Cleaning Your Solar Panels: Is It Even Necessary
Your solar panels need to be exposed to sunlight in order to produce power. However, unless you live somewhere with high amounts of smog, dust, dirt or sand blowing around, solar panel cleaning is generally not necessary. In most cases, occasional rain will be enough to naturally and safely keep your solar panels clean and free of debris that could lower production.
How Does Extreme Weather Impact Your Solar Panels
Solar panels are made for durability, which means you can keep on using them for years to come. Best of all, theyll keep performing at peak efficiency even after years of wear and tear, thanks to their advanced design. This includes rain, wind, snow, and even hail. Not only that but theres evidence that they survive hurricanes, with places experiencing hurricanes having little damage to their solar panels.
However, they are not 100% indestructible. On rare occasions, thin-film photovoltaic panels can suffer damage due to extreme weather conditions, such as hail, hurricanes, tornadoes and lighting. This is why you should take advantage of a good warranty and/or have your solar panels insured by your homeowners insurance policy.Panels are affected by the weather, mostly with regard to heat. If it gets too hot, a reduction of 1% per degree will occur. However, if you lift the panels off the roof or ground, this may prevent overheating and keep them cool, thus maintaining their production level.
Use More Electricity During The Day
Your solar panels will be working at their peak during daylight hours. So itâs a good idea to reconsider when you do your washing, dishwashing and ironing to make the most of your solar energy.
If youâre home most of the day, this is easier to do. But itâs not impossible if youâre out â you just need to get to grips with your dishwasher and washing machineâs timer functions.
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How Can I Clean My Solar Panels
Cleaning your solar panels doesn’t have to be extensive or risky work. If youve decided to clean your panels yourself, what matters is that you follow these cleaning tips to keep both you and the solar system safe.
When in doubt, just remember that you can always call in the professionals to get the job done safely and efficiently. Because some solar installers are only focused on new installations, they dont all offer services like solar panel cleaning. If thats the case, rest assured that Palmetto can still provide any of your solar service and maintenance needs, even if you didnt purchase your solar power system from us.
How Much Electricity Loss Occurs With Dirty Solar Panels
The dirt on solar panels can build up over time and that can reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar panels. The dirtier your solar panels are, the lower the amount of power produced will be. The National Renewable Energy laboratory says that the loss could range as high as 25% in some areas. Since you want to maximise your solar panel efficiency, when your panels are dirty you should clean them.
On panels that have a 5-degree or less tilt, rain can leave a muddy puddle. When it dries, it can create a layer of dirt where sometimes weeds and moss start to grow. This can significantly reduce your solar panels output. Solar panels that have a steep tilt usually stay much cleaner than those with more of a horizontal slope.
Inspect your solar panels regularly based on the manufacturer specification. Check connections are tight, and look for dirt and debris. If you live in a dusty area, you might need to inspect more often.
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Solar Power Equipment And Maintenance Safety First
The best way to get the job done is on the ground with a long-handled implement. But if thats not possible and you choose to go on the roof, you must take precautions.
For example, a rope should be attached to a safety harness to prevent falling to the ground a method often used by professionals.
Additionally, no one should be on a roof without a hard hat and a safety harness. It is a potentially fatal environment. Check out this advice about working at these heights before you start. The task of solar panels cleaning is not worth your life!
Is It Worth Paying For A Solar Panel Cleaning Service
Just like going to a car wash, there are professional options for cleaning solar panels your solar installer may even do it for you, for a fee.
If you have a rooftop system, it may be a good idea to enlist a cleaning service, if only for safety reasons. Cleaning services wont do a significantly different or better job than you can do yourself, but they are equipped to safely clean and maintain rooftop units. For ground mount units it may not be worth the service fee when you can safely and effectively clean your own panels with a hose, some dish soap, and a soft rag.
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Perform An Annual Inspection
If possible, its best to delegate this task to a professional, as they will be able to identify causes and signs of system degradation much more easily than you can.
Annual inspections ensure your system will get necessary repairs before any faults start to affect its functions. Delegating cleaning tasks to professionals assisting with your yearly check is recommended if you cant find the time to do it yourself.
Hiring A Professional Solar Cleaning Service
While cleaning your panels on your own can be a quick weekend project, some of us may have a hard time accessing our roof. Maybe its too high or has a steep slant. In either case, dont risk injury trying to access your rooftop. Let someone else do the work for you.
