Have you noticed your solar system is producing less energy lately? Debris buildup interferes with a solar panel’s ability to absorb sunlight, causing a drop in energy production. Keeping your solar panels operating at maximum efficiency is just one of the benefits of cleaning your solar panels.
If you want a return on investment with your solar panels, it starts with making sure your solar panels stay clean.
- What are Solar Panels?
- Benefits of Cleaning Your Solar Panels
- What Causes Solar Panels to Get Dirty
- Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Solar Panels
- Best Way to Clean Solar Panels
- Cleaning the Solar Inverter
- How Often Should You Clean Solar Panels?
- DIY or Hire a Professional to Clean Solar Panels?
- FAQs About the Benefits of Cleaning Solar Panels
What are Solar Panels?
You probably associate solar panels with the advantages of saving money and reducing your carbon footprint by providing a renewable energy source. A solar panel absorbs sunlight and converts it into usable energy, supplying buildings with clean energy.
Solar panels are expensive, although fortunately tax credits and rebates are available to help offset the cost. Solar panels require a lot of room, so you’ll want to make sure your roof is suited for hosting a solar array.
There are different types of solar panels:
- Solar shingles
Lifespans vary depending on the type of solar panel, but on average, solar panels typically last 25 to 30 years.
The process of solar panels converting sunlight into energy occurs in a few steps:
- Solar photovoltaic cells absorb sunlight.
- The collected sunlight is converted into direct current (DC) power.
- The DC power passes through an inverter to convert it into alternate current (AC) power.
- The AC power is then transported to outlets. From there, it provides power to the building.
Excess energy can be stored in a solar battery if you have one. Solar batteries save extra energy for a cloudy day. Otherwise, excess energy can be supplied to the power grid in exchange for tax rebates.
Benefits of Cleaning Your Solar Panels
Soiling occurs when dirt and grime accumulate on the surface of a solar panel. The layer of grime decreases panel performance.
Solar panel productivity is dependent on the amount of sunlight it absorbs each day, so regular solar panel cleaning helps ensure that it continues producing optimal output. Cleaning your panels is an important part of solar panel maintenance.
Increases Energy Efficiency
Clean panels produce more energy than dirty panels, and can boost efficiency by up to 30%. You don’t want your solar panel system to decrease in productivity, so it’s important to keep them clean and performing optimally.
Usually, solar panel owners can monitor the solar energy output of their solar array by tracking it on a monitoring app. You should check the progress of your solar panels every so often to see if there have been any unusual decreases in productivity. If so, it may mean that the solar panels need to be cleaned.
Improves ROI Time
If you have underperforming solar panels, it means you are losing money. You want your solar panels to pay themselves off as quickly as possible. Once the panels have paid for themselves, then the energy your solar panels are producing is saving on energy bills.
The more consistent the output, the quicker the solar panels will pay themselves off and start saving you money on electricity bills in the long run. If you procrastinate on cleaning your panels, their underperformance will cost you money.
Many solar panel manufacturers offer warranties that demand regular cleaning as a condition of the warranty agreement. Failure to regularly clean your panels could mean your solar panels are no longer covered because it voids the warranty.
When dirty, technological solar equipment is likely to fail sooner than equipment that is kept cleaned and well-maintained.
Accumulated gunk on solar panels will ultimately decrease the durability and productivity of the device. It can even decrease a panel’s lifespan. So don’t allow your solar panels to sit coated in a layer of grime for a long time.
Keeps Aesthetic Appeal
No one wants to look at a dirt-crusted solar array. Maintaining a clean solar panel system improves the home’s curb appeal and keeps your solar array looking sleek and modern.
Prevents Hot Spots
Hot spots occur when parts of your solar panels overheat due to dust buildup. Hot spots deteriorate a solar panel and decrease its lifespan. Keeping the solar panel clean protects it from developing hot spots.
