When to apply Australian standards and manufacturer’s instructions can be confusing, but both are extremely important in a solar installation, writes Clean Energy Council technical support officer Nathan Smith.

An ongoing source of confusion for installers working in the solar industry is the interplay between the relevant Australian standards and manufacturer’s instructions. When and how to apply each standard is something that the Clean Energy Council has covered regularly in our communications with installers and at our installer nights. But a question that we are often asked is where do manufacturer’s instructions fit into the picture, and what if the requirements are different to those in the standards?

What are manufacturer’s instructions?

Manufacturer’s instructions are the methods and procedures provided by a product manufacturer that must be followed when undertaking an installation to ensure that the product performs as expected in the conditions that it was tested to. If the manufacturer’s instructions aren’t followed, there is no guarantee that the product will work as expected.

For example, the standard AS/NZS 3000:2018 – Electrical installations (the Wiring Rules) requires that products are installed in accordance with the requirements of the standard and the additional requirements as specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some great examples of products with specific requirements that installers may be familiar with are DC isolators and roof penetration flashings (Dektites). As these products are often installed on the roof and are expected to maintain a weatherproof rating for the lifetime of the system, it’s vitally important that installers ensure that they follow the relevant Australian standards andthe additional requirements as specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.

When to apply manufacturer’s instructions

Part of the problem for installers when it comes to manufacturer’s instructions is the way that the information is provided and, sometimes, whether it is provided at all! But as each manufacturer may provide the information in a different form, it’s important that installers are familiar with the manufacturer’s requirements before attempting to install the product.

Just because you have installed a similar product in a way that complies with the Australian standard or the manufacturer’s instructions, it doesn’t mean that your installation will be compliant. You always have to remember that AS 3000 requires that manufacturer’s instructions be followed.

What to do when you’re unsure

We all understand that installers want to do the right thing. But sometimes, perhaps when working for a sales company or another third party, installers may encounter a product that they are unfamiliar with and may be unable to find or interpret the manufacturer’s instructions.

Alternatively, the requirements of the Australian standards and manufacturer’s instructions may provide conflicting information. In this situation, it is important to remember that both requirements need to be followed – the Australian standards are a minimum safety requirement and any additional requirements in the manufacturer’s instructions must also be followed.

In such situations, the Clean Energy Council may be able to provide installers with the necessary guidance. The Clean Energy Council team processes thousands of accreditation applications and compliance reports each year, so we encounter a wide range of applications for products (both compliant and non-compliant) and may be able to steer you in the right direction.

The Clean Energy Council is also regularly in contact with product manufacturers, so it may be able to ask for further clarification on instructions on an installer’s behalf. Finally, the Clean Energy Council has a comprehensive collection of information resources for installers – most recently an advice document on AS/NZS 5139:2019 Electrical installations – Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment – and the technical team is available to provide accredited installers and members with technical advice.

Tips to avoid confusion

The best way for installers to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the Australian standards and the manufacturer’s instructions is to buy products from reputable suppliers and use materials that they are familiar with. Buying products from a reputable supplier often comes with the added bonus of product warranties and support.

If installers familiarise themselves with one or two different products and use them predominately, it reduces the number of product requirements that they will need to memorise and lessens the chance of mistakenly installing products in a non-compliant manner.

Nathan Smith is technical support officer at the Clean Energy Council.