Is It Necessary? How Often?
Why Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?
If you have a residential solar energy system installed, your solar panels are generally flat, tilted, and on your rooftop. How often do you clean your roof? Probably not very often, most likely never. Why’s that? I hear you saying “Isn’t that what rain is for?” That’s kind of the same logic for solar panels too.
In most cases, you won’t need to clean your solar panels often, if at all. After all, anything that accumulates dirt on them (for example, dust or pollen), will get washed off the next time it rains. There are some times it might make sense to clean your solar panels though. If you’ve got a lot of bird droppings on your panels, rain might not wash these off very readily, so it’s a good idea to clean them off. Also, if you live in a state that’s prone to droughts – or, if it rains, it’s only a very light, misty rain, you might need to clean them every now and then.
Do dirt and debris have an impact on the effectiveness of your solar panels? And if so, how much? Well, yes and no. And, not much. Yes, dirt and debris can affect how much sunlight gets through to convert the light to energy. But, the amount the efficiency is lowered is minute – maybe 5% or less. And, with a typical 5kW solar system, this might equate to about $20 of loss in your energy bill. Not monthly – overall. And generally, even if we are talking about areas with drought, eventually when it does rain, a couple months down the line, everything will be washed away and it might not even be worth it to deal with the hassle of cleaning it in the first place.
How to Clean Solar Panels
If you do decide your solar panels need to be cleaned, there are two main ways of doing it: hire a professional or do it yourself. A lot of solar companies will offer this type of service to you, for a fee of course. They might offer it as part of an annual maintenance service, or suggest you get it done every so often when they come to install the product. The truth is, what you get back cost-wise in your energy bill does not exceed the amount you need to shell out to these companies to perform the work. Solar companies often charge a steep amount to do this cleaning, for not much return on your energy bill.
On the other hand, if you were interested in doing it yourself, you’ll generally have all you need to do it at home. In most instances, it will involve nothing more than a hose, maybe some soap, and you’re good to go. This might be helpful in drought-prone areas as well, because essentially what you’re doing with the hose is the same thing the rain would do if you got more of it in your area.
There are ways to determine if your solar panels need cleaning to begin with. One is physical inspection of the panels for debris, dirt, bird droppings, etc. The other way is the use of a monitoring system that alerts you to how well your solar panels are functioning and performing. This can alert you to any maintenance needs for your system, whether that’s mechanical, electrical, or cleanliness.
What Do You Use to Clean Solar Panels?
If you are interested in cleaning your residential solar panels on your own, there are a variety of products you can use to clean them. But first things first. Check with your solar installers and providers to determine if there is any information about solar panel cleaning, recommendations, and dos or don’ts when it comes to cleaning your system.
The most effective way to clean your solar panels is with a hose and a bucket of soapy water. Essentially, in the same manner you would wash your car at home. Because you don’t want to scratch the panels in any way, it’s best to use just water and a non-abrasive sponge to apply soapy water. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use any type of high-pressure water sprayer when washing off your solar panels. A high-pressure attachment can damage the solar panels themselves.
If you do use something other than just water – especially to get rid of pesky bird droppings, just make sure what you’re using is soft and hard bristle-free. Sponges are great products to clean solar panels with because they won’t scratch. If deciding to use a little bit of soap on your sponge, use something that you might clean your dishes with. Laundry detergents and other stronger chemicals might interact with your solar panels in a negative way. Remember that plain water works the best in 99% of cases.
Keep in mind that solar panels can be extremely hot when the sun is beating down on them. It’s best to pick a cool, overcast day to clean the panels. Not only to protect yourself from burns, but if you’re attempting to clean the solar panels when it’s extremely hot out, the soapy water you are putting on the panels will evaporate quickly and may leave a residue or smear to the panels which can affect their effectiveness.
Is It Worth It To Clean Your Solar Panels?
Based on the research, experts are leaning toward “no.” And especially if you want to hire a professional company to clean them over the DIY method. The return on investment is just not there to justify the trouble. Let’s take a look at some numbers. On average, when your solar panels get dirty, expect a 5% or less change in output. And that’s just when they’re dirty. In most climates, if there is dust or debris on the panels and their energy output is registered 5% less than other times, the next rain will wash away the debris and the solar panels will return to their optimal efficiency. Even if you live in a drought-prone area – it will rain again.
In addition, most solar panels are tilted to a high enough degree that most buildup will run right off the panel instead of sticking to the top of it. Even with tilted panels, you might have some slight buildup on the lowest panel (because the runoff collects at the bottom) – but the decrease in output based on this alone is so minuscule, it’s not something worth worrying about.
Lastly, it’s a pretty small tradeoff, energy-wise and cost-wise, to climb up on a ladder, get on your roof, and clean your solar panels yourselves. When you think about getting out there and dragging a hose up to the roof to clean them, this point might really start to hit home.
Maintenance and Upkeep
So, in general, let the rain take care of your solar panel cleaning. Monitor your system’s functionality by paying attention to your energy bills and usage month-to-month. If you start to notice changes in your electric bill, maybe it’s time to think about cleaning or some other type of maintenance. If you think fluctuations in your energy bill could be because you need solar panel cleaning, see if the efficiency returns to normal after a good rain. If so, that’s probably the end of it. If you find the functionality is still acting wonky, it might be something electrical that needs fixing instead of just cleaning.
When it comes down to solar panel cleaning though, a visual inspection, a rainwater bath, and you staying on the ground (instead of climbing up a ladder), may be all the solar doctor needs to order.
