Although solar panels seem so fragile and super sensitive, they really are not. They are very durable and resistant to all weather conditions, and they don’t need much maintenance. Most manufacturers will say that you need to keep them clean all the time, free of the dust, leaves, or other kinds of impurity, but the fact is – rain will do the job just fine in most cases. So no, you won’t have to do it that often, which is great given that you probably placed your solar system like most people on top of your roof, and it’s not so fun to climb that high if you don’t have to. But it would be good from time to time to do it in order to make sure your panels work with their full capacity.
If you wonder how much dirt affects the process of turning the sunlight into electricity, or if it affects it at all, you should know that it does, but not in extreme amounts, at least that’s what most experts say. If you forget or don’t want to practice solar panel cleaning, they will be slightly less efficient, maybe by five to ten. That, on the one hand, is not so much, but on the other, it’s not negligible either. So you shouldn’t take this lightly. There are some studies that have shown how cleaning solar panels that were working for 15 months increased their efficiency by 12 percent. The conclusion is simple – this is an important step if you want to protect your investment and make sure your solar system will work for years to come in its best capacity.
Professional service or DIY project?
When the time comes to this job, you can hire professionals, or you can do it yourself and turn it into an exciting DIY project. The truth is most solar panel companies will provide you with this service, it’s just that some of them will do it for free as part of annual maintenance, and some for a fee. You should know that they might ask for quite an amount for this service, which they justify by saying they are saving you a lot of money and sparing you from doing the “dirty work “by yourself. It’s up to you to decide whether these are plausible reasons or not.
Anyway, you should also know that there is always another way of doing things. In this context, it means you will have to roll up your sleeves and make some effort. But don’t worry, we will guide you every step of the way, it’s really not that hard. In the end, you will see that it wasn’t much of a big deal, and you will probably decide to always do this on your own. So, if you want to know how to clean solar panels, just keep on reading.
Do the prep work
The great thing is that you will most likely have everything you need in order to make solar panels clean again at your home. The essentials are water and soap, and it would be great if you could have a hose that will make the whole process so much easier. But first things first.
Before doing anything, you should determine if there’s even a reason to start the cleaning adventure. You need to inspect solar panels physically and see if there is any dirt, bird droppings, debris, etc. But if you have a monitoring system that will alert you if your panels are not functioning and performing well enough, you should use that too. However, you should know that the alert may point to some mechanical or electrical problems, not just to the necessity for cleaning.
After that, you should consider contacting your manufacturer and check if there are some recommendations regarding this matter. They may reveal to you some specifics that can turn out to be very helpful, or underline what the things you mustn’t do in order not to damage your panels are.
Cleaning can now start
You should know that solar panels can be extremely hot during a sunny day, so it is recommended to do the cleaning in the early morning or late afternoon, or you can just pick some cloudy days for that. Not only to protect yourself from burning, but also because of the panels. If you do the washing when they are overheated, the soapy water will quickly evaporate and possibly leave some marks that can affect their efficiency.
Also, see if there is any chance to do this from the ground. If you don’t have to climb to the roof of your house, it would be great and much safer. If that’s not the case, make sure you have all the equipment needed and the necessary training done. It’s no joke to be that high from the ground without knowing how to protect yourself properly.
In the beginning, you can just turn on the water and wash the panels with a garden hose. Then you can see if there are still impurities left. But before that brush off all the materials you see are on your way. If there is a need to more thoroughly wash them, fill the bucket with warm water and a bit of soap, and manually, with a sponge or soft cloth, clean them easily. Do not use any chemicals and abrasive products, they are strictly forbidden because they can only do damage.
It will be just like washing a car. Be careful, you don’t want to scratch it and don’t use water under pressure, which could damage solar cells. Also, know that you shouldn’t wash the wiring that’s underneath the panels, focus just on their front.
However, you will probably notice that this way, with just water and a soft cloth, you won’t be able to remove the traces of bird droppings. They are a bit greasy, and sometimes impossible to clean. In order to take care of this problem, you will need something firmer, but it has to be bristle-free. And when it comes to detergent, you can use only the dishwashing product, but do not rely on laundry detergents, they are much stronger and can cause some negative effects. It would actually be the best to just use plain water, nothing else. That way, you will be sure everything will go smoothly.
How important is this step?
Experts cannot seem to come to an agreement on this one. One side says that this effort or an investment if you decide to hire professionals, won’t pay off. They claim that dirty solar panels will work with only five percent less efficiency, which is negligible, as they believe.
They are basing this theory on the fact that in sandy regions, solar panels are always impeded by these tiny particles, and that they were not found to be operating at reduced capacity. Besides that, solar panels are set at a certain angle, which means most of the dirt will run down to the bottom of the construction.
But others do not agree. They say that it’s reasonable to claim the solar system will lose 15 to 20 percent of its strength if not cleaned properly. And that means they will generate significantly less electricity.
How often should you clean solar panels?
Usually, solar panels become the most soiled during the winter. That’s why most people tend to clean them in late spring. It’s a good time for annual maintenance. Those who believe cleaning solar panels does make a difference are suggested to take some time to do the work once or twice a year. That should keep solar panels in their maximum capacity all the time.
But in case of your home, and therefore your solar system is located near a highway, airport, factory, or some other source of pollution, you should do this more often. The reason is that the filth will accumulate on top of your roof more often than it would happen if you were to live somewhere surrounded by nothing but nature.
And let’s not forget that you definitely should remove leaves from the panels in the autumn, as well as loads of snow during the winter. They can drastically lower the solar system’s efficiency, and you don’t want that, especially in those times of the year when there’s not enough sunlight.
When it comes to this topic, the best possible advice is to monitor your solar system, see if and when there are changes in the power output. Especially pay attention to that right before and after you cleaned them. That should tell you if this effort has a sense or not.
Truth to be told, cleaning solar panels is not nuclear physics, anybody can do it. It’s just important to be gentle, to take some time and don’t rush it, and not to use any kind of chemicals, ever. The only thing allowed is clean water and soap, unless the manufacturer says otherwise. And remember, if you are doing it by yourself, it’s crucial to stay safe, given that solar panels are usually placed on top of the roof. If you are afraid of heights or you are known to be clumsy, please don’t do it, just hire the professionals.