Guide to Solar Panel Cleaning and Maintenance
With grid and electrical service instability happening with nearly every swing in the weather, more and more people are choosing to be self-sufficient with their energy needs and install solar panels. Switching your electricity usage to solar is a good investment, both for the environment and yourself — or at least it can be if your panels are properly maintained and able to operate at peak potential.
Just like everything else, solar panels require a degree of maintenance (albeit a small one). Data shows that solar panels that are maintained with a regular cleaning protocol produce more energy than solar panels where dust and debris build up. But let’s take a closer look at the what and why so we can gain a more thorough understanding.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
To understand if obstruction from dust can affect solar panel output, it helps to understand how solar panels work. We covered the topic in-depth in this article, but a basic explanation is that the black, reflective surface you’d recognize as a solar panel — also known as a photovoltaic cell — is a collection of silicon-based cells that use their surface area to catch photons from sunlight and generate an electric charge. This electric charge is converted to electricity that we use in our homes and other places.
Given that solar panels need unobstructed exposure to sunlight, it makes logical sense that anything that gets in the way could affect their efficiency. That’s why any well-qualified installation company will perform a full site evaluation to make sure that trees, buildings, and anything else will not impede the solar panels’ access to full sunlight during the limited daylight hours.
But besides the obvious fact that a big oak tree throwing shade over your panels will be a major problem, what about pollution, dirt, and dust? Bird droppings? How much do those casual dings from the elements affect the output of your panels? What kind of cleaning regimen is necessary to stay ahead?
Does Cleaning Solar Panels Make a Difference?
Fortunately, the scientific community has devoted significant time and resources to analyzing and optimizing all aspects of solar-generated electricity, including whether cleaning can maintain or improve the function of the solar panels themselves. 1 And, consistently, it’s clear that clean solar panels perform better than dirty ones.
The industry even has a term — soiling — which is used to describe the loss of power generation from the accumulation of dirt, dust, bird droppings, and all that other environmental debris that settles on solar panels. And within that definition, dust itself is a broad term that includes any and everything from soil to volcanic ash, sand, clay, pollen, and more. Not only are solar panels exposed to the elements, and they’re also typically more horizontal than vertical. That flat, horizontal surface provides an easy place for dust to land.
One comprehensive review reported a significant number of findings related to the effects of soiling, including a three-month exercise that was done in an industrial area of Boston. 1 The test was designed to analyze the effect of dust accumulation on solar panels and it was reported that accumulated dust reduced efficiency from 1 to nearly 5%. Another study out of Tucson evaluated three different soiling situations and found an average reduction of about one percent. 2 Still, people in other locations have reported fluctuations of 10 to 20%. 3
It really depends where you are at but it’s certain that dirty panels aren’t as efficient as clean panels and that inefficiency compounds every day. Even more interesting is that dirt and dust on the panels affect performance by doing more than simply physically blocking the sunlight. Dust particles don’t settle evenly, and it seems that the uneven spread further impedes the cell’s ability to convert solar energy to electricity:
“Hard dust on a surface of a PV array with a single string will reduce the voltage of the string, but the inverter will detect this reduction and immediately regulate it. However, when there is uneven hard dust on different strings in parallel, a voltage mismatch occurs. In this condition, which is called partial shading, different parallel strings, which are connected to a common inverter, deliver different voltages to the inverter. This makes it difficult for the inverter to seek the optimum point of voltage at which the maximum power is delivered. 1 “
How to Clean Your Rooftop Solar Panels
Now that we know that solar panel efficiency depends upon unobstructed exposure to sunlight and sediment of any kind — whether it be a downed tree branch or a coating of pollen — will negatively affect solar electricity generation and output, the next question is how to clean them.
The answer is simple — water. Many experts recommend cleaning solar panels with water only, saying that soap leaves a filmy buildup. Check with your installer and the recommendations from your manufacturer. At the very least, avoid detergents and harsh chemicals. There’s nothing to be gained by using something like bleach on your solar panels. If you have bird droppings or something else for which water just isn’t enough, there are a number of products available that are created specifically for cleaning solar panels. Non-abrasive brushes on poles, some with built-in hoses, are affordable and readily available tools of the trade that make the task fast and easy.
