Summer Solar Panel Care
Summer is the optimal time to have solar panels. Long days and lots of sunny weather mean you’ll see your panels producing at peak!
But as homeowners with solar across Oregon, Iowa, and Montana are quick to point out, summer can also bring less ideal things. Like dry, dusty weather, or worse: wildfires.
So how do you take care of solar panels during the summer?
Below we’ll go over the top 3 things to know about caring for your solar panels during the lazy days of summer.
#1: Your Solar Panel Cleaning Tool
It’s something you probably already have sitting in your back yard: a garden hose.
No, we’re not joking. The best option for cleaning your solar panels off is a garden hose and spray nozzle. How?
Because professionally installed solar is installed at an angle, and most solar panels have a hydrophobic layer added on top of the glass that covers the solar cells, things like rain, snow, and debris will naturally slide off. But when your solar is looking a little dusty, or a strong wind just blew a bunch of leaves across your panels, a hose can help.
To clean your panels, simply grab your hose, stick a spray nozzle on, and spray down your panels while staying safe on the ground.
#2: Timing Matters with Solar Panel Cleaning
While solar panel cleaning is fairly easy, it does matter when you spray them down.
Solar panels are designed to withstand a broad range of temperatures, from.40º to over 150º. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still damage the glass layer covering and protecting the solar cells.
It’s important to take two things into account when cleaning your solar panels: when, and at what temperature.
For instance, in summer you should aim to clean your solar panels in the morning, or evening after the sun is beginning to set. Cleaning your panels midday with cool water from a garden hose means that you’re going to see the heat from the panels evaporate the water so quickly it might not do any good. You’re also risking causing the panels to cool rapidly which can cause the glass part of a panel to crack.
Even during spring and autumn when temperatures are generally cooler, it’s still advisable to water early in the morning or late in the day.
#3: When in Doubt, Call a Pro
Most of the time cleaning your solar panels is an easy chore accomplished with minimal work, and can be done standing safely on your lawn.
But every so often, like after a bad wildfire season, or when snow from a blizzard melts and leaves a residue, the cleaning your panels need to work as efficiently as possible is more complex.
Because of that hydrophobic layer added to most solar panels, and the nature of the materials used in the frame of the panels, only very specific cleaning products can be used. Harsh and abrasive cleaners can damage your panels and void warranties that help extend the life of your system.
Similarly, the only tools suggested for use to do a more in-depth cleaning of your solar panels are highly specialized. Brushes, rakes, even a broom could cause microscopic scratches that can worsen over time.
If you’re seeing a notable drop in energy production on your monitoring system, reach out to your solar installer and ask them to run a check. If the issue is that your panels just need a good cleaning, you’ll be able to ask that same company to come out and help, or recommend someone who can do a good job.
Solar is Your Low Maintenance Renewable Energy
Especially in comparison to other residential renewable options, solar is pretty low maintenance. Beyond keeping an eye on your monitoring system, and spraying your panels with your trusty garden hose, there’s not much more you would do as a homeowner with solar.
Unlike renewables like wind, solar also doesn’t have any moving parts. That means that whether you’re in Oregon, Iowa, or Montana, caring for your solar panel year round will be less intensive than most other home and yard care.
With net metering, and the current Solar Investment Tax Credit saving homeowners who go solar before the end of 2022 an extra 26% of their solar installation costs, solar is a low maintenance and affordable option to invest in clean, renewable energy for your home and save.
Go Solar, Stay Local
Haven’t gone solar yet, but want to? You can go solar for 0 upfront.
Purelight Power is your local solar company across Oregon, Iowa, and Montana!
Do Solar Panels Need to be Cleaned?
Pollen, dust, sea salt, or pollution. if it’s in the air, it’ll eventually end up on your panels. And as a solar owner, you know that what stands in the sun’s way of your panels stands in the way of your electricity savings.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior looking to maximize the payback of your system or you’re playing it safe by hiring a professional, you want to make sure your panels are properly taken care of.
But when it comes to cleaning your solar panels, you’re probably better off saving your time and money.
Should I Clean my Solar Panels?
While dust and dirt settling on your panels is unavoidable, thankfully, so is rain. Even just a mild and short rain shower will do a sufficient job of cleaning the grime off your panels and will have them performing at their full potential with no effort or money spent.
This is backed by a University of San Diego study where researchers looked at how much energy production was lost due to dust and grime each month during the summer drought. They found that in nearly every situation, hiring a professional to clean your panels is not worth the cost. There are, however, a few exceptions to this.
