By Tim Henderson
If you have solar panels on your home, or are considering solar for your home in the future, you may be asking yourself, “What type of solar panel maintenance and cleaning do I need to do?” You may also be wondering, “Will maintaining my solar panel installation require contractors or specialists?”
Once you’ve had a solar panel installation completed for your home, these are likely to be the questions you’ll want answers for. There are some basic tasks that you’ll need to do to keep your solar panels in good condition, but in most cases, maintaining your solar panels is simple and something you can do on your own.
How frequently you’ll need your solar panels cleaned will depend on the climate and area you live in. It is also very seasonal. Rain naturally rinses your panels, so late Spring or Summer would be a good time to clean them, after pollen may have settled. If they appear dirty, making sure your solar panels stay clean is important. According to the US Department of Energy, cleaning panels when they’re dirty can significantly improve how much energy your panels can collect.
There are a few things you should consider before climbing up on your roof. First, if your roof is more than a single story, has a very steep pitch or has fragile tiles, it is advisable to get an extension on the handle of your washing tool. Safety should always be first.
– Container of soapy water
– Hose with a sprayer attachment
– Window wiper / squeegee, or a microfiber cleaning cloth on a handle
– A soft, small brush and a soft brush with a long or extendable handle
– Solar power monitoring system
You can purchase a solar panel kit that includes the tools you’ll need for cleaning, but most of the things you’ll need can be found in a basic car cleaning kit. The only items you might not have on hand are ones with extendable or long handles.
The items included in a solar panel cleaning kit are generally no better or worse than what you’ll find in stores in the cleaning aisle. If you already have all the tools you need, you probably don’t need to purchase a kit.
The first step in the solar system maintenance checklist is to find out if your solar panels need cleaning. Solar panels are made of tempered glass and don’t have movable parts, outside of tracking mounts, so they’re durable and don’t generally require a lot of attention.
That said, dirty solar panels have been shown to be far less effective at gathering energy. Research from Google indicates that you may be able to double your energy output by ensuring your panels are clean.
If you use a solar panel monitoring system to track the energy the solar system for your home puts out, you’ll know your panels need some attention when they start producing less power when the weather hasn’t changed. Without a monitoring system, you’ll need to keep an eye on your panels or clean them when you see debris start collecting on them.
When selecting a soap to clean your solar panels with, your main goal is to find one that doesn’t leave a residue. There are very expensive solar panel cleaning soaps available, but according to the experts at Energy Informative, standard detergents will work. If you want something eco-friendly, you can use castile soap.
Before you start cleaning, be sure that you’ve checked with your solar panel manufacturer to determine if there are any special instructions for cleaning or maintaining your panels. You should also pick a cool day or start cleaning your solar panels early in the day because they can heat up very quickly in the sunshine.
Before you start in with soap and water, you may want to get rid of large debris. You can do this by using a dry brush to remove twigs, leaves and other larger items. From there, use your scrub brush and soapy water to gently start scrubbing your solar panels.
You can use your handheld brush to get to easy to reach panels, and a brush with a long or extendable handle can get to the ones that are higher up. Be sure that you’re not too rough when using the brush because scrubbing too hard may cause micro-scratches to form on the surface of the panels.
It’s also important that you don’t step on the panels themselves because it can lead to micro-cracks on the surface of the panels. If you can’t reach particular panels, you may need a professional solar company to clean them.
Using a hose with a sprayer, rinse off your solar panels. Don’t use a pressure washer because the force of the spray can damage the panels. Once your solar panels are clean but wet, use either a window wiper or a microfiber cloth on a handle to dry the panels.
Making sure there isn’t residue on your panels is an important part of solar panel maintenance and cleaning. Residue can create a film that blocks sunlight and reduces energy production in the same way that dirt can. A window wiper or microfiber cloth can ensure that your panels are residue free.
After your solar panel maintenance and cleaning, you should see an uptick in the amount of energy that your panels produce. If there’s no improvement, it may be that there’s residue on the panels. Alternatively, you may need a professional to clean panels that you could not reach.
Keeping an eye on your power production will also let you know the next time that your panels are due for cleaning.
If you live in the California Central Coast or San Francisco Bay Area, installing solar panels on your home is a great way to save money. However, to ensure that you get the most out of your solar panel installation, you’ll need to keep the solar panels clean and keep an eye on their energy output.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and learned how to care for your solar panels. Feel free to share our blog with your friends and family.
At Sandbar Solar, we pride ourselves in our reputation for installing and designing the most energy-efficient solar panels for California’s Central Coast. We can help you get a clean energy system up and running in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, and we also service the Bay Area and San Jose.
If you’re interested in getting a solar panel installation for your home or business or are wondering about the process, get in touch with Sandbar Solar. You can call us at 831-469-8888 or email us. Our team is happy to answer any questions you may have.
Tim has worked in the solar industry since 2008. He has a Master's Degree in Energy Resources Engineering from Stanford University. His years of experience include working on solar energy projects for both homes and commercial properties. Tim enjoys sharing his knowledge of this evolving industry and making a difference in his community.
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