You might also wonder if rain is sufficient for rinsing solar panels. The answer is that it can be. Although it’s not always as predictable in frequency, duration, or “cleaning power,” rain provides an organic and welcoming rinse that cleans the surface of PV systems of dust and soil.
If your panels aren’t easily accessible or you’re simply not interested in the chore, outsourcing the work is a cinch. Many companies that provide exterior maintenance are also branching out into solar panel cleaning. If you work with someone who takes care of your yard, gutters, or Windows, ask if they also clean solar panels. Most homeowners find that proportionate to the cost of the solar panels, having them regularly cleaned is extremely affordable.
When is It Time for a Cleaning?
The easiest way to determine if it’s time for a cleaning is to simply take a look at the panels. If your natural response is more of a grimace than a feeling of pride, it’s probably time to clean up your panels. Additionally, if you notice that your system’s performance is down, you definitely should include cleaning as a starting point for troubleshooting.
If your system includes micro-inverters with an inverter attached to each panel, it can actually show if a certain area has been covered by bird droppings or other grime. In these situations, you’ll be able to see the lack of flow on the inverter.
Your installation company should also explain cleaning recommendations per the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep in mind that the frequency at which your panels need to be cleaned depends greatly on your location and environment. The composition and concentration of dust vary tremendously from one geographic area to the next, so while some people may need to clean their solar panels every month, others may get by with a biyearly schedule.
Wrapping It Up
Solar systems are often relatively easy to maintain but keeping them clean of dirt, dust, and environmental debris is essential maintenance for ensuring an efficient system that performs for many years. Although self-cleaning robotic systems will likely be the norm in the future, implementing a manual cleaning schedule now is essential for anyone with a solar panel system. Spraying them with the garden hose is a minimal but effective DIY measure that many homeowners take. Others simply contract out the work like any other service and don’t worry about it. Regardless of which approach you choose, keeping your system clean will ensure it performs reliably for the long term.
Harsha solar panel cleaning
How often do you clean your solar panels? Most people don’t clean theirs as often as they should, and a dirty solar panel can have a big impact on the amount of energy generated to power your home or equipment. If you live in a drier climate that doesn’t receive much rain, solar panel cleaning is even more crucial as there will be much more dust buildup on the panels with nothing to naturally clean them. While rainwater can help to clear off dust, it isn’t the best way to clean solar panels. When rainwater evaporates, it can leave rings of dust and debris, which will affect how efficiently the panels produce solar power. Read on to learn everything you need to know about solar panel cleaning, including how to clean solar panels, the necessary equipment to do so, as well as where to find solar panel cleaning services if the job is too big for you to do on your own.
Why You Should Clean Your Solar Panels
Do solar panels need cleaning? The short answer is, YES! Learning how to clean solar panels as well as how to maintain solar panels will go a long way toward extending not only their life but how efficient they are in the long run. Solar panels degrade at a rate of 0.5% every year, and regular solar panel cleanings will do a lot to slow this rate down and extend the life of the solar panel. Cleaning solar panels regularly will also keep them producing power at a maximum rate. A study found that a combination of dust and particulate air pollution reduces solar energy production by 17-25%.
The most common reasons solar panels become dirty and less efficient are dust, leaves, water, and bird droppings. Birds are enemy number one when it comes to maintaining solar panels and keeping them clean. Birds and their droppings can cause much more damage to solar panels than a layer of dust can. Their droppings can chemically damage solar panels, and some birds like to nest underneath the panels, too, which can restrict air flow and cause them to overheat and get damaged. If you notice birds nesting underneath your solar panels, you can look into adding a bird barrier to the underside to deter them from doing so.
