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Solar power system: big savings, little maintenance

Francisco CastroJune 6, 20191730

Did you know that solar energy is the only form of electricity that does not require any moving parts?

That means that once you place them on your roof or some other part of your property, you can expect the solar panels to be there generating electricity for 25+ years without having to do much maintenance, except for cleaning them. 

If you’ve heard of “money pits” you know that some things are simply too much to handle, with excessive costs to maintain. Just as an example, Motor1.com explains that the Porsche Cayman sports coupe is the costliest vehicle to maintain, “and is projected to set an owner back an average $2,370 each year for maintenance and repairs.” 

Solar panels, on the other hand, start saving you money as soon as they are turned on.

Consumer Affairs estimates that on average, “American families can expect to see a savings of approximately $1,400 per year on their electric bill by switching to solar energy. Taking into account the 30 percent federal tax credit for installing solar panels, most Americans' solar panels start paying for themselves within seven years.”

This while requiring little to no maintenance. Photovoltaic (PV) modules are designed to be durable. Top quality solar panel installations allow PV systems to withstand all kinds of weather, from wind and rain to snow and more. 

The only thing solar panels need to function is direct sunlight and that would mean be free from shade, dirt, leaves and other debris that may obstruct the sun’s rays.

Cleaning them might be easier depending on the angle of your panels, or whether they’re tilted or not. For instance, if they’re tilted, rainfall will usually wash away any debris. 

During the dry season, it’s important to clean them manually. It is generally recommended that you perform solar panel cleaning between two and four times per year. But that only means a quick spray with a garden hose.

In winter, you may need to clean your panels after a heavy snowfall. You can use a squeegee with a long handle. Just remember, never use hot water when clearing snow off the panels. The panels are made of tempered glass, and the extreme temperature change between hot water and cold panels can crack them.

If your solar panels are ground-mounted, cleaning them is even easier. You can simply use a soft broom to clear away debris.

However, if there is particularly heavy accumulation on your panels and even cleaning them doesn’t seem to work, you might want to hire a professional. There are several companies that offer this service. An average cost of cleaning will be about $150.

Make sure solar panels are working

By integrating a solar panel monitoring system into your setup, you can track how much energy your panels produce on any given day, and how much they produce over time. This allows you to see exactly how various external factors affect your panels' performance and how well they're maintaining their efficiency across their life. The monitoring system will also alert you if a panel breaks or malfunctions so that you can repair or replace it.

Different solar panel and inverter manufacturers have their own monitoring systems, some accessible through a phone app, that will keep you abreast of how your home solar power system is doing.  

Damages and repairs

Their durability does not mean solar panels are indestructible. They are, after all, a piece of equipment. They can suffer damage by hail, hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. 

If they are damaged, or you notice that they are losing efficiency and are generating less power without any particular reason, call the solar installer who did the job - if they are still under warranty. That will probably be the case, since a good solar manufacturer will give you a warranty of between 15 and 25 years, and guarantee that your panels' energy production remains at 80% or above for that entire time.

If anything happens to your panels, the company will send someone to assess the situation and either fix the problem or replace them.

If your panels have sustained physical damage, that's often covered under a separate equipment warranty, or under your homeowners' insurance. The warranty contract your solar installer provides you after the installation will detail who to contact to file a claim. 

Just make sure not to attempt to do any repairs on your own, or have someone else do it, as this will void the warranty. 

About the only thing you will have to replace during the lifespan of your domestic solar power system is the inverter. They’re the brains of the system, transforming the DC power generated by your panels into AC electricity that your appliances use. A string inverter will usually last 10-15 years. However, if you use microinverters, they come with a warranty similar to that of solar panels - 25 years. 

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