Chance for Inspection
Cleaning your solar panels gives you the perfect chance to inspect them. Before you start cleaning the panels, you can examine them for damage and assess whether they need any repairs. It also allows you a chance to inspect the rest of your roof.
What Causes Solar Panels to Get Dirty
The outdoors is a great place to be, but it also can be messy. Inevitably, your solar panels will get dirty. Here are some things you will have to clean off your panels:
- Bird droppings
- Water stains
Rain washes off some of the grime on solar panels. The problem is that rain itself carries dust particles, which makes solar panels dirty and leaves behind water streaks. A little rainwater might not be enough to wash away things like bird droppings and water stains.
Solar panels in dry-climate states such as Arizona, Nevada, or Utah require more frequent cleanings due to the amount of dust in the air. Areas with smog or dust pollutants also soil your solar panels more quickly,
On top of that, solar panels are generally set relatively flat toward the sky so they are fully exposed and directly catch a lot of dirt and grime. To avoid water stains, panels are usually set at a slight tilt so that they can properly shed rainwater.
Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Solar Panels
Before you get started with your cleaning project, here are some helpful tips and tricks you should know. They will help you achieve the best results as well as provide advice on how to clean your solar panels safely.
DO turn off solar panels. Before anything else, the first thing you should always do is to turn off the solar panel system. Never clean solar panels while they are still turned on. Rinsing a solar panel with water while it is still turned on is extremely dangerous. It can lead to electrocution.
DO clean panels from the ground. Never climb onto your roof unless absolutely unavoidable. Always clean solar panels from the ground or from the edge of a roof if possible. Use a long-handled brush for reach.
DO use soft-bristled brushes. Abrasive or hard-bristled brushes can damage a solar panel, so always use soft-bristled brushes and soft clothes for cleaning. Less abrasive materials protect your roof from abrasion and scratching.
DO dry off the panels. After you finish rinsing the solar panels with water, you should dry them off with a soft cloth. Just like when you wash your car, don’t let water air dry on your solar panels, as that will leave behind nuisance water stains.
DON’T use a pressure washer. Never use a pressure washer or any jet blasts of water for cleaning solar panels. Pressure washers use forceful jets of water to clean off grime. This will surely result in cracking the glass or otherwise damaging your solar panel system.
DON’T walk on solar panels. Never walk on solar panels. Solar panels are expensive technological gadgets that are not designed for foot traffic, so don’t step on them. Putting your full weight on a panel could crack the glass or damage the wiring.
DON’T clean solar panels in the heat of the day. Sunlight charges photovoltaic solar cells, which warms up the panels. Avoid cleaning the solar panels when the device is hot, as the temperature shock of cold water can cause the glass to crack and water evaporates more quickly off of hot solar panels, which can leave behind residue. Instead, clean your panels during mornings, evenings, overcast days, or cool days.
DON’T use cold water. Keep in mind the temperature of the water you are using for your solar panels. Don’t use cold water if the solar panels are warm, and conversely, don’t use hot water if the panels are cold. Sudden extreme temperature changes can cause the glass to crack. Because solar panels absorb heat, they are generally warm, so you should use lukewarm water.
DON’T use hard water. Hard water contains high levels of minerals which leave behind white residue and water stains. Instead of hard water, use calcium-free water or distilled water, which is free of chemicals.
Best Way to Clean Solar Panels
Be cautious when cleaning your solar panels. Although they are tough enough to weather the outdoor elements, they have some delicate parts and wiring. Water leaking inside the panel or using the wrong cleaning chemical can ruin your solar panel system. When it comes to solar panel maintenance, you need to use a cleaning method that won’t harm them.
Regular solar panel cleaning is important. Here are some ideas for cleaning equipment you can use for getting debris off of your solar panels.
Automated Sprinkler System
If you want your solar array to be self-cleaning, automatic sprinkler systems can be installed on your roof to keep your solar panels clean. These automated cleaning robots are programmed to spray down your solar array with water, automatically rinsing them.
