Buying solar panels is a huge investment. They are the part of your solar system responsible for converting captured sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Therefore, it’s only right that they are properly maintained to ensure long-term benefits. This blog explains everything you need to know about cleaning your solar panels.
A Guide to Cleaning Solar Panels
With your cleaning tools and materials ready, gather them and make sure they are easily accessible. You will most likely need an extension ladder to climb up your roof. Ensure that you place the ladder on a safe and even ground so you can safely climb up and down.
Don’t forget to turn off the solar panel system before you get to work. It’s also a good idea to check the manual to see if there are any specific guidelines and restrictions. You may not be aware that your panels have coatings, which may require a special type of care. We recommend that you clean the panels in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the harsh sun. With all that out of the way, here are the rest of the steps to follow:
- Remove Loose Debris and DirtUsing a soft brush, dislodge all debris, dirt, and dust on the panels. This is generally an easy task that can be done from the ground with a telescopic extension pole. Start brushing gently to remove leaves, twigs, bird poop, and other materials.
- Spray the Panel With WaterGet the bucket of water or your garden hose with a nozzle and start spraying water on the solar panels. Make sure that you have already brushed the panels beforehand so that the debris will not mix with water, which can cause spreading and smearing.Although high-pressure cleaning can get the job done quickly, it may also lead to fine cracks on the panels’ surfaces.
- Scrub With a Soft BrushWith most of the mess removed, you can give problem areas extra attention. Use a wet sponge, wiper, or soft cloth to clean the surface in a repetitive motion. Patience is required here, so you do not start aggressively wiping the panels.
- Use a Mild SoapFor stubborn dirt, you can use a mild detergent or washing-up soap. If you wish to boost cleaning power, add one part vinegar to eight parts water. Please note that even cleaning products advertising themselves as safe for solar panels can be quite abrasive. Try to stick with just water as much as possible, particularly distilled or deionised. If you do not have it available, simply add a water softener to your hose water.Use soap sparingly, as it can leave streaks on the panels even when rinsed. It does not just make the panels less aesthetically pleasing but also leads to their compromised functionality.
See if you save more energy by monitoring your solar output and determine the impact of your solar panel cleaning efforts.
Do I Need to Turn Off Solar Panels to Clean Them?
Whilst you do not have to turn off solar panels before cleaning, it is highly recommended that you do, especially if you will use water and other cleaning solutions. Remember that water and electricity will never mix well and can cause malfunctions and short circuits.
Also, solar panels will remain exposed to sunlight (unless you decide to clean them at night for some strange reason). That means they continuously generate electricity, which can put you at risk of electrical shock whether you use water or not.
What Can You Clean Solar Panels With?
Cleaning solar panels is not entirely an expensive task. You can use basic supplies to clean them, such as:
- A soft brush
- A broom (as an alternative to a soft brush)
- Microfibre cloth
- Squeegee or window wiper
- A bucket of water or a hose with a nozzle
- Mild soap or detergent
Some solar panels may be difficult to reach, mainly if the roof is too high. You can still clean them using an extension pole with a soft brush attachment, which will allow you to clean your solar panels from the ground, so you do not have to climb your roof.
You can also buy a solar panel cleaning kit, which has everything you need, including a biodegradable soap, wiper, and brush.
How Often Should They Be Cleaned?
Manufacturer guidelines, along with your location, environment, and the amount of debris and dirt accumulated on the panels, determine the frequency of solar panel cleaning. However, given the harsh Western Australian climate, you may want to clean at least every six months. Another reason to clean more often than suggested is if you live close to a highway or a construction site.
If you see diminished output from your solar panels, it may be due to surface dirt. That’s why it is a good idea to clean after extreme climate conditions, such as excessive rainstorms, fires, and dust storms, once it is safe.
Does Cleaning Solar Panels Make a Difference?
Debris and dust-free solar panels perform better than dirty ones, particularly in terms of energy production. Bird droppings, pollen, and other material can quickly reduce the panels’ efficiency because of the decreased amount of sunlight reaching the photovoltaic cells.
Also, if you live in a coastal area or your home is surrounded by trees, salt deposits, air quality, leaves, and twigs can damage the panels. Cracks and scratches can quickly diminish panel efficiency, which shortens their lifespan.
Can You Clean Your Solar Panels Yourself?
DIY solar panel cleaning can be a great solution to keeping your panels clean and efficient. A bit of dust can quickly be cleaned away by nature for you when it rains. Not only does it help you save some cash, but you also get into the habit of regularly maintaining them, which extends their life and allows them to operate at full capacity.
Alternatively, you may want to consider a hybrid approach. Hiring a professional can assist you if:
- You’re elderly
- You have no time to clean the panels yourself
- You live in a coastal area
- Your home is in a heavily polluted place
- You have acrophobia or the fear of heights
- Deciduous trees surround your home and can affect your panels
- Birds love visiting your roof and leave their mess behind
It always helps if you monitor your system’s performance regularly to determine if it generates the expected energy output. You can generally get this information from your inverter or a monitoring system. If it is lower than average, it may simply be due to dirty or obstructed panels. Make sure to clean your panels or call a professional to do the job for you.
Are you ready to reduce your electricity bill, reduce your carbon footprint, and enjoy no blackouts? Get in touch with Aus Energy Solar to begin your transition to clean energy.