The Panels’ Pitch
In order for the rain to properly clean your system, the panels need to be pitched. The good news is, the study showed a pitch as slight as 5 degrees did the trick. So as long as your solar panels don’t sit completely flat, rain will be enough to get your panels clean.
The Type of Dirt
Another consideration is the dirt itself. what is making the panels dirty and how often does it accumulate? While normal airborne particles such as pollen, dirt, and dust will wash off in the rain with ease, there are some items that could be a bit trickier, like bird droppings. Keep an eye on your panels before and after it rains to see if they’re coming clean. If some stubborn dirt is still hanging around, it may be worth looking into having them cleaned.
The System’s Location
Another item that could factor into whether or not you should clean your solar panels is the system’s location. If your panels are located right by factories, busy highways, or fields, and the wind often blows the dust at them, you could have more dust coverage than the average solar system. If this is you, cleaning your panels may make financial sense. especially if you live in an area of the country with infrequent rainfall.
How Much Production Are You Losing with Dirty Panels?
Anything that comes between your solar panels and the sun will have an impact on how much electricity the system produces. But whether or not you should do something about it depends on how much electricity you’re losing out on. After all, professional cleaning services cost money.
In the case of typical dirt build-up on solar panels, the reduction in production is so small that it’s hardly ever worth taking action.
The same University of San Diego study found that less than 0.05% of your panels’ production was lost due to dirt each day. and that’s in an area of the country infamous for infrequent rains. For a 5 kW system during California’s driest season, summer, washing the panels halfway through would lead to just a 20 gain in electricity production for the entire three months.
If you have a much larger solar system at your business or farm, you’re probably thinking “but I produce much more electricity, so I’m losing out on more savings!” That’s certainly true. If you have a larger system, you’re probably losing out on a lot more than 20, but is it still enough to pay for professional cleaning services or risk damage to yourself or your system?
To get an idea of how much your dirty solar panels are costing you, you can calculate how much a daily production loss of.05% will cost in 30 days by using the following formula. Just keep in mind this number can vary based on your own situation.
Cost of Monthly Production Loss Due to Dirt = (Total kWh Produced by System Each Month) x (30 days x 0.0005) x (Price per kWh)
To make it easier for you, you can fill in the values in our calculator below:
Now that you have the amount of money lost due to dirt accumulation, you can compare that to the cost of cleaning services. According to Thumbtack. the national average for a residential cleaning project is 133.
This will vary with location, the number of panels you have, and the ease of access (is your system a ground mount or are they on the second story of a building with a pitched roof?) You’ll want to make sure that the price you’re paying for cleaning services will be made up through a reduction on your electric bill.
But remember, the next time it rains the precipitation will likely take care of the dirt and dust for free, literally washing away that production loss. But if you have more stubborn dirt, like bird droppings, cleaning might be the right way to go.
Cleaning Solar Panels Yourself vs. Hiring a Professional
While cleaning them yourself may seem like a great way to save money, in most cases, it’s not only a risk to your solar system and the panels’ warranty, but it’s a risk to your own safety. No amount of energy savings is worth that. You’re also risking causing damage to your system that far exceeds any gains cleaning dirt off would ever give you.
We don’t recommend you clean your solar panels, but if you’re really set on it, stick to these basic tips to limit damage to your system.
First off, check-in with the solar installer to see if there is anything you should know relating to the system or special precautions you should take before cleaning. Then, make sure all the necessary safety gear is in place and being used properly.
Only use a soft stream of water from your garden hose (just like rain). Using any type of high-pressure attachment or a power washer will likely cause damage to your solar panels which could greatly (and permanently) reduce your production and void your warranty.
It’s also essential to never clean your panels with anything waxy, abrasive, or corrosive, as it could damage the coating on the panels. In fact, one of our solar panel manufacturers recommends never using any chemicals to clean your panels. just water.
Another important thing to note is that solar panels can get very hot when the sun is out. Opt for an overcast day to do the cleaning, if you’re absolutely determined to do so.
The much safer bet is to hire a professional. They’ll be using the proper equipment and materials to make sure no damage is done to your system.
If you’re seeing big drops in your system’s production, chances are it isn’t because of dirt. Though solar panels have no moving parts and solar systems typically require very little maintenance, things do happen.
While we do not offer cleaning services, our team of NABCEP-certified maintenance technicians is here to help if your production loss seems too great to be caused by soiling. Learn more about our maintenance services or fill out the form below to request an evaluation or ask us a question!
How to clean solar panels
Solar panels are an investment, both from an environmental standpoint, and from the perspective of your energy bill, with free energy from the sun too good to pass up for most of us.
