Rooftop solar panels are static systems that don’t contain any moving or rotary components. Thanks to this, solar panels do not require any major maintenance procedures to keep them in top shape. In fact, periodic cleaning is all the maintenance these systems ask of you.
Many solar owners leave their solar panels cleaned up to the seasonal rainfall. However, rainfall rarely ever suffices to properly clean your panels and that is why you must take up the task of cleaning and washing your solar panels. But why is solar panel cleaning even important and how often should you do it, you ask?
This article will explain the benefits of solar panel cleaning, how often you should do it, as well as some useful tips to help you out with the cleaning. So, without further ado, let’s begin!
Why Is Solar Panel Cleaning Important?
It is common knowledge that solar panels need sunlight to function, the more sunlight they receive, the better they perform. Knowing this, we can conclude that any amount of shading or blockages to sunlight will diminish the performance of your system. However, most people fail to consider the fact that obstructions to sunlight can come from more than just surrounding trees, buildings, or any other type of structure.
The layer of dirt, debris, bird droppings, and any other filth that accumulates over the top surface of your solar panels can substantially reduce the amount of sunlight that is passing through the solar panels and onto the solar cells.
This in turn will reduce the output of your system and leave you more dependent on the grid. Neglecting the cleaning of your solar panels can lead to a reduction of 1.5% to 6% in the output of your system annually. The same study concludes that in dustier and more polluted areas, this reduction in output can range between 2% to 50%.
Fortunately, you can easily hire a solar panel cleaning service to clean and maintain your system, ensuring that it delivers peak performance all year round. With finding a good cleaning service is as easy as typing “solar panel cleaning service near me” on Google, we see no reason why you’d want to neglect the cleaning of your solar panels.
How Often Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?
The frequency of solar panel cleaning depends on a variety of factors, the main ones being your location, the air pollution in your area, climate, as well as the surroundings of your property. If you’re located in a region with high levels of air pollution, dirt and debris will accumulate on your panels much faster than they would in a cleaner area.
Furthermore, if your home is surrounded by trees and nature, dead leaves and twigs will also fall and gather upon your panels adding to the layer of debris on your system. If any of this resembles your home, you’ll likely need to clean your solar panels more frequently than a solar owner who is located in a less polluted area and has no trees surrounding their home.
How does the climate come into play, you wonder? Solar panels systems located in regions that get a lot of rain need to be cleaned less frequently than systems in dry and arid areas. This is because frequent rain can wash away some of the dirt and debris from your system, thereby allowing you to go more days without having to clean your solar system and experiencing a decline in performance.
Generally, it is recommended to clean your solar system once every six months in order to sustain optimal system performance and reap the benefits of your solar system to the fullest. However, as explained above, if you’re located in a dusty and polluted area, you’ll likely want to clean your solar panels more often.
A wiser approach would be to check your system for dirt and debris each week and clean away any filth before it negatively affects the performance of your system.
Is Rain Enough to Clean Solar Panels?
Rainfall can be a major benefit for solar owners since it can give your rooftop solar panels a natural wash. The runoff water from the rain can loosen up the dirt and debris from atop your panels and carry it into your roof gutters. However, there are two primary reasons why rain cannot adequately clean your solar panels.
First of all, there are minute dust particles suspended in the air around us and so when rain falls, it carries those dust particles along with it. The end result is that rainwater itself can leave a layer of dust atop your solar panels which will have to be cleaned manually.
Secondly, the dust and debris that accumulates on your solar panels tend to fuse together forming a hard layer, especially during warm and sunny conditions. As such, the rain may not be enough to break away these hardened dust layers. Because of this, rain is often not enough to thoroughly clean your solar panels.
It bears repeating however, that rain does help clean your solar panels, partially, and therefore, can allow you to go longer without having to clean your solar panels.
Benefits of Cleaning Solar Panels
Shorter Payback Period
Solar panels make for an expensive investment and so it’s only natural that a solar owner would want to recoup their investment as soon as possible. By generating free-of-cost energy, your solar system reduces or eliminates your dependency on the grid. In doing so, your system reduces your electric bill, thereby helping you regain the sum you invested into the solar system.
Clearly, the better your system performs, the more you’ll save on your electric bill and the better your ROI is, i.e., a faster payback period. However, the accumulation of dust and debris on your rooftop solar panels will block off some of the incident sunlight, thereby reducing the output of your solar system and increasing your reliance on the grid to fulfill your energy needs.
This means you’ll save less on your electric bills and your system will take longer to recuperate the solar installation cost. Needless to say, periodically cleaning your solar panels, as needed in your area, can help you maintain peak system performance and enjoy a faster return on your investment.
The dust particles, sand grains, and grime that accumulate on your solar panels after you leave them uncleaned for some time can be extremely detrimental to the health of your system. These small particles will deposit on your solar panels, sneak into the crevices, corners, edges, and other tiny spaces, and will gradually wear away your system.
