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How to Clean Solar Panels and How Often

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how to clean solar panels

As a solar panel owner, you might think that once your system is in place, you can forget about it. While this is partially true because your solar panels will create electricity without your intervention, there may come a point when you want to know how to clean your solar panels and how frequently you need to do so.

If you live in the UK, you may have assumed that the quantity of rain we get will take care of the cleaning for you, and in many cases, it will. Most solar panels are designed to be self-cleaning, but like anything else, they may require some assistance from time to time.

You may discover that your solar panels are dirtier than you think, which may be due to various reasons, such as panel tilt or the level of pollution in your location. However, properly kept panels will help you maximise the volume of electricity your solar panels can create and, as a result, minimise your energy expenses.

By maintaining solar panels in good condition, we can expect them to work optimally, be free of any safety issues, and continue producing energy for our homes or businesses for many years.

In this article, we’ll advise how to clean solar panels and when and whether you can do it yourself or if you need to hire professional solar panel cleaning services.

Does Cleaning Improve Solar Panel Efficiency?

Solar panel cleaning is necessary to get the most out of your panels. For protection, the solar cells in a panel are usually covered by a glass coating. Unfortunately, the dirtier this coating becomes, the less efficient the solar panels are.

Several factors could contribute to a decrease in the efficiency of your solar panel. If the surface of the panels is obstructed by pollution, traffic dust, or bird droppings, the efficiency will suffer because light will not reach the cells.

While numerous factors can influence the amount of electricity your solar panels produce, dirty solar panels can be one of the most significant and simplest to repair. It’s also a good idea to inspect your solar panels regularly, which can help prevent problems from arising in the first place.

Ways to Check Solar Panels

There are several ways to determine whether your solar panels require cleaning:

Physical examination. Your solar panels need to be thoroughly checked on a regular basis, especially if the weather is bad or there is a lot of dust in the area. The connections must also be inspected at this time so that you may keep track of their status.

Make use of a monitoring service. A physical inspection is performed regularly, but it is a good idea to supplement this with a monitoring and management system. These are actively checking the solar panels’ status and condition. You can pay upfront or a monthly fee to monitor your system’s performance levels which helps to avoid damage and may even extend the life of your panels.

Every month, a solar array generates a particular amount of power. With the help of remote monitoring, you can receive information about whether the system is down or not performing efficiently.

Furthermore, a solar monitoring system can show you how much electricity is being saved and the amount of CO2 being prevented from reaching the atmosphere. It can also display the amount of money that you are saving.

What Equipment Will I Need to Clean Solar Panels?

In most cases, you’ll already have the supplies you need to clean your solar panels at home.

Soft brushes, like those used to clean a car, are best for preventing scratches on your panels. A squeegee with a blade and a soft sponge should be used for heavy soiling but avoid using abrasive cleaning items as they may cause significant damage to your solar panels.

High-pressure water hoses (such as pressure washers) can also damage panels, so a conventional hose or watering can suffice. A bucket filled with water and a non-abrasive cloth or sponge will also do the trick.

While the COVID-19 pandemic taught us much about using soap and water, it’s best to avoid using detergents and soaps when cleaning your solar panels. They often have a high chemical composition and can leave a greasy film on top of your system, reducing the energy generated.

Warm water and a soft brush should suffice for dirt and grime that is likely to be on your solar panels.

Health and Safety First

Before you begin, make sure you do your research and know how you should clean your solar panels. This will save you time and avoid accidents. Check to see if you can reach the solar panels from the ground or if you need to use a ladder.

If your system is in a difficult-to-reach location or requires a more thorough cleaning, you may need to hire a solar panel cleaning company. However, in most cases, solar panels can be kept clean without professional assistance.

We recommend turning off your system for a short period before cleaning your solar panels. Solar panels can become hot, and dumping too much water into a device can cause damage!

How to Clean Your Solar Panels

Once you’ve determined that your panels require cleaning and whether you need to climb to the roof or can access your panels from the ground, it’s time to get to work.

Panels are best cleaned in the morning or late evening on a cloudy day. If you clean the panels on a hot, sunny day, the water you use will evaporate and leave unsightly marks on your solar system, and you will miss capturing the maximum amount of energy from your system.

Cleaning your panel first thing in the morning is much easier and faster. Your solar panels will be at their coolest, and the morning dew will soften any dirt and grime.

Use a soft brush to remove debris and dust from your system before applying water. When cleaning your panels, be as gentle as possible, as they are best cleaned with a water-fed pole and a soft brush or squeegee.

When cleaning your solar panels, soft water is the best option, however, if you only have hard water, use a soft squeegee to get rid of any excess, as the calcium in hard water will leave stains on the panels as they dry.