As a result, it makes sense that you want to take care of your investment, from ensuring that your solar panels are installed correctly through to checking that you’re on a decent feed-in tariff. as well as maintenance and upkeep. But when it comes to solar panel maintenance, does cleaning factor into it, and is putting in a bit of elbow grease worth getting up on the roof for? Read on to find out how to clean your solar panels – and if they’re worth cleaning at all – with this Canstar Blue guide.
On this page:
Compare Solar Installer Quotes
Over the last 12 years SolarQuotes® has steadily built a network of heavily vetted solar installers. Get up to 3 free, no obligation quotes from highly-qualified installers.
Get Quotes Now
Does cleaning solar panels make a difference?
As with most things, a quick clean can be the trick to help ensure everything works smoothly, and it’s no different for solar panels. Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electrical currents, which in turn is converted into electricity to power your home. But if something is blocking your panels – such as dirt, grime, leaves and the bane of homeowners everywhere, bird poop – then not all of the sunlight that your panels could be capturing is turned into electricity, which could be affecting your bottom dollar.
A study presented to the World Renewable Energy Congress shows that solar panels can lose between four and 20 per cent of their effectiveness if they become dirty, indicating that cleaning your solar panels can make a difference as to how much energy you’re receiving. However, how much of a difference cleaning makes is dependent on a number of factors, such as the number of solar panels you have, how dirty they actually get and general weather conditions.
How to clean solar panels
If you’re looking to clean your solar panels yourself, you can do so in a few simple steps, although it’s recommended that you take the proper safety precautions before getting up on the roof. To clean your solar panels, follow the steps below:
- Step one: Turn off your solar panel system, and redirect the roof runoff away from rainwater tanks (if you have any).
- Step two: Hose down the solar panels on a gentle wash, as this will generally take care of any dust.
- Step three: Use soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to take care of any tougher stains or streaks.
- Step four: Wipe off any excess water with another cloth or squeegee to prevent streaks and blockages on the panels.
It’s best to avoid using a pressure washer, scourers or harsh cleaning chemicals when it comes to cleaning your solar panels, as they may damage the system or surface of your panels. And if you’re not sure about getting up on the roof, you can always get some professionals to come clean your solar panels for you.
Do I need to turn off the solar panels before I clean them?
It’s best practice to turn off any electricals before touching and cleaning them, and the same goes for solar panels. While solar panels are built to withstand the harsh Aussie climate, if you’re hosing your panels down, some water may get on the underside of the panel, which could potentially cause issues and damage if you’re not careful, meaning that turning off your solar panels before cleaning is the safest option. You can do so via the process outlined in the owner’s manual.
Compare Solar Energy Plans
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
How often should you clean your solar panels?
Most solar panel providers and installers recommend cleaning your solar panels at least once every 12 months, but this is dependent on several factors, such as how dirty the panels get, and how much rainfall your area gets.
If your solar panels are installed on an angle, and there’s plenty of rainfall year-round, nature may be able to take care of most of the cleaning process for you, whereas those with solar panels on a horizontal surface may look to clean more regularly. If you are going to clean your solar panels, then it is recommended to clean earlier in the morning when the panels are a bit cooler to touch.
How much does it cost to clean your solar panels?
If you’re looking to get your solar panels professionally cleaned. you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the service, although this will depend on a few factors, such as how many panels you have, how easy it is to get onto your roof as well as the traditional call out fees for tradespeople. Most professionals also offer a quote, allowing you to compare and research to find something that suits your budget. If you don’t know where to start, get in touch with your solar installers and see if they offer a cleaning service.
Is it worth cleaning your solar panels?
Cleaning your solar panels can be thought of as home maintenance, such as cleaning the gutters or washing the car. But whether it’s worth doing comes down to a variety of individual circumstances, including how many solar panels you have, how much rainfall you generally get, and how much time and effort you’re willing to spend to potentially save a few dollars on your energy bill.
For instance, the four per cent output difference between a dirty and clean solar panel could make a world of difference for a business that has hundreds of solar panels across a large roof surface, but for a small house that only has a few solar panels, that four per cent may not seem entirely worth getting onto the roof for. As a result, cleaning your solar panels will come down to how much you enjoy cleaning, and what lengths you’ll go to for a cheaper energy bill.
If you’re really looking to cut your energy costs, check out our ratings for solar providers to see what other options are out there, or our guide on energy savings tips to see what else you can do around the house.
