Good question. After all, solar panels are quite an investment, so, keeping them spic and span at all times seems like the sensible thing to do. But just how could one go about doing so? Aren’t they delicate? What if I used the wrong stuff? Could I accidentally damage them? Heck, is it even needed? If you have found yourself wrestling with such questions (among others, possibly), then this article is for you.
Now, while it may seem like a chore, cleaning solar panels regularly is something you should take seriously if you want to squeeze every last bit of energy you can. Dust, leaves, pollutants, bird droppings and other airborne particles deposit on them all the time, hindering them from performing optimally.
In fact, the Solar Energy Power Association has discovered that dirty solar panels can lose up to 20% of their energy output while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory pegged the figure at 25%. So, if you are wondering why your solar panel output has been inconsistent, they may be in need of a thorough washdown. Here are a few ways you can do so…
When to Clean Solar Panels
Depends on a few factors. If you live in a place where it rains a lot, you can count on the occasional downpour to take care of the solar panel cleaning. But, what if you are living next to the sea? There’s a good chance you may notice a salt crust on your panels. People living on a farm may regularly see dust, husk or bird droppings and homes in industrial regions or airports might find oil stains on their panels. In such cases, washing solar panels regularly becomes a necessity.
The tilt of the solar panel also plays an important part in determining how much cleaning it needs. As per this article, if the tilt of a panel is 5 degrees or less, rainwater can start leaving puddles that can lead to nasty stains after drying up.
A better question to ask is how often should solar panels be inspected. Routine upkeep can not only help ward off faults, but also determine whether your solar panels require any cleaning at all. You can ask your installer to help create a maintenance schedule.
But, let’s say you have determined your solar panels need to washed and waiting for the next round of maintenance drill isn’t an option. Well in that case, here’s how you can use ordinary household items to clean your solar panels in no time at all…
Washing Solar Panels the Right Way
First things first – turn off the power box before heading out. Solar panels are best cleaned either early in the morning or evening time when they are cooler. They can heat up considerably during the midday hours and spraying cold water can cause them to crack, or, the water can dry quickly, leaving mineral stains. Early morning dew can be used to soften the dirt as well.
Hard water or water that is high in mineral content can cause scaling on your solar panels and reduce their efficiency, so, it’s best to avoid groundwater altogether. Consider using a water softener before washing your solar panels. Water from a RO (Reverse Osmosis) unit can be used, too. Finally, collected rainwater is a great option as well as it is inherently devoid of minerals.
Using Cleaning Agents
Caustic cleaning agents can damage the glass covering, so, they are best avoided. Dishwashing soaps or outdoor glass cleaners are a better option here.
Consider using a squeegee with a long handle, or soft cloth to wipe the dust off the panels before dousing them with soft water. Next, squeegee them clean, then wipe the water off.
Things to Consider When Cleaning Solar Panels
- Don’t use metal cleaners or anything abrasive. You DO NOT want to scratch the glass cover as it can very adversely affect the performance of the panels.
- Consider contacting your installer if the solar panels are in an inaccessible region of your roof. Better safe than sorry.
- A.M. Sun Solar does not suggest you go on your roof to clean your panels. Contact us and we will recommend a company to clean your panels for you if you cannot clean them well enough from the ground.
- There will be stubborn, sticky stains. Don’t fight them. You just might end up damaging the panel. Treat them with a little patience, they will go.
You will find a lot of articles online saying that cleaning solar panels is a waste of time and money (if you are getting it done professionally). But, as mentioned before, this depends entirely on where you live.
A great way to find out if your solar panel needs a cleaning is to check the meter. Do you have any nagging doubts your solar power system is not be performing as it must? If not then chances are it might be in need of a washdown. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help!