Rooftop Isolators: Should they stay, or should they go?

Ask a few solar installers why we have rooftop isolators (RTIs) in Australia, and you might get a variety of answers:
“Because Australian regulators just wanted to be different to the rest of the world?”
“Some bright-spark thought they would reduce the risks to homeowners, when it looks like they have increased the risks – They should be called Rooftop Incendiaries!“
“@&!? knows why – who’s getting on the roof to turn it off when the building’s on fire?”
Many installers will claim to have never had their RTIs catch fire, but most will have a story about attending an installation where an RTI has failed catastrophically.
It’s rare to find an installer that likes using them. Those clever Kiwis put in an exemption clause: AS/NZS 5033 2014: “In New Zealand, a PV array switch-disconnector is not required adjacent to the PV array.”
There is much debate about the causes of failure in Australia; poor quality product, poor installation practices, or just exposure to the elements.
Ingress of moisture or a buildup of condensation to a sealed enclosure are often blamed, and the breakdown of plastic enclosures due to heat & UV stresses don’t help the situation.
The Draft Australian Standards amendments recommend Rooftop Isolators to be continued with improved design and installation practices.
So do we really want to further entrench the use of RTIs in the current review of Australian Standard AS/NZS 5033?
Submissions to the draft amendments close on Thursday the 15th March.
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is standing up for installers, and calling for a re-think. We’d like installers to put their name to the following submission to Standards Australia:
SEIA is an association that represents Australian solar installers.
Installers are concerned that continued use of Rooftop Isolators (RTIs) may breach their duty of care.
We do not believe that EL42 has made a strong, evidence based case for the continuation of the use of RTIs.
In the context of widespread failures of rooftop isolators, solar installers need to be convinced that the benefits from their continued use outweigh the risks of installing them.
Until this can be publicly demonstrated, we recommend that the draft revisions to AS/NZ5033 be reconsidered, and the use of RTIs be made optional.
If you’re an accredited solar installer (or a member of the solar industry) and you’d like to put your name to the above submission, please URGENTLY email with the word “Agree”, your name and accreditation number.
Geoff Bragg is chairman, NSW Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and secretary, Smart Energy Council (SEC).

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