Solar panels are some of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly ways to instantly cut your electricity bills down to size. Solar users save hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars a year by generating their own power, and get to enjoy those savings for decades once the panels are installed.
Solar power systems are generally extremely low maintenance. They have few (if any) moving parts, and the warranties for the panels last for 25 years or longer. However, every so often, they may need a clean to ensure optimal generation.
Here’s what you need to know.
Do you need to clean solar panels?
Yes, solar panels do need to be cleaned from time to time!
The efficiency of a solar power system depends significantly on the right placement of panels. You need as much direct sunlight as possible, so your panels must be installed at the right orientation and out of the shade.
The same goes for dirt, grime and other contaminants. While a little dust isn’t going to have a noticeable effect on your solar generation, a significant buildup can eventually block the sunlight from hitting your panels - and therefore reduce your generation capacity.
How to clean solar panels
The vast majority of the time, solar panels are self-cleaning. Rainwater is enough to keep your panels clean in most circumstances. However, if you live in a very dry area with little rain, or in an area with a lot of contaminants (bird droppings are a common one), you may need to get in there yourself.
Thankfully, cleaning solar panels is easy:
- Mix warm water with a small amount of a mild detergent, such as dish soap, in a bucket.
- Spray the panels gently with a hose - starting with wet panels will help you avoid soapy streaks.
- Use a long-handled mop soaked in your cleaning solution to gently scrub your panels.
- Spray the panels again with the hose until all the soap is off.
Simple as! If you want to get better results, keep these tips in mind:
1. Safety first
There’s two big elements of danger when it comes to solar panels: heights and electricity. You don’t want to mess with either of them!
Before you start your clean, switch off the power from your panels. This will ensure that, should anything go awry, you won’t have the additional concern of live wires to deal with.
When you start your clean, stay on the ground. It’s tempting to get the ladder out and get face-to-face with the panels to really get into the crevices, but save yourself the trouble and the danger. Use a hose for the water cleaning and a long-handled mop or soft brush for the scrub.
2. Clean in the morning or on an overcast day
Solar panels can get very hot when in direct sunlight. If you try to clean on a bright day, you’ll find that you get watermarks and soap smudges as the water evaporates too quickly. Adding cold water to a hot panel can also make the glass contract too quickly and crack.
Instead, save your cleaning for a cooler period. Early morning is a great choice, as the dew that settles on the panels overnight may have softened the grime for you. That means less water and less energy required for cleaning. Win-win!
3. Be gentle
Solar panels are tough and durable, but they benefit from a gentle touch during cleaning.
Using metal cleaning tools, rough scourers, or a water blaster on high power can scratch your panels. These scratches cast shadows on the energy generation cells below, resulting in poorer performance - the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve with the clean!
Instead, stick to soft brushes, gentle pressure hoses, and mild detergents (if you need to use any at all). If there’s a stubborn mark, it’s better to leave it than to risk damaging your panels permanently with too much vigorous scrubbing.
One last point: if your mains-supplied water is hard (i.e. mineral rich), you can still use it to clean the panels. Just make sure you squeegee it off ASAP once you’re done to avoid deposits forming on the glass.
4. Read the manufacturer’s guide
Keeping your panels clean is likely to require the same process regardless of which panels you have, but some manufacturers include some guidance on how to keep their products in tip-top shape.
Make sure you read through before starting your clean, as you may find your specific product has some specific needs when cleaning. These manuals will also have the procedure for shutting down your solar system (see the previous tip about safety!).
5. Consider hiring a pro
Cleaning your solar panels is easy. All they need is a spray with the hose - most of the time.
If the dirt buildup gets too much and it’s impacting your generation, it may be worth calling in the professionals to deal with the dirt for you. They have the tools and training to really make your panels shine, getting your solar energy generation back on track.
If your own efforts aren’t quite making the cut, consider getting a professional team in to deal with the dirt buildup for you.
Solar panels are tough devices, able to withstand rain, wind and high temperatures - but even they need a little TLC from time to time.
For more tips, tricks and information on your solar power system, get in touch with the team at ZEN Energy today.