How to Clean Solar Panels
Can you clean solar panels yourself? You absolutely can clean solar panels yourself, but there are some things to know before you start the process. Before you start your solar panel cleaning project, you’ll need to invest in the right equipment to do so; there are solar panel cleaning kits to make this step easier. For those wondering how to clean solar panels on the roof or elsewhere on your property, follow the steps below to get your solar panels looking (and working!) their best.
Solar Panel Cleaning Equipment You’ll Need
- A simple garden hose can be used to spray down the panels, but don’t use a pressure washer, which could damage the panels.
- Don’t be too hard on a solar panel. A cleaning brush with soft bristles or a squeegee can be used to scrub grime and bird droppings from the panels.
- Create a gentle solar panel cleaning solution by using things like vinegar, mild detergent, and water. Avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning solar panels.
- Make the whole process of gathering the proper solar panel cleaning tools and mixing your own cleaning solution even easier by purchasing a solar panel cleaning kit.
Steps to Solar Panel Cleaning
Step 1: Choose a cool time of day to clean your solar panels. Cleaning them during the hottest part of the day can make the water evaporate quickly and leave marks behind, and the combination of cold water hitting the hot glass of the solar panels can cause them to crack.
Step 2: Shut your system down completely before you begin to clean the solar panels. If you have rainwater collectors or gutters, shut them off or disconnect them from the system to avoid dirty runoff water going into them.
Step 3: Remove any loose debris or leaves from the solar panels using a soft brush or cloth. It’s safest to clean solar panels from the ground, so use a brush with an extension to make it easier to reach.
Step 4: Spray the panels down with a garden hose to wash the dust away and loosen any debris. Use a hose with a nozzle so you can easily direct the spray at the panels.
Step 5: Use a soft brush and a solar panel cleaning solution to scrub any stubborn grime or debris off of the solar panels.
Step 6: Spray the panels again with water to rinse away the loosened debris, and use a squeegee to wipe the leftover water off of the panels. Only spray water onto the top of the solar panels; do not spray water on the back of them.
Step 7: Clean your solar panels every six months or less to keep them clean and operating at their best.
Solar Panel Cleaning Services
If the task of cleaning solar panels seems like too big of a job, there are also solar panel cleaning services that you can hire to do the job for you. By hiring a professional, you’ll know that your solar panel cleaning will be done correctly. To find the right person for the job, ask for a recommendation from others who have solar panels on their property, or do a Google search for “solar panel cleaning service near me” and review the options that come up. Check reviews of different companies to find the most highly rated ones to do the job.
Solar Panel Cleaning and Maintenance: The Best Methods
Solar Panel Cleaning and Maintenance: As more and more people use solar panels to power their homes, it is also important to know how to clean and care for solar panels to keep them working well. Solar panels are exposed to the weather, which can make them dirty and work less well. In this post, we will talk about the best ways to clean and care for solar panels in your home.
In order to ensure that your solar panels are working properly, you will need to clean them often. They must be cleaned at least twice a year. If you live in a dusty or polluted place, then clean the solar panel more than twice. To clean the solar panel, use gentle soap and a brush with soft bristles. With this, the dirt accumulated on their surface can be cleaned properly. Be careful; avoid using rough objects or high pressure water, as these can scratch the surface of the solar panel.
Keep the panels in the shade while cleaning them
Avoid cleaning solar panels when they are extremely hot. You clean them early in the morning or late in the evening. When the sun is not so bright. This prevents the panels from getting too hot and the cleaning fluid from drying up too quickly.
Do not use strong chemicals
When you clean your solar panels, don’t use harsh chemicals. Such chemicals can damage the surface of the panels and make them less effective. Instead, gently scrub away dirt with a combination of water and mild soap.
Look for problems
Check your solar panels regularly for damage, such as cracks or chips. If you notice any damage, you should have the panels repaired by a professional. Damaged panels can make your solar system less efficient and produce less electricity.
Trim the trees around the solar panels
Trees and other plants near your solar panels can block the sun, making them less effective. For this, pruning of any tree or plant can be done. So that your panels can get proper sunlight. “Keep in mind that you should avoid cutting any tree or plant, as it helps keep your environment cool.”