Solar panels need cleaning once in a while, as a lot of dirt and debris tend to accumulate over their surface. With a view to keep your solar panels performing well, it is essential to clean them thoroughly. But the question is, How to clean solar panels effectively and safely?
Here, we will not only discuss the best ways to clean solar panels but also guide you regarding some other important aspects.
Why Is It Important to Clean Your Solar Panels
Dust, bird droppings and other debris can lower the efficiency of a solar panel. In order to know what difference it makes by cleaning the solar panels, Google conducted an experiment at a 1.6 MW solar farm.
After cleaning the panels, analyst noticed a massive increase in the output of such a solar farm. The findings suggested that solar panel cleaning appears to be the best way to enhance the power generation of a solar system.
While conducting a similar test, researchers also found that rain doesn’t clean the panels thoroughly. On the contrary, professional cleaning of the panels can promise a 12% higher output.
Hence, one can clearly suggest that panels lose 15-25% of their efficiency when they are dirty. This means that you are generating 15-25% less electricity.
Thorough cleaning also pays you back in terms of increasing the life span of your solar panels.
When to Clean Your Solar Panels
Generally, there is no specific timeframe for cleaning the solar panel. In fact, some geographic locations and climates require frequent cleaning. The best advice in this regard is to monitor the power output changes in your solar system.
Analyze the efficiency of your system at different time intervals and take note of what really works. Keep an eye on the appearance of the solar panels. If they appear dull and less shiny, it’s time to clean them. The appearance of solar panels varies in color depending on if they are monocrystalline vs polycrystalline.
Choose early morning or evening time to clean the panels. If you clean them during the blazing sunlight, the panels will dry quickly and smudges will appear on the surface.
When it comes to cleaning solar panels, it depends largely on the place of installation. If you live in an area where heavy dust storms are common, you need to clean solar panels on your roof regularly.
Similarly, if the panels receive excessive bird droppings, there is no other choice but to clean them after short intervals. Solar panels do not require much maintenance; however, cleaning is an integral part of solar panel maintenance that you can’t take lightly.
In order to know whether your panels are dirty enough to be cleaned, try to monitor their surface once in a week. If you observe massive dirt, leaves or bird droppings, it’s time to clean your solar panel. This will help increase your capacity factor and production. Here is a guide to how solar power production works.
Apart from dust and debris, heavy snow also affects the performance of a solar panel. In most of the instance, snow starts to meltdown when the sun shines over the panels.
But when thick clouds continue to block the sunlight, you need to remove the ice on your own
Things to Avoid When Cleaning Solar Panels
Given below are a few things that you should avoid when cleaning your solar panels. By considering these aspects, you can complete the cleaning process without causing any damage to your PV panels.
- First, don’t clean your solar panels without reading the instructions from the manufacturer
- Don’t use detergent or abrasive powder. It will protect the glass from any scratches or damage
- Avoid washing the solar panel if there is a minor crack
- Don’t use a high-pressure water pump to clean the solar panels
- Avoid using abrasive detergent, instead, use water and a small amount of mild surface cleaner to remove strong stains
- You can’t use a hard brush or abrasive sponge to clean the stubborn grime
- Avoid scratching the panel with a metal scraper
- Don’t put excessive pressure while cleaning the surface of a panel
- Avoid wearing metallic jewelry when cleaning your solar panels
Safety Rules to Follow While Cleaning your Solar Panels
Although solar system installation doesn’t have a lot of mechanical parts, safety should be your first priority when cleaning solar panels. Below are a few safety rules to follow when attempting solar panel cleanup.
- Don’t clean solar panels on your roof during bad weather i.e strong wind storm or heavy rain
- Avoid using solar panels as a way to secure your position on the roof
- Make sure the roof surface is dry and non-slippery
- The roof must be strong enough to bear your weight
- Always wear required safety gear including gloves, helmet, hard shoes, and face mask
- While cleaning the solar panels, don’t work alone. Ask one of your family member or friend to stay close to you while you are performing this task
Cleaning solar panels on your house should be done safely and carefully.
How to Find the Best Solar Panel Cleaning Company
When you need to clean solar panels on your roof, you shouldn’t risk yourself while walking on the inclined surface of your roof. Apart from this, you may not like the idea of voiding the warranty by accidentally damaging the panels while cleaning them.
In this situation, you must rely on the professionals offering solar maintenance services. This is the safest and most effective way to clean solar panels on your roof.
If there was a strong dust or winds storm in your area, or a few years have passed since the installation of your solar panels, it is the right time to contact a professional solar cleaning company.
Below are some of the things to consider when looking for the best solar maintenance and cleaning company.
First, you must consider contacting your solar panel manufacturer. You can also read the owner’s manual to know what materials should be used to clean your solar panels. In fact, your panels may need specific materials for cleaning.
The manufacturer can give you the best advice regarding how to clean the solar panels. Do some homework while visiting the professional cleaning services operating in your locality.
You can also visit some review sites like Thumbtack, Yelp or Angie’s List to gather some essential information and recommendations from previous customers.
After that, compare some of these companies to find out about their services and offerings. Although all cleaning services appear to be the same, some aspects do award a distinctive edge to a particular company.
Different cleaning companies follow a different method to clean solar panels. Moreover, some companies use special cleaning solutions and offer additional services such as general maintenance checks.
Consider requesting a consultation or custom quote. This means that the company’s representatives will come to your place and analyze the condition of your solar panels. As a result, they can suggest an accurate price depending on the location and size of your solar system.
Tips: more detail information,for solar panel.