Much like any long-term investment, solar panels can last for decades if properly maintained. Ensuring proper upkeep is essential to guarantee a consistent supply of affordable, renewable solar energy from your solar system for 25 years or even longer. This is why solar panel maintenance is essential.
But the question is this: How do you clean and care for them? Are regular tune-ups, similar to those your car requires, necessary to keep solar panels in peak condition? How extensive and demanding are their solar panel maintenance requirements? This blog aims to address these questions and more, so read on to discover the answers.
Why Do Solar Systems & Panels Need Maintenance?
Solar panels are typically installed on rooftops, and like your roofing material, they can collect dirt and debris that may hinder their optimal performance. Although most solar panels rarely require cleaning, especially those on a tilt, there are compelling reasons to regularly and properly maintain your solar panels and the whole system itself:
- The build-up of dirt can diminish the amount of sunlight the panels capture, resulting in decreased energy production. Therefore, it is essential to remove dust, pollen, bird droppings, and other debris.
- If dirt is left unaddressed, it can lead to cracks, loose connections, or even damage the wiring over time. Regular checks and maintenance can help identify and rectify problems before they worsen.
- Solar PV systems are electrical systems where routine maintenance is critical to find and address potential safety hazards.
- Many manufacturers require panels to be maintained properly to ensure warranties remain valid.
As mentioned, solar panels represent a long-term investment. It’s crucial to certify that the system operates at peak efficiency to fully maximise your return on investment. Through regular maintenance, you can help extend the life of the panels, which can have a significant and positive impact on your financial savings throughout their lifespan.
How Often Should You Service Your Solar System?
Aside from having clean, renewable energy, another benefit of solar systems is that they require minimal maintenance. The most common issue that you have to deal with is dirt and debris build-up. How frequently you need to clean will depend primarily on where you live, the climate and weather, and the surroundings. So, if you live in an area with stormy weather, cleaning your panels during that time of the year is an absolute must.
Most solar companies will tell you to clean your panels once or twice a year to lower the odds of dirt and debris accumulation. Also, the more build-up and the longer you wait, the harder it is to clean the panels. To make sure you’re not about to void the solar panel warranties, read the manual that comes with the panels. You may also want to ask your installer and solar panel supplier to get more information.
What Checks Do I Need on My System?
Regular checks are necessary to make sure the solar system operates safely and efficiently. If you believe there are issues with your system, you should promptly call a professional. Otherwise, here are some general guidelines when checking your solar panels and the entire system:
- Make sure that your system is checked annually by a qualified technician who will perform a visual check of the panels, as well as the wiring and connections.
- An inverter check is also necessary to ensure it works correctly, typically every two to five years. If it is faulty, it can have a significant impact on energy production.
- Generally, solar systems come with a monitoring system for reviewing data. Check yours regularly to see the daily or at least monthly energy generation. If you see huge drops, it could mean a problem should be addressed immediately.
- Roof checks should also be done periodically. Ensure there are no leaks or damage, mainly where the panels are installed.
- The system can overheat, too, and it usually happens on hot summer days. Inspect the fins or heat sinks of the inverter, which you can find at the top or on the back. Keep these fins clean and give the inverter a little shade if mounted on a wall with direct sunlight.
If your system comes with battery storage, it should be checked and maintained, as well, to ensure it has the right connections and battery fluid levels.
What’s The Difference Between Cleaning and Servicing a Solar System?
Cleaning and service maintenance are two distinct methods to ensure the efficient operation of clean solar panels and the entire solar system. Cleaning typically entails washing or hosing down the panels to remove dirt and other debris.
In contrast, servicing refers to a more technical set of maintenance tasks, often carried out by a professional. Ideally, servicing should take place once a year and usually involves the following:
- Comprehensive Professional Inspection: Servicing goes beyond the panels and, therefore, includes a thorough inspection of all components. This means the technician checks inverters, electrical connections, wiring, and mounting structures to ensure the system is in good condition.
- Performance Analysis: The technician may also conduct a system performance analysis, which involves evaluating data to determine if the system meets the expected energy generation levels. If any issues are detected, recommendations on how to address those deviations will be provided to the owner.
- Safety Checks: A crucial aspect of servicing is to ensure that the system is safe and all safety protocols are followed. This is to safeguard and keep everyone, particularly you (the system owner), your home, the system itself, and even the technician, away from potential harm.
- Electrical Inspections: The inverter should also be verified to make sure it is operating correctly. All electrical components, such as wiring and connections, are inspected and replaced if there are any signs of damage or wear.
Unlike cleaning, servicing should always be done by a professional. A more comprehensive inspection and maintenance process is necessary to preserve the health, safety, and performance of the panels and the solar system.
How Much Does a Solar Panel Service Cost?
Cleaning and servicing costs are influenced by several factors, including the size and complexity of your system, as well as your location. If your roof allows easy access for technicians without additional equipment, you can generally expect more affordable cleaning and servicing costs.
In most cases, however, the bigger the system is, the more affordable cleaning becomes. For example, if you have a 6.6kW panel for your home, you will pay around $10 to $15 for cleaning each panel. For a bigger-sized system, such as a 50kW system, the cost per panel maybe $7 to $8. You get an even larger discount if you have a 99kW system, where cleaning each panel costs $4 to $5 only.
As for servicing and maintenance, costs vary depending on the level and type of service required. Basic inspections tend to be much cheaper than more comprehensive ones that include electrical checks and testing. For instance, a basic inspection for a 6.6kW residential solar can cost $200 to $250 (sometimes more). On the other hand, a detailed examination of the same-sized solar system is roughly around $400 to $450. Once again, location, system design, and complexity all have a role to play in determining the final service price.
Renters With Solar – Who’s Responsible for Solar Panel Maintenance?
If your rental property already has a solar system installed, the responsibility for maintaining the existing system generally falls upon the landlord. As a renter, you can request that the landlord take care of the system, including ensuring its proper maintenance. Of course, the landlord must also guarantee that the home is safe and fit for human habitation.
So, for instance, the system was not properly maintained and caused a fire. In that case, the landlord should shoulder all the expenses for fixing and restoring the damaged items. Furthermore, as a renter, you may be entitled to compensation, particularly for any economic losses incurred.
Meanwhile, if you installed the solar system with the landlord’s permission and followed all necessary procedures, you, as the owner of that system, are solely responsible for its cleaning and regular upkeep.
It’s essential to ensure the solar system is regularly checked, cleaned, and well-maintained so that you continue to enjoy clean, renewable energy for years to come. If you’re considering installing solar, get no less than Tier-1 solar panels from Aus Energy Solar, where we supply solar systems and packages fit for Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne homes and businesses.