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How to Clean Your Solar Panels

Jessica PirroAugust 14, 20195260

Cleaning Your Solar Panels

If you have a residential solar panel installation, your solar panels are going to be generally flat, tilted, and on your rooftop. But, most homeowners don’t clean their roof very often, if that clean it at all. Their excuse, ‘that’s what the rain is for, and that is sort of the same logic that goes for solar panels.

In most cases, you aren’t going to need to clean your solar panels that often, if you need to even clean your solar panel installation at all. After all, anything that accumulates dirt on them, such as dust or pollen, will get washed off the next time that it rains. However, there are some situations where it makes sense to clean your solar panels. If your solar-powered systems are filled with a lot of bird droppings, the rain may not be able to clean it. If you live in a place, such as Southern California, where the rain is pretty limited, it may be a good idea to clean your solar-powered system as well.

Do Dirt and Debris Have an Impact on the Efficiency of a Solar Panel? If so How Much?

The answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, the dirt and debris can affect how much sunlight gets through to convert the light to solar energy. However, the amount the efficiency of a solar panel is lowered is very small, 5% or less. With a typical 5kW solar-powered system, this could equate to around $20 of loss in your energy bill. Even in the areas that often face droughts, eventually, when it does rain all of the dirt and debris will be washed off of the solar panels.  

How to Clean Solar Panels

If you decide that you need to clean your solar-powered system, there are two main ways of doing it, you can either hire a professional or you can do it yourself. A lot of solar companies are offering cleaning solar panel installation services, or they will suggest you get it done every so often when the come to install the solar panels. The truth is, what you get back cost-wise in your energy bill does not surpass the amount that you need to shell out these solar companies to perform the work. Solar companies are often going to charge quite a bit to do the cleaning, for not much return on your energy bill.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in doing it yourself, you are going to generally give all you will need to do it at home. In most cases, it won’t involve anything more than a hose, maybe some soap and you’re good to go. This may is helpful in drought-prone areas as well, because essentially what you’re doing with the hose is the same thing the rain would if you got more of it in your area.

There are certain ways to determine if your solar panels need cleaning, to begin with. One is a physical inspection of the solar panels for debris, dirt, bird droppings, etc. The other way is the use of a solar power monitoring system that will alert you on your solar panels performance. This will alert you to any maintenance needs for your solar-powered system, whether that’s a mechanical, electrical, or the cleanliness.

What Do You Use to Clean Solar Panels?

If you are interested in cleaning your solar panel installation on your own, there are a few products that you can use to clean them. Check with your solar installer and providers to determine if there’s any information about cleaning your solar panel installation, recommendation, and even the do’s and don’ts when it comes to cleaning solar-powered systems.

The most effective way to clean your solar panels is the same way you clean a car, with a hose and a bucket of soapy water. Because you don’t want to scratch the solar panels in any way, it is best if you just use water and a non-abrasive sponge to apply soapy water. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use any sort of non-abrasive sponge to apply the soapy water. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use any high-pressure water sprayer when washing off your solar panels. A high-pressure attachment can damage the solar panels themselves.

If you do use something other than only water, you should make sure that you’re using a soft and hard bristle-free. Sponges are great products to clean solar panels. If you decide to use a little bit of sponge, use something that you would clean your dishes with. But plain water works the best in most cases.

Keep in mind that solar panels can be extremely hot when the sun is beating down on them. It is best to pick a cool, overcast day to clean the solar panels. Not only to protect yourself from burns but if you are attempting to clean the solar panels while it is hot out, the soapy water you are putting on the solar panels will evaporate quickly and may leave smears on the solar panels that may affect the efficiency of a solar panel.

Maintenance and Upkeep 

So, in general, you can let the rain clean your solar panel installation. Monitor the functionality of the solar panels by paying attention to your energy bill and usage month-to-month. If you notice changes in your electric bill, maybe it’s time to think about cleaning or some other sort of maintenance. If you think the fluctuations in your energy bill could be because you need solar panel cleaning. After cleaning see if the efficiency of a solar panel returns to normal after the rain hits it. If so, that’s probably the end of it. If you find out that the functionality is still acting wonky, it could be something electrical that needs fixing instead of just cleaning them.

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