Bird droppings, on the other hand, are very acidic and can corrode the solar panels and mounting equipment if not cleaned away promptly. While the damage may not be noticeable in the beginning, it will show face in the form of expensive damages and replacements in a few years. Your system will start losing its efficiency and performance at an accelerated rate and will deprive you of the benefits for which you installed the system.
Cleaning your solar panels regularly, however, can help decelerate the wear and tear of your system and extend its lifespan. The longer your system lasts, the greater the savings you earn on your electric bill.
Keep Warranty Intact
All solar panels come with a manufacturer’s warranty that usually secures the panels for, give or take, 25 years, however, this may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The warranty covers the panels in case of certain types of faults that can be associated with the manufacturer and bears no liability to the owner.
Solar panel warranties, however, are subject to certain terms and conditions set by the manufacturer, all of which have to be met otherwise the warranty becomes void. Some manufacturers also include the regular cleaning of solar panels in their terms and conditions agreement for their solar panels’ warranty. This means that by neglecting the cleaning of your solar panels, you could risk voiding your warranty.
As such, any faults in your solar system, be it a manufacturing fault, will not be covered by the manufacturer and you yourself will have to cover the cost for the required repairs or replacements.
In addition to providing your home with free and green energy, solar panels also function as an excellent aesthetic element. Your solar system can elevate the appearance and curb appeal of your property by granting your roof an elegant and minimalistic look.
Dirt-covered solar panels, on the other hand, can do the very opposite and can detract from the aesthetic appeal of your roof, making it look aged and untidy. That is why adopting a habit of regular solar panel cleaning is essential to ensure a clean and aesthetic home that enjoys free and sustainable energy.
4 Useful Solar Panel Cleaning Tips You Should Know About
Block Off Your Rainwater Collectors before You Begin Cleaning
A lot of homes in the United States have rainwater collectors that are connected to their roof gutters. When it rains, the gutters channel all the runoff water from the roof into the rainwater collectors for storage and later use.
If you begin your solar panel cleaning without disconnecting these collectors or blocking off the gutter, all the dirty and soapy water will go into your collector and contaminate the previously collected water. Knowing this, make sure to block off your gutter or disconnect the rainwater collector before starting your cleaning.
Don’t Clean the Panels During Midday
Cleaning your solar panels at midday when the sun is at its peak can potentially damage the solar panels. This is so because your solar panels will also be performing at their highest capacity at this time and therefore, will be at their hottest temperature of the day.
Splashing water on the hot panels will result in a rapid temperature change. This will, in turn, lead to an abrupt and uneven contraction of the panel glass causing it to crack. It is therefore recommended to do the cleaning in the early morning or on an overcast day.
Another disadvantage of cleaning your panels at midday is that you’ll be shutting down your solar system at a time when it can give you the most power during the day which seems like an unwise decision to make.
Shut Down the System Before You Start Cleaning
Above anything, solar panels are an electrical system consisting of a variety of electrical components such as wires, charge controllers, etc. Cleaning your solar system while it’s turned on bears the risk of water entering the electricals of your system.
This can lead to short-circuiting, sparks, and various other hazards, all of which would end in either one or both of the following situations: you get electrocuted and the system catches fire.
Don’t Use a Pressure Washer or Hard Bristle Brush
Pressure washers, hard bristle brushes, and even strong cleaning fluids can be extremely abrasive and so, can scratch up the top glass layer of solar panels or even cause it to crack. Any cracks or scratches on the glass layer will cause the incident sunlight to disperse. This means less light will now get transmitted to the solar cells, thereby reducing the output and efficiency of your solar panels.
Instead, use a soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge coupled with mildly soapy water. This should suffice for properly cleaning your solar panels without harming them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I Need to Turn Off Solar Panels to Clean?
Since solar panels are electrical systems, it is essential that you turn them off before cleaning them to prevent electrocution and electrical fires. You can refer to the manual to learn about the turn-off procedure.
How Does Cleaning Affect Solar Panel Efficiency?
Cleaning solar panels can significantly increase their efficiency.
Do Solar Panels Need to Be Routinely Cleaned?
Cleaning solar panels once every six months is generally enough for typical solar systems. However, in more high-pollution areas, the cleaning should be done more frequently.
Is It Safe to Wash Solar Panels?
Washing rooftop solar panels involve having to climb onto slippery and slanted rooftops which, without the proper experience, tools, and knowledge can lead to accidents and injuries. It is therefore advisable to hire a professional solar cleaning service for your solar panel cleaning such as SOLARMEDIX. Simply head on to Google and type “best solar panel cleaning service near me” and you’ll be presented with all good and qualified options.
In view of everything outlined and explained above, we can conclude that cleaning solar panels is imperative if you intend to make the most of your solar investment. Keep in mind that solar cleaning can be a tricky task owing to the treacherous and sloping roof conditions. It would be wise to hire a professional solar panel cleaning service for the task.
Our team at Solar Medix is ready to answer your questions and give you a no-obligation price quote. Feel free to call us at 732-785-4814 or book a consultation online. And we’ll get in touch within 24 hours.