Solar panels are a great investment that, if taken care of properly, will last a lifetime. In order to ensure that they last, you have to keep them clean. Solar panels can collect dust, pollen, bird droppings, and more, all of which could affect their performance.
Keeping your solar panels clean is fairly simple, and might not always require a trip up a ladder. Consider the last time that you cleaned your roof – you’ve probably never done it, right? This is because the rain cleans it for you. What you may have had to clean, though, is the gunk that builds up in your gutters. The same goes for solar panels: they are kept somewhat clean by the rain, but for hard to remove dirt, such as bird droppings, you will have to clean the panels yourself. There are some things to consider before getting on your roof to clean your solar panels. You need to make sure that you are safe and that you are properly cleaning the solar panels and not damaging them.
You need to keep your solar panels clean because dirty panels are actually less efficient than clean ones. Dirt and debris affect how much sunlight can get through the solar panel to convert the light into energy. It may be only a 5% reduction in efficiency, but why settle for any loss of efficiency if you don’t have to? If your solar panels are cleaned once or twice a year, you will see a 3-5% increase in electricity production.
How To Clean Panels
When it comes to cleaning your solar panels, there are two routes you can take: hire a professional or do it yourself. Luckily, a lot of companies offer the service to you for free as part of an annual maintenance service. But if you decide that you want to do it yourself, it might be a good idea to check with the solar manufacturer or company to see if there are any special considerations to take into account when cleaning. Some things to consider are:
- Solar panels can become very hot when the sun is shining on them, so you should clean them in the morning or the evening. Try to pick a cool day to clean them.
- Plain water works best to clean them, so first try your garden hose to remove the dust and dirt. Do not use any type of high-pressure water sprayer.
- If the garden hose does not work for a tough spot, then you’ll have to head up your ladder and gently clean the panels with a soft cloth or sponge. Do not use anything that is hard or has bristles so that you don’t scratch the panels. Fill a spray bottle or bucket with warm water and a very small amount of a mild soap, like dish soap. It is best to use dish soap because any other soap may interact negatively with your solar panels.
- Do not touch the wiring underneath the panels.
Solar panels are installed at an angle, so the rain generally does a good job of keeping them clean. That being said, a study conducted by Google found that relying on the rain to keep your panels clean is not sufficient, especially when it comes to stubborn dirt. They found that solar panels that were cleaned professionally had a 12% higher output of electricity than those that were cleaned only by the rain.
When To Clean Your Panels
In order to keep your panels as clean as possible, you have to consider where you live. If you live:
- In the Southwest, the accumulation of dirt is greater than in other areas of the US, meaning that you will need to clean your panels more often, probably about 1-2 times a year.
- Near the freeway or any sort of factory, then your solar panels will need to be cleaned more often.
- In an area where fall leaves drop and winter snow occurs, then you need to clean all of that off of your panels. If you live in one of these areas, then you will also need to do an annual spring cleaning.
The best way to know when it is time to clean your panels is to monitor changes in your power output. If there is a sudden decrease in output, odds are your panels need to be cleaned.
Cleaning solar panels is not a lot of work, and it is not hard to do. Most of the time the rain washes away any dirt and debris, but in the rare instances that you do have to clean them, it can be easily done. Whether you choose to clean them yourself or have a professional take care of it, it needs to be done. Otherwise, your panels will not be operating as efficiently as they could be, and you could end up losing money in the long run.