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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Whether you want to schedule a maintenance appointment or have questions about your solar investment, S&H 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.