Have you ever wondered how much maintenance your solar system needs?
It’s easy to assume that solar panels are static units that don’t need much looking after, but they are expensive investments and cost a lot to replace if anything goes wrong. I want to make sure that I perform enough maintenance to ensure that I’m getting the most from my system.
That’s why I’ve looked into the subject in detail and prepared this useful guide to solar panel maintenance. Here I collect all the information you’ll need to know to keep your solar panels in tip-top condition and to keep that free electricity pouring into your home.
Why should I bother?
Before you invest time and effort in maintaining your solar system, you need to decide if it’s a worthwhile thing to do. After all, if dirty or otherwise impaired solar panels still work effectively, then surely there’s no need to worry about keeping them clean.
Well, This study found that dirty and stained solar panels can operate at up to 26% lower efficiency than clean and well-maintained ones. That’s a large drop in the energy and the savings you’ll get from a poorly maintained solar panel.
Things that reduce the efficiency of your solar panels
Let’s go through the things that get in the way of your solar panels operating at optimum efficiency by listing ways that they can be damaged or dirtied. Then you can go through and look at how much each factor will affect your solar system in your home environment.
Dust, dirt, and leaves
The first thing to note is that light everyday dust scarcely affects the efficiency of solar panels. Regular rainfall is an excellent natural system for cleaning off superficial amounts of dust, dirt, and leaves.
You should only worry about dust if you live in an area with air pollution or high winds and large open fields. Similarly, if your home is close to or underneath trees, then leaves and branches should be a concern.
Bird droppings can collect on solar panels, reducing efficiency. They can also react with certain types of solar panels and stop them from registering the flow of electrical current. If many birds fly across your garden or roost on your roof, then be sure to check your system, especially carefully for bird droppings.
What else can go wrong?
Several other factors can significantly impair the operation of your home solar system. Here are some things to check for when you look at your system.
- Make sure that trees and branches don’t prevent direct sunlight to your solar system.
- Check your solar panels for cracks or breakages in the surface glass.
- Make sure that panel surfaces are a uniform color and don’t show signs of corrosion or staining.
- Look for loose or exposed wiring that might be impairing the system’s efficiency.
Now Inspect your panels
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to check your solar system. As long as they are safe and easy to access, then the first step in cleaning and maintaining your solar system is to get up close and personal with the panels and take a look at them. Remember that you’re looking for dirt, marks and stains, and other obvious damage, like, broken or cracked glass, that might require expert repair.
This first inspection lets you know the condition of your solar system. Next, you can move on to considering whether to clean them yourself or contract the job out to experts.
Should you clean solar panels yourself or get outside help?
The most important choice you need to make when arranging the cleaning and maintenance of your home solar system is whether to take on the responsibility yourself or to get into a specialist solar company.
The best way to make this choice is to go through the pros and cons of both approaches and see how they affect you. This process will allow you to make an informed choice that keeps your solar panels in the best of health.
Doing it yourself
- Price – It’s cheaper to conduct solar panel maintenance yourself than to bring in outside contractors.
- Simplicity – Often you can clean your solar panels quickly and easily by just hosing them down with water.
- Time and effort – Ensure that you weigh up the money you’ll save by cleaning your solar system against the time and energy you’ll spend doing the job. It might be that the saving just isn’t worth all your effort. There’s no right answer to this, but you should consider how much you value your time before deciding what to do.
- Risk of injury – Think about where your solar panels are. If your system is on a high or difficult to access the roof, then make sure you can clean them safely.
- Risk of damage – You won’t save money by cleaning your own solar panels if you damage them. Unless you’re prepared to make sure you do it right, it’s worth paying for a contractor.
Using outside contractors
- Skills: Assessment – Professional solar companies can quickly figure out what cleaning and maintenance your solar system requires and give you a quote based on your exact needs. They might spot something that you wouldn’t. They will also monitor your solar system’s efficiency, panel by panel, and report back any problems they notice. Highlighting potential problems this way can help to make your system run more efficiently.
- Skills: cleaning – An outside contractor will know precisely the best way to clean and maintain your solar system. They won’t damage your system, and in the unlikely event that they do, they will be obliged to reimburse you.
- Free Cleaning – If your solar system is still under warranty, then free cleaning may be included. Check your purchase contract for information.
- Price – Bringing in an outside contractor to clean your solar panels will almost always be more expensive than doing it yourself. If you want to calculate how much you can expect to pay, you may need to contact various contractors for quotes.
How to clean solar panels by yourself
What materials do you need?
The simplest way to clean solar panels is from the ground with an ordinary garden hose (as long as it has enough power to reach them). This system will remove most dirt and staining, but it’s crucial to inspect the panels afterward to ensure that no stubborn marks remain.
If you need a deeper, more hands-on clean, then a sponge-tipped mop and water mixed with a light detergent are the best tools for the job. If your solar panels are on a roof, then you will of course, need a sturdy ladder and maybe somebody to brace it and make sure that you’re safe.
A few handy tips
Here are a few tips that will help you avoid some common pitfalls when performing solar panel maintenance.
- Clean your panels on a cloudy day – If you clean your solar panels under direct sunlight, then the cleaning water will evaporate rapidly potentially staining the panels and leaving a residue that will reduce their efficiency. Cleaning on a cloudy day gives the panels time to dry off without staining.
- Use a soft brush and clean gently – A soft sponge is the best thing to use to clean your solar panels. Clean them with a gentle circular motion. It helps to imagine that you are cleaning a mirror and using the same care and attention.
- Change your cleaning water regularly – Grit and other sharp objects can scratch and damage your solar panels so make sure that you change your cleaning water frequently to get rid of any such particles.
- Don’t use strong cleaning products – Use a light detergent mixed with water to clean your solar panels. This ensures that you don’t employ any strong chemicals that could damage the panel’s surface, impairing efficiency.
How to perform the best solar panel maintenance
Now you have all the information you need to perform or arrange your solar system maintenance.
- First, you should conduct a safety inspection of your solar system. Then, considering all the factors that can affect the efficient operation of solar panels, you can make a high-level assessment of what cleaning and maintenance work needs to be done.
- Next, you can use this information while considering the various advantages and disadvantages of self-cleaning versus professional assistance to help you decide which option is the best for you.
- Finally, go ahead and conduct the cleaning yourself or use your contractor. Then, at last, you can relax, safe in the knowledge that your solar system is performing efficiently and helping you to fulfill your energy needs.
If you have any questions or comments about how to look after your solar panels, then please share them with us.