The benefit of automatic cleaning robots is that they require no human labor. Without lifting a finger, you can create a cleaning schedule to ensure your solar array is cleaned at regular intervals.
It saves you the expense of hiring a roofing contractor or risking injury from a DIY job.
The best way to scrub off dirt from your solar panels is to wash off the dust and grime with a hose. Sometimes a simple rinse is enough to remove the accumulated dust, dirt, and pollen, although you will need to dry off the panels afterwards in order to prevent water stains.
If a simple hose rinse-down isn’t enough to effectively clean panels, use a squeegee, sponge, or soft brush to scrub off any stubborn debris clinging to the surface.
Don’t use a hard-bristled brush, and don’t scrub too hard. You don’t want to damage or scratch the solar panel glass.
Ideally, you want to find a long-handled brush so you can scrub the panels from the edge of the roof so you can avoid climbing on top of your roof unless it is absolutely necessary.
Use a soft cloth to scrub or dry your solar panels. Make sure not to use any abrasive or rough materials. Definitely do not use steel wool for cleaning a solar panel, as that is certain to scratch the solar panel.
If it’s only a case of dust and you want to do a quick cleaning job without the waterworks, you use a broom to sweep off the dust covering your solar panels.
The broom needs to be fairly soft and malleable; don’t use a broom with rough bristles. Gently clean so as to not damage or break the machinery.
If a lot of leaves accumulate on your roof, you can blow them all away with a leaf blower. Leaf blowers are also useful for dislocating dirt gathered on the surface of your solar panels.
If you want to give your solar array a thorough cleaning, you can clean them with a soft brush, water, and vinegar.
Not every type of vinegar is safe for cleaning the surface of your solar panel, so stick to using white vinegar or another approved cleaner.
To create a vinegar solution, mix these ingredients together:
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 2 cups deionized water
- ¼ teaspoon dish soap
Do not use cooking vinegar. Cooking vinegar has higher levels of acid that will damage the solar panels. White vinegar is the best kind of vinegar to use for cleaning solar panels (and anything around your home).
Soaps and detergents are not great for cleaning solar panels, as they tend to leave behind streaks that hinder the panel’s ability to absorb sunlight. Water stains caused by soaps defeat the purpose of cleaning the solar panels in the first place and make it easier for dirt and dust to cling to your roof.
Only use mild, non-abrasive soaps. Avoid harsh soaps such as laundry detergents. If you want soapy water for a cleaning solution, try using mild soaps such as dish soap. Just make sure the soap is properly diluted in water.
Don’t use acidic or alcoholic solutions. These cause damage to the solar panels.
Always be careful about which cleaning chemical you use, as some cleaning solutions are harsh chemicals that could harm your solar panels.
You can purchase cleaning kits for solar panels. These kits come with all the equipment you need to do the job. Typically, these pre-arranged kits include tools such as:
- Biodegradable soap
- Soft-bristled brush
- Soft cleaning cloth
- Extension pole
Cleaning the Solar Inverter
A solar inverter, the device that transforms energy absorbed from the sun into usable electricity, requires cleaning every so often if you want them to keep producing solar power.
Solar inverters are placed outside, leaving them exposed to the elements and prone to getting dirty from all the dust wafting through the air. Dust inside an inverter can damage the circuit board and cause circuit failure. If that happens, the device will stop working.
Solar inverters require regular maintenance. To clean an inverter, simply wipe it down with a cotton cloth to remove dirt and dust. Don’t pour water over a solar inverter. Simply using a damp cloth or a little water spray should suffice for cleaning off your inverter.
Every so often, you also need to have a technician clean out the air intake filter. Do not attempt this task yourself; call an experienced professional.
How Often Should You Clean Solar Panels?
On average, you should clean your solar panels two to four times a year. It all depends on the area you live in and how much rain you get. In some areas, solar panels may only need to be cleaned once a year.
