Switching to a solar power system brings with it a lot of benefits. For example, you can save with solar energy because you no longer need to rely solely on your utility company’s supply. That said, one of its biggest advantages remains to be its low maintenance requirements. Some panels are even advertised as self-cleaning.
How true is this, though? Can solar panels really keep working in optimal efficiency without you cleaning them? If not, is there a proper way to do it?
Are Solar Panels Really Self-Cleaning?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, it is possible for the rain to clean your solar panels. Did you experience a foot of snowfall last night? Then, there’s probably no need to worry about your setup. The sun will melt it off anyway. At the same time, there are specific circumstances when your solar panels will need a bit of help. Extended periods without any rain will allow dust to build up.
Dust isn’t the only substance that can mar the surface of your solar panels and impact their efficiency. Bird droppings, leaves, ash一these are things that can accumulate and might not necessarily wash out with a bit of rain. Think about it this way: If you leave your dusty car in the rain, will it really clean it up as efficiently as getting it washed?
When Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?
The longer you use your solar panels, the better you’ll be when it comes to monitoring their efficiency. You’ll notice that there are weather conditions and sun positions that can change the output of your system. It will also be easier for you to notice fluctuations in output. You’d be able to determine whether the dip is simply caused by a cloudy day or something else, like dirt accumulation. Once this happens, it’s probably a good time to check your panels and see if they need cleaning.
Factors That Affect the Performance of Solar Panels
There are two factors that can affect how dirty your solar panels get:
- The Angle of Installation. Are your panels laid flat or slanted?
- Your Location. Is your home located downwind from the main road? Do you live near an industrial plant? Or maybe a copse known to produce a lot of pollen during certain seasons?
How to Clean Solar Panels
After making sure that your solar panel indeed needs cleaning, here are the steps you can follow:
Step 1: Read the manual.
The first thing you need to do is read the maintenance instructions that came with your panels. You should also be aware that any damage that you might inflict on them, even during maintenance, can void its warranty. According to Energy Sage, solar panel warranties usually last for up to 25 years. Hence, it would be best to take extra care when cleaning your panels so as not to cut them short by mistake.
Step 2: Try rinsing it first.
If your solar panels are installed not too high from the ground, you can try hosing it down with water. It is the easiest way to clean your solar panels, but we advise against using a pressure washer. The high pressure might scratch the surface.
Step 3: If rinsing fails, use a soft brush and a mild soapy solution.
We recommend using a window squeegee to wipe your solar panels clean and dry. This step can also remove any residue that soap might leave. It might require you to climb to your roof, though, so take extra care. Things can get pretty slippery when cleaning solutions are involved.
More Tips to Maintain Solar Panels
In addition to the steps we just shared, here are more tips for maintaining your solar power system:
- Use a cleaning product specifically formulated for solar panels. They will be milder and safer compared to other cleaning solutions. These products will also come with handy instructions.
- Clean your solar panels early in the morning. Solar panels can get really hot, so it’s best to clean them while they’re still relatively cool.
- Never touch the sides or underneath your panels. In fact, avoid touching any part with cables. Electricity and water don’t mix.
- Ask for help. There’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help. They will have adequate tools and experience to make the task safer and more efficient. Forbes also offers more tips, so you might want to check out their guide as well.
Cleaning Solar Panels
Solar panels require almost no maintenance at all. However, there are cases when they do get pretty dirty. If you’re starting to notice their performance waning, it’s a good indicator that they might need a quick rinse. Water, even a little rain shower, will typically do the trick. Heavily soiled panels will require some mild scrubbing and soap, though. For this, we recommend using cleaning products specifically formulated for solar panels. If all that sounds too complicated, you can always hire professional cleaners to do it. Should you decide to do it yourself, remember not to touch any wired parts to prevent accidents.