Is Cleaning Solar Panels Worth the Effort?

In a nutshell, yes. Once you have the right tools and understand how to clean your solar panels properly, you’ll realise that maintaining your solar panel system is no more challenging than cleaning your windows.

Proper cleaning of your solar panels will not only improve their efficiency, but you will also see a rise in energy production. So whether you hire a professional or clean the solar panels yourself, the effort is well worth it.

How Often Should I Clean My Solar Panels?

According to the consensus, solar panels should be cleaned once or twice a year, so that’s roughly every six months. However, if you live in a particularly dusty area with a lot of road pollution, nearby trees, or even construction work, you might want to consider cleaning them more frequently.

Cleaning Factors That Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

A buildup of dust & contaminants

Regular solar panel maintenance is required because dust, dirt and other contaminants that accumulate can degrade the performance of your solar panels. Factors influencing how frequently you should clean your solar panels include your location and the surrounding elements.

While some smaller studies suggest that heavy rain may help clean and clear debris and contaminants from your panels, many studies indicate that dust build-up can reduce your system’s efficiency. According to one study, properly maintained solar panels perform 3.5% more efficiently.

Solar equipment installed in dusty areas near major highways and farmlands will necessitate more frequent maintenance. Failure to clean dust from solar panels installed in such locations can harm solar production.

While dust is a common contaminant, leaves whether loose or overhanging can also be a factor as they can block the sunlight that is essential to your solar panel efficiency.

Bird droppings

Bird droppings can have a significant impact on solar panel performance. For example, if bird droppings cover part or all of a single solar panel, a string-inverter PV system may produce little or no energy at all. Likewise, the affected panels may produce no or limited power in a micro-inverter.

Trees located near your panels will shed their leaves and branches but also attract birds which may look to take up the opportunity to make a home under your solar panels. Bird droppings and debris can accumulate over time, necessitating cleaning, clearing, and generally posing a safety hazard. As a result, pigeon-proofing may be required to be carried out

The angle of the roof-mounted panels

The angle is another factor to consider to keep your panels performing optimally. Flat arrays require more maintenance because water can pool and evaporate, leaving a muddy residue.

Proper-angled arrays can benefit from the cleaning potential of the rain as the rain can easily slide across them, helping to keep them mostly free of dust and contaminants.

Why Professional Solar Cleaning Is the Best Option

Many homeowners prefer to do their solar panel maintenance themselves. However, this probably isn’t the safest option, and you need to adhere to safety requirements when using this approach to ensure safe solar panel cleaning.

Many homeowners prefer a low-cost DIY approach, but solar panel cleaning companies provide a professional service and follow all the correct safety protocols. Utilising their professional solar panel cleaning services will ensure your solar panels are thoroughly cleaned and their efficiency boosted.

When should you have your solar from solar cleaning experts?

A little build-up on your solar panels may not be a big deal and can sometimes be removed with your garden hose. You may be able to see obvious signs of your solar panels needing cleaning or might have noticed a fall-off in performance.

If they haven’t been cleaning for some time, bringing in some cleaning professionals can effectively handle any stubborn dirt issues and ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk by trying to access the solar panels on your roof. An expert panel cleaning company will usually ensure the highest cleaning standards.

Solar Power Equipment and Maintenance

If you are still insistent on cleaning your solar panels yourself, you can always use tools like rotary solar brushes and a water hose to get the job done. These tools are safe options as you can use them while keeping your feet firmly on the ground. However, in certain cases, climbing to the roof is required to complete the task, and the appropriate safety equipment, including a safety harness and hard hat, may be required.

To effectively remove grime from your solar panel array, use a mild detergent and a soft, clean sponge. A specialised solar panel cleaning fluid can help to achieve the best results. It is always best to enlist the help of a professional if your solar panels need extensive cleaning and maintenance.

Solar Panel Cleaning Summary

Solar panels are both efficient and easy(ish) on the wallet, especially considering the annual savings you’ll make. Solar panels have come a long way since their inception, so you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of pounds on equipment that may or may not function properly; you can now buy quality products at reasonable prices.

While some solar PV systems may consist of self-cleaning solar panels, the majority still require a proper maintenance routine, including panel cleaning, to ensure that your solar panels perform optimally and will continue to do so for years to come.

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Oliver Creevy
Ollie Creevy has over three years of expertise in the home improvements and solar panels sectors by writing content across multiple websites. He is highly knowledgeable about the latest trends, technologies and practices in this industry, and is passionate about sharing his insights with others. Ollie's writing has been featured in numerous publications, including MSN, Bustle, and Realtor.com.

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