Make sure your solar panels are performing well by checking them often. An expert can look at the panels to see if there are any signs of damage or low efficiency and can repair them if necessary.
Lastly, you need to clean and care for your home solar panels to make sure they keep producing as much electricity as possible. By using these tips, you can keep your solar panels in good condition and get the most out of the money you invest in solar energy.
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Spring Cleaning and Maintenance for Solar Panels
Spring is a time when many home and property owners look to get some basic cleaning and maintenance done, and one common example here is for solar panels. While it’s true that solar panels do just fine in winter conditions and won’t be at any major risk of damage or large concerns, the long winter can dirty them and perhaps introduce a few very minor areas of upkeep that should be covered once the cold season ends.
At Intermountain Wind Solar, we’re happy to offer high-quality commercial and residential solar panel services to clients in both Salt Lake City, Utah and Boise, Idaho. Here are some general spring cleaning and maintenance tips we can offer to those with solar panels, ensuring that their panels are in great shape headed into the highest-sun periods of the year.
Be Careful. For Multiple Reasons
Care on your roof is naturally important no matter what, but it’s doubly so when it comes to solar panel cleaning or maintenance. Here are a couple reasons why:
- Safety: The constant theme we referenced is safety, which needs to be taken into account at all times when up on a roof. There should never be any risk that you or anyone else suffers an injury in the process.
- Panel damage: You don’t want to damage the panels themselves either, of course; it’s important to use gentle yet effective techniques for cleaning, and safe pressure for any maintenance needs.
- Warranty: Relatedly, there may be warranty considerations here. If the solar panel cleaning or maintenance is performed improperly, then it can void the warranty and cause you to pay for any repairs that arise from it. If you know your panels remain under warranty, it pays to check it extensively before doing anything to them.
Consider a Solar Panel Cleaning Kit
If you’re going to be doing the cleaning yourself, then it pays to get a solar panel cleaning kit that contains all the necessary items. You can sometimes find these kits at home improvement stores or online retailers; they normally come with enough materials for multiple cleanings and may include brushes, rags, special cleaners, and other items needed for effective maintenance.
The presence of these special cleaners is one of the more important benefits of a kit, as some general-use cleaners can actually damage the panels or reduce their effectiveness over time. So it’s important to have an approved cleaning product that won’t cause any issues when used on solar panel surfaces.
Always Check Manufacturer Tips or Instructions
Solar panels are typically manufactured and sold by specific companies, and they’ll often provide some helpful tips or directions on how best to clean and maintain them. If your panels do come with such a guide or set of recommendations, it pays to read through it carefully before doing any work.
This could include safety rules or guidelines on the types of cleaners that can be used. Even if you do have a kit, it’s wise to check these instructions and make sure that the products contained within won’t cause any issues when applied to your specific panel model.
Stay Away From Harsh or Abrasive Chemicals or Supplies
As you’re searching for a solar panel cleaning kit or system, be sure to avoid anything that contains harsh chemicals or abrasive supplies. Abrasive materials can scratch and damage the panels over time, reducing their efficiency; strong chemicals can also eat away at the surface and create similar issues.
So look for gentle cleaners, soft brushes, and other items that won’t cause any harm when used in a cleaning or maintenance scenario. Along the same lines, it’s wise to avoid using power washers on your panels as well; the pressure from these can actually damage them and reduce their effectiveness.
This is another area that highlights the value of a solar panel cleaning kit. when you buy one, you can be sure that the products included are designed specifically for solar panel use and won’t cause any issues.
As you can see, cleaning and maintaining solar panels in the spring is an important task, but one that should be done with caution. By following the tips above, you can ensure your panels remain in great condition while also protecting yourself from any potential safety risks along the way.
For more here, or to learn about our solar panel services for clients in Salt Lake City, Boise or nearby areas, speak to our team at Intermountain Wind Solar today.