Picture credit: Thep Photos/shutterstock.com, TS2017/shutterstock.com, Africa Studio/shutterstock.com, Lev Kropotov/shutterstock.com
Spring Cleaning Solar Panels Tips
A solar power system is a significant investment, so you want to do everything possible to take care of it. In most cases, keeping your solar panels in good condition is a simple process you can do yourself.
Cleaning your solar panels can make a significant difference in the efficiency of your system. Below, we provide a list of tips on how to clean solar panels and look for maintenance opportunities.
Benefits of Cleaning Solar Panels
Does cleaning solar panels make a difference? Some experts say cleaning solar panels regularly is essential, while others believe rain washes away enough dust, dirt or debris to the point where you don’t have to clean them. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. You don’t necessarily need to clean your solar panels, but they won’t be as efficient if you completely ignore their maintenance.
If too much dust or debris accumulates on your solar panels, it can potentially decrease their efficiency, affecting your monthly utility savings. The difference isn’t major, but depending on the size of your solar system, it can start to add up. Additionally, the effect can be magnified if you live in an area with a lot of dust or dirt and little rain.
On top of improving efficiency, cleaning your solar panels has many other benefits, including:
- Increased durability: Particles and debris from the environment can build up, causing wear and tear to your solar panels if you don’t clean them regularly. Your efficiency will decrease, and the components of your system can fail, requiring them to need to be repaired sooner. Improve the durability of your solar system by clearing it regularly.
- Warranty compliance: Many solar panel manufacturers include specific cleaning requirements as a warranty condition. The warranty may not cover you if you don’t have proof of regular cleaning. It’s better to clean your solar panels regularly in case there’s a malfunction, ensuring the warranty covers you if something breaks or needs repair.
- Better appeal: Cleaning your solar panels regularly ensures you can enhance the curb appeal of your home. An improved exterior appearance can make it easier to sell your home if you plan on putting it on the market one day.
- Improved ROI time: Solar panels are a significant investment, so you want to ensure you do everything you can get get a return on said investment. Cleaning your solar panels can help you get the most from your investment by improving their efficiency, durability and appearance.
Ideally, you should clean your solar panels at least once a year — the springtime is the perfect time for this, as you can remember to do it along with your other spring cleaning. However, you may need to clean them more frequently if you live in a dusty area or notice debris on the system. Keeping an eye on your solar system and monitoring its performance can help determine how often you should clean your panels.
Tips for Cleaning Solar Panels
Depending on how dirty your solar panels are, you may not need to do much to clean them. You should first evaluate your panels to determine how much work you need to put into cleaning them.
You can determine if your solar system needs cleaning if it’s producing less power than usual without any weather changes. Install a monitoring system to monitor how much energy your solar panels produce. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep an eye on your panels to look for dirt, debris or other buildup indicating they need cleaning.
If you’ve never cleaned your solar panels before or don’t have a lot of experience, we’ve created a list of tips to help you clean your panels efficiently, helping to increase solar panel efficiency and improve your ROI.
Shut Down the System
Before you start, turn off your solar system. Leaving your solar panels on while you clean them can lead to performance issues and potential danger for you. Your user manual should include instructions and a shutdown procedure to ensure you safely shut down your solar system. If you experience trouble shutting down your system, contact your solar installer for guidance or additional assistance.
Clean in the Morning or Late Evening
While there’s no exact time to clean your solar panels, it’s best to plan for the morning or late evening because the PV system can become extremely hot in the middle of the day. You can also choose to clean your solar system during an overcast if you prefer to clean your panels in the middle of the day.
You may choose a cooler day to clean your solar panels because it reduces the risk of your panels cracking as the water dries. In some areas, early morning may be best if dew settles on the solar panels, making cleaning easier and reducing the total water you have to use.
Avoid Using Harsh Soaps or Abrasives
Use a soft sponge and a gentle cleaning solution to prevent unnecessary damage. You can make a homemade solution to clean your solar panels, which consists of a small amount of mild detergent, one part vinegar and eight parts water.
Never use a pressure washer on your solar panels. While it may seem like the quickest option, it can cause significant damage to your solar panels. High water pressure can also impact the seal around the panels and frame, allowing water to enter the PV system and causing damage that requires significant repairs. Instead, use a hose to spray the panels with gentle pressure.
Avoid Getting on Your Roof
If you’ve mounted your solar panels on your roof, it can be tempting to grab a ladder and climb onto your roof to help you get a deeper clean. However, cleaning solar panels on the roof is dangerous, especially with water and soap, which create a slippery environment. Instead, try cleaning your solar panels from the ground using a hose and a long sponge with an extended handle.
If this is a challenge, consider calling your solar provider to have a professional come out and clean the panels on your roof to prevent the risk of personal injury and damage to your solar system.
Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Many manufacturers include cleaning instructions in their manuals, providing the correct methods to clean your solar PV system. For example, your manufacturer’s manual may contain information on how to shut down your solar PV system safely. Other manuals may have more specific information regarding solar panel cleaning equipment or procedures.
Reading these instructions before cleaning is essential to ensure you use the correct methods. Following the manufacturer’s manual also helps you meet warranty conditions, ensuring you stay covered if something happens to your PV system and you need a repair or replacement.
Buy a Solar Panel Cleaning Kit
A solar panel cleaning kit has the correct soap, brush and sponge to help you do the job. While you can use standard cleaning supplies, such as rags and gentle, biodegradable soaps, they may not be as efficient as a cleaning kit for your solar system. Often, you can find cleaning kits from your solar installer or manufacturer.
Remove Debris and Dirt
Before you start cleaning with water and soap, get large debris out of the way. A dry brush can help you eliminate leaves, twigs and other large items that might get in the way. You can also spray your panels with a hose to eliminate any dust, dirt or other debris to make cleaning easier.
Once all the large pieces are gone, you can use water and a sponge or rag to scrub your solar panels gently. A handheld brush is best for panels that are within reach, but you may want to use a sponge or brush with an extendable handle to reach the panels that are higher up. Remember that you don’t want to scrub hard, or you may cause micro-scratches to appear on the glass, which can impact your solar system’s performance.
If you’re having trouble reaching some of your panels, consider contacting a professional to help you get a thorough clean.
Scrub for Stubborn Messes
Sometimes, sticky substances, such as bird droppings, need a little more attention. You can create a homemade cleaning solution or use one from a solar cleaning kit to help you get rid of stubborn messes. Mix the cleaning solution with water and scrub with a sponge in gentle, repetitive motions. Remember that you don’t want to be too aggressive, or you can cause damage to the system.
You should use soap sparingly. When you rinse off with water, too much soap left behind can potentially leave a residue that dirt and other particles cling to in the future, causing your panels to look streaky and get dirty quickly.
Rinse With Room Temperature Water
When it’s time to rinse off your panels, stick with room temperature water. Using water that’s too hot or cold can cause damage to your solar panels.
Depending on the time of year and where you live, you may want to check the water temperature before using your hose on your panels. Running your hose for a few minutes may even out the temperature if the water runs too hot or cold. If the water still seems too extreme in temperature, you can run a hose from your home’s interior if possible.
Use a Professional Service From Your Solar Installer
Sometimes, cleaning your solar panels on your own can be challenging. If you don’t want to clean your panels for any reason, contact your solar installer to see if they offer professional cleaning services. A solar installer has the necessary experience and expertise to help clean your solar panels without causing damage, allowing you to improve your solar system’s efficiency and appearance.
Signs You Need Solar Power Maintenance
After you’ve cleaned your solar panels, you should check to see if you need to perform other maintenance to keep them in good condition. Below is a solar panel maintenance checklist to help you look for signs your solar system needs professional maintenance:
- Loose parts: Joints, nuts and bolts can become loose in your solar system, creating issues with your solar panels’ abilities to produce energy. You can monitor your energy production to determine any faults or look at your system to see if you notice any loose parts.
- Wiring installations: Sometimes, wiring installations can become cracked or deteriorate, which can cause significant problems. Wiring can also corrode or burn, so you’ll want to look for any signs of damage.
- Batteries: If you have a solar battery installed, you’ll want to keep an eye on it and maintain it to extend its life and ensure it’s working correctly. Your solar installer can help you measure the voltage of your solar battery to ensure it’s performing correctly and isn’t a safety hazard.
- Solar accessories: Many solar systems come with accessories, including investors, power meters and regulators. You should check each component of your solar system to ensure it’s working correctly, checking for signs of damage. You should also keep an eye on your energy production monitor to look for any sign of an issue with your system, indicating a need for a professional inspection and maintenance.
If you notice any issues, you should contact your solar installer to schedule maintenance. Leaving problems untreated for too long can lead to significant damage. Schedule routine maintenance to keep everything in working order and contact your installation company immediately if you notice sudden issues.
Trust SH Solar for Your Solar System Needs
Whether you want to schedule a maintenance appointment or have questions about your solar investment, SH solar is here to help. We have years of experience in the solar industry and the knowledge to keep your solar system in working order. With our services, you can rely on your solar panel system to provide you with reliable electricity for years to come.
Let us help you extend the life of your solar investment! Begin by contacting us today to learn more about our services or get a quote if you’re interested in installing solar panels.