Many companies are offering solar panel cleaning, many of which are window cleaning businesses. As with any service, shop around and check on their reputation. What are past customers saying about the company? Youll want to know ahead of time.
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How Do I Know If My Solar Panels Need Cleaning
There are two ways to recognise when your Solar Panels need a good cleaning. Either when you can visually start to see a build up of dirt, bird droppings and dust on the surface of your Solar Panels, or when your generation starts tailoring off. By now you should know when your Solar PV system is performing well or not. By using your monitoring platform, you will be able to identify if any irregularities occur. Once youve had your Solar Panels cleaned you should see a rise in efficiency!
Cleaning Solar Panels Yourself Vs Hiring A Professional
While cleaning them yourself may seem like a great way to save money, in most cases, its not only a risk to your solar system and the panels warranty, but its a risk to your own safety. No amount of energy savings is worth that. Youre also risking causing damage to your system that far exceeds any gains cleaning dirt off would ever give you.
We dont recommend you clean your solar panels, but if youre really set on it, stick to these basic tips to limit damage to your system.
First off, check-in with the solar installer to see if there is anything you should know relating to the system or special precautions you should take before cleaning. Then, make sure all the necessary safety gear is in place and being used properly.
Only use a soft stream of water from your garden hose . Using any type of high-pressure attachment or a power washer will likely cause damage to your solar panels which could greatly reduce your production and void your warranty.
Its also essential to never clean your panels with anything waxy, abrasive, or corrosive, as it could damage the coating on the panels. In fact, one of our solar panel manufacturers recommends never using any chemicals to clean your panels – just water.
Another important thing to note is that solar panels can get very hot when the sun is out. Opt for an overcast day to do the cleaning, if youre absolutely determined to do so.
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How Do You Clean Solar Panels
In most cases, getting your Solar Panels cleaned is a professional job, especially if they are roof mounted panels. This is because it is difficult to gain safe access to your Solar Panels otherwise. Another thing to consider, is that if you were to damage your Solar Panels in any way, your warranty would likely become void. By hiring a professional Solar Panel Expert, you will be in safe hands. As they will be knowledgable about the technology, as well as trained to work at heights with access equipment.
Is Rain Enough To Clean Solar Panels
The National Renewal Energy Laboratory indicated that cleaning solar panels are much more needed in areas with infrequent rainfall, like Southern California. Rain tends to flush out a lot of the unwanted residue sitting patiently and waiting to devour the sunlight headed towards your panels.
In Southern California, we do not get frequent rain to clean solar panels naturally, said DJ Schramm, co-founder of Green Convergence and 30-year plus roofer. So bird droppings, airborne particles from dirt, pollen, and pollution fall out, mix with dew to create grime and slime that reduces the ability of the solar array to perform at full capacity. Dirty panels reduce the return on your investment. We have seen losses as high as 30%.
Rain, however, is not the cure-all for cleaning solar panels because rain still contains within it airborne dust particles that will still leave a layer of dust on the panels. This means that although rain may wash out the old dust on the panels, it brings with it new dirty particles.
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Average Cost Of Solar Panel Cleaning In Burbank Ca
The average rates for professional cleaning in the Burbank area are below $200 and can start as low as $70. The cost of cleaning will depend on your system size, and how many of your panels require cleaning.
If you can access your roof but are short on time, we recommend you do a visual inspection before hiring a service. This way, youll know exactly how many panels need cleaning and wont be tricked into a larger package.
How To Tell When Your Solar Panels Need Maintenance
As mentioned above, solar panels are very durable and 25- to-30 year warranties are standard in the industry. However, solar power systems are only productive when their surface is kept clean. Dust, particles and objects will not cause permanent damage, but their electricity output can be reduced drastically.
If your solar panels are producing less electricity than usual, even with sunny weather, they could need cleaning or maintenance. There are two main ways to detect electricity production issues:
- Many solar inverters now come with energy monitoring apps, and you can simply check the electricity production with your smartphone. If there is a significant drop in the daily kilowatt-hour output, the app will let you know.
- When your solar panels are producing less electricity, there will also be an impact on your electricity bill. You will notice that more kilowatt-hours are consumed from the grid, which means you pay a higher bill.
Checking your energy monitoring app regularly is a good habit when you have solar panels. You can detect issues faster and get them fixed, instead of waiting for the next power bill. By then, you will have already used a lot of electricity from the grid.
