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Solar Panel System Maintenance

Anastasia KravchukMay 17, 201710390

One of the most commonly asked questions asked by homeowners looking to go solar is, “How do I take care of my solar panels after installation?” Solar panel maintenance may be a legitimate concern for you, especially if you are second-guessing solar because you think you will not have the time or strength to care for such a large, expensive system. After all, the solar panels will most likely be installed high on your roof, and you would probably be disappointed if you had to climb up there every week to clean your solar equipment.

Fortunately, residential solar PV systems are incredibly durable and require very little maintenance, compared to other power systems. As a general rule, you should perform a few simple cleaning tasks and performance checks a couple times per year. Remember, if you lease your solar panel system from a third-party, all maintenance and repairs are the solar company’s responsibility, not yours.

 

Solar Panel Array

Since there are no moving parts in a solar PV system, an occasional rainy day should be enough to give your solar panels a good wash. If you live in a dusty climate, with little rain, you may need to brush off debris and dirt a few times a year to avoid a dip in production. If you are worried about the effect of snow or other weather conditions on your panels see Solar Panel Efficiency vs. Weather https://hahasmart.com/blog/58/solar-panel-efficiency-vs-weather

If you have neglected cleaning your solar panels for quite a while, you may want clean the glass surface with a damp sponge or cloth. Solar panels are waterproof, so water or mild detergent can safely be used whenever necessary. Try to avoid strong solvents or abrasive detergents as they may damage the panels and void your warranty.

If your panels are mounted in a place that is difficult to access, it may be better to hire a professional cleaning service. Ask your solar installer to recommend someone local to help you.

 

Inverters and Wiring

Inverters and junction boxes should be checked periodically for preventative protection from weather damage. In high humidity environments, you should check the internal terminals and connectors for any signs of corrosion. In a dusty climate, you may need to check your filter a few times a year.

Junction boxes should also be checked annually to ensure that the wires are not chewed by rodents or insects. Wiring should be checked for any corrosion, cracking, or breaking. If any evidence of deterioration is found, the installer of the system should be contacted immediately.

 

Battery

If you are off grid, or relying on a battery for backup power you will need to periodically inspect the battery to make sure it remains functional. Even so called “maintenance-free” batteries require regular inspections of the case, terminal connections, voltage, and wiring at the very least 2 times a year.

To inspect a battery’s state of charge, you can measure battery voltage with a multimeter or hydrometer, depending on your battery type. Disconnect the battery from both the array and the load before taking a voltage reading. For detailed information on battery inspection see the following guide:

http://www.sunepi.org/SunEPI/Haiti_files/Operation_Maintenance.pdf

All batteries should be cleaned a couple times a month, and cleaned even more often if they are excessively dirty. With dust and moisture on the batteries, current paths can set up between the terminals causing tracking, corrosion, and quicker discharge. The bottom line is, clean batteries last longer, so the more often you clean the better performance you can expect.

 

Emergency Maintenance

Today, all solar panel manufacturers provide warranties that guarantee coverage in situations that result in unforeseen damage, such as hail, falling tree branches, or system malfunction. Usually solar panel warranties last 25 years, inverter warranties last 10 years and both cover the cost of repair and replacement. Remember that regular preventative checks can help you address any issues with your PV system proactively, and avoid the hassle of replacing parts.

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