We all know that if a car is properly maintained, regularly checked for oil, and serviced every now and then, it will perform better and run longer. The same is the case with every piece of equipment. Therefore, it is not surprising to claim that the efficiency of solar panels is enhanced many folds if they are given the same level of attention. From our car engines to kitchen appliances to our house windows, we try to keep everything clean and grime-free. Then why not the solar panels or our rooftop? Solar panels also require regular cleaning and maintenance if you want them to function efficiently and last longer. Knowing these facts, the commonly arising questions are, what is the right way to clean the solar panels and how frequently? So in this article, we will be answering all your questions while guiding you regarding productive solar system maintenance.
Let’s begin by introducing you to the two basic terms we would be focusing on in this article. These are listed below:
1. Solar panel cleaning:
This includes washing the surface of solar panels like windows. This is sometimes a part of the preventive maintenance services which are offered by the solar collectors. The most important reason for cleaning solar panels regularly is to enhance their efficiency. A dusty solar panel captures less solar energy, thus reducing the electricity generation potential of the system. As a result, poor cleaning negatively impacts the overall productivity of the installation. If you see something like tape on your solar panel you might not need to clean it, it may even be used purposefully! Click here to read more about using tape and other materials on your solar panels.
2. Solar panel maintenance:
This is usually required only once throughout the year. As solar panels’ maintenance is technical maintenance, therefore, you should contact relevant professionals in this regard.
How to Clean Solar Panels
Before planning to clean your solar panels, you need to decide if you want to do it by yourself or by using the services of a professional. Many solar contractors offer regular cleaning services as part of their annual post-installation system maintenance plan. You need to check with your contractor about this. If these services are not offered by your solar company free of cost then you need to pay for them. However, if we compare the cost of cleaning and the subsequent reduction in monthly bills then this expense would not be viable. Most solar companies charge a steep amount for washing and cleaning the solar panel while the monthly saving is very limited.
On contrary, if you plan to wash the solar panels yourself, it is important to have all the necessary supplies. There is not a very long list, though. You just need a hose and a good quality cleaning liquid and you are all set to go. If you are living in an area with limited annual rainfall then this is helpful as the hose will serve the same purpose. However, in areas with frequent rainfall, there is less need for this type of cleaning.
Ways for determining the right time for cleaning
Now at this point, a question may arise that how to determine the right time for cleaning the solar panels. Well, there are two ways for identifying the need for cleaning. One is physical inspection while the other is by using a monitoring system. In the former, you check the solar panels by simply looking for any dust deposition, debris, bird droppings, etc. In the latter, an automatic monitoring system is used which updates you regarding solar panel efficiency and performance. The system thus notifies when there is a need for any cleaning or mechanical or electrical maintenance.
Tips on cleaning solar panels
Washing solar panels should not ideally cost you an arm and a leg, neither should it be a very complex exercise. There’s a wide variety of ways to clean a solar panel, from Windex to mild soaps and more. The easiest and convenient method of cleaning is to spray off the surface dust from the ground. However, this is only suitable if the panel has powdery mild dust or soiling. In cases when the buildup is stickier, you need to use sophisticated cleaning tools and supplies.
For minimal surface soiling
In most cases, your solar panels just need a spray of water by using a hose from the ground. If you feel that the performance of your panels is not up to the mark, there is a high probability of a thin layer of dust covering your panels. This the easiest, safest, and most cost-effective method of increasing solar panel efficiency and bill saving. However, it is noteworthy that if your roof is at a higher height then you need to have a pressure washer or nozzle to allow the water to reach the panel surface. Maintaining the right amount of pressure is very important as high pressure may damage your panels too.
For heavy build-up
For build-ups such as dirt and bird droppings, it is ideal to use a mild soap solution and a sponge to clean your solar panels. This could also apply if you have algae or lichen on your solar panels, as they’ll require fairly intense cleaning.
Following are the cleaning supplies you will need:
1- A soft brush and sponge that is long enough to reach the panels from wherever you are standing.
2- A long water hose
3- A bucket that is filled with a soapy solution
A pro-tip here to note is that if you do not have the required tools, you can use the all-in-one window washing tools with a soft scrubber so that you can clean the glass of the panels gently. Also, they have a soft squeegee mounted at the back for efficient cleaning. Also, you can now easily find special biodegradable solar panel cleaners in the market are packed in disposable hose mixing sprayers.
The cleaning process for solar panels
1- Fill your bucket with water and add a small amount of mild soap.
2- Rinse the solar panels with clean water so that you can clear away the loose dirt.
3- Use a soft scrubber and soapy water or you can use a mixing sprayer to gently wash the surface of the panels.
4- Now rinse the solar panels with clean water for the second time
5- Squeegee the panels dry
6- Now follow the steps again by changing your position as and required until all the panels are clean.
Tip: Be careful and try not to touch the sides or underside of the solar panels. Also, make sure you do not touch any wiring harnesses and/or cables.
One more thing to keep in mind is that the solar panels become hot during the daytime, so it is best to schedule the cleaning process at dawn or dusk or during the days when there is an overcast. The surface will be relatively cooler. If you were to clean your panels with soapy water while they were hot, then the water will evaporate quickly leaving behind a film that will require more time for cleaning.
Calling the professional cleaners
In some situations, there are certain variables involved due to which you might conclude that you will need some external help such as:
- The roof of your house is too high, steep, or slippery to walk on.
- You do not have a ladder or adequate cleaning supplies and the idea of buying such supplies and using them once a year does not make sense to you.
- You might have physical limitations such as climbing the ladder or scrambling around o the rooftop.
- Or you might simply prefer not to be the one who does all the work.
Therefore, for many customers, professional cleaning might be an ideal solution. So, you can easily contact the solar company since they will have all the information already and they would easily give the price estimates over a phone call or can point you in the right direction.
How often should you clean and maintain your solar panels?
There is no regulatory maintenance frequency to stick to with respect to your solar installation. It depends on where you have installed the solar panels and how quickly the dirt accumulates. At the same time, you should also carry out an annual inspection as part of the maintenance contract. It is ideal that you should clean your panels once a year however, the frequency depends on the installation location. There are chances that the solar panel will accumulate more dust if exposed to agricultural dust, bird droppings, sand, or pollution. Furthermore, in areas that have little or no rain, there will be more accumulation of dust as they do not benefit from a natural rain rinse.
Depending on the weather conditions of your area, dust and other pollutants can readily accumulate on your solar panels. It is therefore important that you rinse off your panels regularly and through thorough cleaning, we have provided you a complete guide on how to clean your solar panels. You can also hire professional cleaners but obviously, they will not be free of cost. When done correctly, cleaning the solar panels is not very difficult and it will also help you keep your system operating at maximum efficiency. We hope we have provided all the details to help you in your cleaning process.