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The Economics Of Paying For Solar Panel Cleaning Dont Pan Out
Paying people to clean your solar panels costs more than its worth. Even in a situation that is as close to being best case as is realistically possible.
Lets say you rescue a panel cleaners poodle from drowning during the great poodle flood of 07. As a reward she gives you a great deal on cleaning panels, only $5 each, and you pay her to clean them twice a year.
Your rooftop solar system is 5 kilowatts with 20 panels. Its in a sunny location that, without cleaning, generates an average of 25 kilowatt-hours a day. You have a 44 cent feed-in tariff and because you are never home during the day you receive it for every kilowatt-hour generated.
If solar panel cleaning twice a year results in a 2% increase in average solar generation, then you will earn around an extra $80 a year, but you will have spent $400 having your panels cleaned. So even under excellent circumstances it makes no financial sense. Even if having your panels cleaned twice a year increased their average output by 10% a year, which is extremely unlikely, you would only just break even.
Should I Clean My Solar Panels
While dust and dirt settling on your panels is unavoidable, thankfully, so is rain. Even just a mild and short rain shower will do a sufficient job of cleaning the grime off your panels and will have them performing at their full potential with no effort or money spent.
This is backed by a University of San Diego study where researchers looked at how much energy production was lost due to dust and grime each month during the summer drought. They found that in nearly every situation, hiring a professional to clean your panels is not worth the cost. There are, however, a few exceptions to this.
The Panels Pitch
In order for the rain to properly clean your system, the panels need to be pitched. The good news is, the study showed a pitch as slight as 5 degrees did the trick. So as long as your solar panels dont sit completely flat, rain will be enough to get your panels clean.
The Type of Dirt
Another consideration is the dirt itself – what is making the panels dirty and how often does it accumulate? While normal airborne particles such as pollen, dirt, and dust will wash off in the rain with ease, there are some items that could be a bit trickier, like bird droppings. Keep an eye on your panels before and after it rains to see if theyre coming clean. If some stubborn dirt is still hanging around, it may be worth looking into having them cleaned.
The Systems Location
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Doing It Yourself: Cleaning Your Solar Panels
In most cases, soap and water are all youll need. However, depending on the type of solar panels you have, youll want to check the manufacturers specific maintenance recommendations.
But generally speaking, solar panel cleaning doesnt require special chemicals or equipment. In fact, the same items you use to wash your car at home will work just fine.
How Can You Tell When Solar Panels Require Cleaning
It is best to conduct a monthly visual inspection so that you can see any noticeable dirt and grime accumulation. Another good way to determine if your solar panels need cleaning is referring to a solar system tracking app or electricity bill this method can pinpoint any decline in production.
If rain occurs frequently in your region, it can help reduce the need to clean the solar panels. But, of course, this does not mean that youll rely on the rain to do the cleaning for you. After all, proper and thorough cleaning can only be done by you or professionals.
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Tips On Cleaning Solar Panels
Cleaning your solar panels shouldnt cost an arm and a leg, nor should it be an overly complicated process. When its possible, spraying them off from the ground is easiest and best. But the stickier the buildup, the more likely it is that youll need cleaning tools and supplies to wipe your panels down from up close.
For minimal surface soiling made up mostly of dust, try hosing your solar panels off from the ground.
If your panels seem to be underperforming, your roof isnt too high, and your consideration of environmental factors leads you to conclude that a simple accumulation of dust is likely the problem, try hosing your panels off from the ground first. Its the safest, easiest, and most low-cost solution, which makes it the one with the highest return. Just remember, if your roof is low enough to be sprayed from the ground but high enough to require a pressure washer or a nozzle to concentrate the hose pressure, be sure not to blast your solar panels directly with harsh, high-pressure pulses of water. Hitting the dirty surface with high pressure may create scratches. And scratches will cast tiny shadows on the photovoltaic cells underneath the tempered glass layer, permanently depleting the energy output of your solar panels.
For heavier buildup, use soft scrubbers, mild soapy water, and a squeegee to wash your solar panels.
Cleaning supplies youll need:
How Often Do I Need To Clean Them
As weve mentioned before, weather and climate can dictate how often your panels need cleaning. If its an El Nino year, consider yourself lucky. If conditions are dry and windy, on the other hand, you might need to pull your ladder more than once.
How often your solar panels need cleaning will depend on a case by case basis. Also, the position of your panels and whether theyre surrounded by trees that drop leaves on top will determine how often they need cleaning. On average, however, twice a year is generally enough.
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