H4 UTX connectors total four different pins: stamped-and-formed or cold-formed (machined w/Radsok insert), and each needs a different crimp die, and not clear which pins are compatible.  I found over ten crimping tools out there, some obsolete for some reason.
The back cap (cable gland) must be torqued between 2.6 and 2.9N⋅m, let me get my magic cable gland torque wrench for that.

These connectors are too complicated for average Joe to properly assemble- the tools/pins are terribly documented.  Connectors are under the panel so for many you'd have to unmount every panel to get access for replacing them, very labour intensive.

Can't they do a IR thermal cam scan and look for hot spots, something preemptive ?

I'd love to see more specifics.  I was thinking the "incompatible connectors" they were referring to might be an H4/MC4 connection (works OK, not UL approved), under the panel.  Perhaps the issue is a mismatch of the high-current version of the H4 and the smaller, or using the smaller in a high-current branch?  Those might not be under the panel, certainly not under every panel.  I'm not sure how thrilled I am at the idea of running 65A thru a connector like this, no matter how much additional contact area they've designed in.  I'm really not sure why they are needed.
 

Offline floobydust

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #69 on: August 25, 2019, 12:06:10 am »
Tesla can do leading edge engineering but they are impotent when it comes to manufacturing, and installers are likely inherited from SolarCity, they seem to be from Planet of the Apes if you look at people's post-install videos.

"The faulty parts in question were connectors - Amphenol H4 connectors - and SolarEdge optimizers."
"A portion of SolarCity-installed modules and optimizers from various manufacturers were made with H4 connectors from Amphenol, a part that was commonly used across the industry at the time," a Tesla spokesperson told Business Insider."

Tesla's Project Titan appears to be about fixing some connectors and SolarEdge MPPT power optimizers which can be ordered with one of four different connectors (H4, UTX, MC4, T4). SolarCity could have bungled the connector compatibility, or bad crimps, bad assembly for IP68 etc.

edit: It was the (batch ordered) solar panels were MC4, thus the wrong connectors there. That's data on the quarantined Walmart panels PV-10119-255.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2019, 12:13:24 am by floobydust »
 

Online oPossum

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #70 on: August 25, 2019, 01:34:15 am »
This article is good, but scroll down for the pictures!  Lots of them!

http://www.acsolarwarehouse.com/news/solar-fires-dc-arc-faults-on-solar-systems/

More pictures here with many showing damaged MC4 type connectors.

https://safersolar.com.au/gallery/
 

Offline SparkyFX

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #71 on: August 25, 2019, 03:17:02 am »
Specialty tools I never see people have them on the jobsite. These are general labourers doing the work.
Amphenol H4 crimping tool H4TC003 is $500, they are expensive so I would expect installers to improvise... unless their employer supplies hand tools.
Rule #1 for every crimp connection: use the proper crimping tool for the contact. Some tools even would produce similar looking results (e.g. square shape), but are made for different ferrules and different forces. Even cheap ferrules and butt wire splice connectors have color coding to avoid selecting the wrong size for the cross sectional area or the wrong crimp tool chamber.

But anyway, once it is possible to interconnect two types that are not supposed to be put in each other, but still kind of work the chaos is perfect.

Automotive crimp connections are not better at this, it is the same kind of problem (no standard, horribly expensive tools), which is why prefabricated harnesses are sometimes mandated/preferred for repairs.

Quote
Is there some irony here, Walmart sells MC4 connectors https://www.walmart.com/c/kp/mc4-connectors
LMAO.

Can't they do a IR thermal cam scan and look for hot spots, something preemptive ?
According to the Meet Kevin video, they kind of did it half assed, but for this to identify weak spots you need the proper conditions, the sun must shine and the system better be at peak power output. Otherwise comparison between panels might only identify those that are broken or unconnected. Better than nothing, but it might be too unreliable to do properly.
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Offline bdunham7

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #72 on: August 25, 2019, 03:19:01 am »


More pictures here with many showing damaged MC4 type connectors.

https://safersolar.com.au/gallery/

As far as I can see, it looks like most of those are not actual MC4, except for some that are 1/2 MC4.  Perhaps there is a connector issue after all? 
 

Online oPossum

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #73 on: August 25, 2019, 03:51:16 am »
I meant to say there are pictures of connectors that look like MC4. I can't (yet) tell the difference between the real MC4 and something similar. Before this thread started I thought any connector of that style was a MC4 and could just plug in to any mating connector. This thread has been a real eye opener about solar specific connectors, proper installation, and fires.
 

Offline floobydust

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Re: eevBLAB #64 - Tesla Solar Panels Are CATCHING ON FIRE!
« Reply #74 on: August 25, 2019, 05:12:37 am »
150VDC solar array arc example:

220VAC and 1/2 wave rectifier/filter caps:

In many of the (connector related) fire damage pics, it looks like a cascade failure.
A connector with high resistance heats up. It melts, deforms, oxidizes lets water get in. Resistance goes up further and once the housing turns to carbon, that insulation gone, an arc starts and finds a path to anything nearby, usually grounded brackets.

But I also see carbon tracking on a panel's back sheet. The cells must get overloaded during a mid-array ground fault and melt the back sheet?
 


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