Some factors that affect how often your solar panels need to be cleaned include:
- Drought. Even in areas that aren’t normally dry or dusty, a drought can cause more dirt to infiltrate the air, which leads to your solar system getting dirtier faster.
- Dry areas. Areas that don’t receive frequent rainfall are dustier, so panels in arid, desert-like areas get dirtier more quickly, and thus require more frequent cleanings.
- Smog. Smog dirties solar panels, causing them to need more frequent cleaning.
- Trees. Where there’s trees, there’s leaves and pollen. Leaves and pollen both obstruct solar cells from receiving sunlight and converting it into energy.
- Wind. The wind carries around debris such as pollen, dust, dirt, and leaves, and brings them all right to your roof.
If you live in an area with a lot of dust, you’ll probably have to clean your solar panels more frequently in order to keep them regularly producing solar power.
DIY or Hire a Professional to Clean Solar Panels?
Now comes the big question: Should you hire a professional to clean your solar panels, or should you do the job yourself? While the decision is ultimately yours, you should consider the pros and cons of both options.
It is possible to clean solar panels yourself with a regular garden hose and your own vinegar cleaning solution.
If you decide that you’d prefer a DIY job, gather the materials before you start. Don’t just think about cleaning supplies – you’ll also need safety equipment for your protection. Here is a list of things you’ll probably want to have on hand for a DIY cleaning job:
- Cleaning solution
- Hard hat
- Work gloves
- Cleaning solution
- Cleaning cloth
If you plan on cleaning your panels yourself, you should have a partner to help you.
Hire a Professional
A big advantage of hiring a pro is that you won’t have to deal with the hassle of purchasing all the equipment yourself. Trained professionals already have all the equipment they need for a solar panel cleaning project:
- Specialized brushes
- Water tanks
- Cleaning solutions
In addition to cleaning your roof, a contractor can check for damage or issues with your solar panels and repair any problems with your solar system. On average, the cost for solar panel cleaning services ranges $5 to $35 per panel.
Some good reasons to hire a professional for solar panel cleaning:
- You don’t have the right equipment. If you don’t already own a ladder, harness, or any of the cleaning supplies you need, you may want to hire a pro.
- You are comfortable and experienced with climbing on a ladder and roof. Specialists are professionally trained to clean solar panels on roofs, so they are far less likely to sustain an injury when working on top of a roof. If you aren’t comfortable with being on a roof, then you should hire out the job.
- You have physical limitations. If you are elderly or have any physical limitations, call a contractor to clean your panels for you and don’t take unnecessary risks.
- You don’t have time. Employing a professional solar panel cleaner saves you both time and effort so you can focus on other things.
Hiring a trained specialist doesn’t only reduce personal risk, it also reduces the risk to your solar panels, as well. If you are inexperienced with solar panel cleaning, you won’t risk mistakes such as accidentally using the wrong kind of chemical cleaning solution or scrubbing too hard and scratching the roof.
FAQs About the Benefits of Cleaning Solar Panels
Yes. Windex is a good cleaning product for solar panels that you can easily spray on your solar panels to clean them. It is a cheap product that you can find for sale in many stores.
You can purchase a brush for cleaning solar panels from multiple companies, including Amazon, supermarket stores like Wal-Mart, or hardware stores such as Home Depot.
Solar panels are generally hardy and durable, as they are built to withstand rough weather conditions such as hails, storms, and high winds. However, some of the wiring is delicate and they do have a front surface made of glass, so they are susceptible to breakage if not handled properly.
Solar panels are not easily damaged, but they should always be treated with care to prevent them from getting damaged.
A Time to Clean
There are multiple options for cleaning your solar panel system: hire a solar panel cleaning company, do it yourself, or purchase an automatic cleaning machine. You will have to consider what works best for your lifestyle and your budget.
If you think hiring a professional solar panel cleaner for the job is best, then contact a solar panel cleaner today.
Main Photo by: Pexels