As the use of renewable energy, particularly solar power, becomes more accessible to homeowners, it’s easy to forget one important detail – taking care of your panels. Solar power is undoubtedly a shining star in the field of renewable energy, but to keep it shining bright, proper upkeep is key.
Taking care of your solar panels will allow them to perform at their best. And keeping your solar panels clean doesn’t have to be a daunting task either. You can manage it quite easily by following a few simple steps. This guide will break down the importance of solar panel maintenance along with some valuable tips on keeping your panels clean and running at max efficiency.
Why You Need Solar Panel Maintenance
Solar panels are a long-term investment, designed to harness the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity for your home or business. Just like any other piece of machinery or appliance, solar panels require your love and care to operate at their best.
Grime, leaves, dust, and other debris can build up over time on the surface of your panels, which can hinder their ability to capture sunlight effectively. Think of it like trying to see clearly through a dirty window – it’s not going to give you the same clear view as a sparkling clean one.
Similarly, dirty solar panels won’t be able to convert as much sunlight into electricity as clean ones. Regular servicing ensures that your panels stay squeaky clean, maximizing their energy output and efficiency.
How Much Efficiency Is Lost Due To Dirty Solar Panels?
Of course, the dirtier the panel, the more efficiency is lost. It is common for slightly dirty panels to be losing 5-10% of efficiency. That being said, dirt, leaves, pollin, grime, bird poop, and other debris can easily block higher percentages of your panels efficiency. Energy lost due to dirty panels in large array systems amounts to substantial numbers in the U.S. each year, and even more in other countries.
How Can I Tell If My Solar Panel System Needs Maintenance?
If ongoing maintenance of your solar panels is important, what about those little hints your solar system drops when it needs some extra TLC? Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that it’s time to give your solar power system a check-up.
Decreased energy production: If you notice a significant, or even a small, drop in your solar system’s energy output, it could be a sign your panels are dirty or damaged. Regularly tracking your system’s energy production can help you detect these issues early on.
Discoloration/cracks: Make it a habit to visually inspect your panels. Give them a thorough once-over for cracks, discoloration, or any visible damage that might need expert attention. Damage like this can decrease power output by at least 2.5%. The most common causes of cracks are improper panel handling and installation, fluctuating temperatures, or extreme weather conditions.
Monitoring system alerts: Many modern solar systems come with reporting capabilities that give you up-to-the-minute updates on your panels’ performance. Pay attention to any alerts or error messages that can indicate maintenance requirements.
Unusual noises or vibrations: If you hear unusual sounds or vibrations from your panels, it could point to a loose connection or faulty components requiring immediate attention.
Unexpected shutdowns: Last but certainly not least. A sudden loss of power is the most obvious sign your solar panel system needs repair or replacement. In most cases, unexpected shutdowns are the result of manufacturing defects, faulty installation, or wiring problems.
5 Proven Methods for Keeping Your Solar Panels Clean All-Year
Your solar panels perform at their best when kept clean and in good condition. Here are five methods to keep your solar panels clean and well-maintained:
Regular visual inspection: Every few months, inspect your panels. Look out for any excess dirt, debris, or signs of damage. This will help you nip problems in the bud and prevent them from becoming bigger headaches down the road.
Gentle cleaning: You don’t need a special cleaning solution to wash your panels. You can use a soft cloth or sponge and a mild dish soap solution to clean the surface of the panels. Avoid abrasive materials or harsh chemicals that can damage the protective coating of the panels.
Automated cleaning systems: Consider investing in an automated cleaning system to maintain your panels. You can program them to clean your panels on a schedule, taking the hassle out of manual cleaning.
Self-cleaning panels: Some solar panel manufacturers offer self-cleaning panels with special coatings that repel dust and dirt. While these panels require less attention, occasional cleaning may still be necessary to tackle stubborn dirt and grime.
Professional cleaning services: If you aren’t comfortable cleaning your panels and would prefer to leave it to the experts, hiring a professional cleaning service is always an option!
How Often Should I Clean My Solar Panels?
How often you need to clean your solar panels depends on where you live, the climate, and the pollution level in your area. As a general rule, you should aim for a deep clean once or twice a year. However, certain conditions may call for more frequent cleaning, including:
Dusty or dry climates: If you live in a dry or dusty region, your panels may accumulate dust and debris faster. If this is the case, consider cleaning them every three to four months.
Polluted areas: In locations saturated with air pollution, like industrial areas or busy roads, you should clean your panels every three to six months.
Fallen leaves or bird droppings: If trees surround your panels or attract birds, remove any fallen leaves or bird droppings as soon as possible. These can obstruct sunlight and zap your panels’ energy output.
How To Repair or Replace Solar Panels
You should get in touch with a professional if you have problems with your solar panels that require repair or replacement. If you’re still covered by a warranty for performance or power output, give the company that installed your panels a call. They can send someone to check things out and fix or replace them if needed.
In the case of physical damage to your panels, you may have a separate warranty specifically for equipment coverage. Reach out to your solar installer, who’ll guide you on the best course of action to replace the damaged panels.
And remember, fiddling with solar panels or attempting repairs yourself isn’t a good idea unless you know your way around home solar systems.
If you want your solar panels to last long, perform at their best, and give you the best bang for your buck, regular upkeep is key. In most cases, you don’t need special training, tools, or equipment to keep your panels in working order. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask a pro for help. With routine care, your solar panels will continue to be a reliable and sustainable source of clean energy for years to come.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about