Can Cleaning Solar Panels Improve The Performance Of Pv Systems
As we’ve seen so far, the short answer is, “The impact of dirty solar panels on solar power production depends on various factors.” But we’re interested in the long answer, right? Lets dig into the science and math a bit:
An experiment involving solar panels on a low-slope roof sought out the difference in energy output before and after a thorough cleaning.
The researchers found an average 3.5% boost in energy production after cleaning the panels using a soft rag and water. The implication here is that the energy yield increase was low, despite the high amount of dirt accumulation.
Things became interesting when heavy rain did the cleaning job. The average performance increased by only 1.9% after rainwater pounded on the dirty panels. What does that mean? A good shower from the skies can take care of some cleanup, but its not as effective as the proper equipment and some elbow grease.
You may want to check how much your dirty solar panels are costing you in terms of energy generation. Here’s a simple formula for determining the value of solar panel cleaning:
Yearly Energy Production × Production Loss From Dirty Panels × Electricity Cost per kWh
For example, if your residential solar energy system can produce 10,000 kWh of electricity per year, and you assume a 5% loss of production due to panels being dirty, and you pay $.20 cents per kWh for electricity from your utility, your yearly cost of electricity loss from dirty panels is as follows:
10,000 × .05 × .20 = $100
Solar Panel Cleaning Kits
There are a variety of solar panel cleaning kits available. Multiple extension poles, carrying bags, brushes, towels, hose couplings, and other items are included in these packages. Youll find all of the tools youll need to get the job done right. Two highly-rated cleaning kits are listed below:
Mr. Long Arm 1005 Solar Panel Cleaning Kit: Includes a long extension pole with a smooth-rotating tool handle and a curved slider tube to reach the difficult areas of your system. The kit comes with a squeegee, premium wash sleeve, canvas carrying box, and a soft flow-thru brush that can be hooked to a regular garden hose.
Mr. Long Arm 1009 Pro Curve Solar Panel Cleaning Kit: With its 5 to 12-foot ProCurve extension pole, the Mr. Long Arm 1009 cleaning kit aims to improve and expedite the solar panel cleaning process. With a single tool, the 4 to 8 foot Hydra Solar internal system directs water flow through a hose directly to the solar panel. The kit also supplies two ProCurve tool handles, as well as one 12 foot and one 18 foot Sorbo Channel with squeegee rubber.
Sometimes Its Cheaper Safer And Easier To Call Professional Cleaners
Maybe youve considered the variables involved, taken stock of the resources you have on hand, and concluded that cleaning your solar panels on your own is not for you. For example, maybe youve realized:
- Your roof is too high, too steep, or too slippery to walk on.
- You dont own a ladder or adequate cleaning tools and the idea of buying and storing a bunch of gear you may only use once a year makes no sense.
- You have physical limitations that make climbing ladders and scrambling around on rooftops a sketchy proposition.
- Youd simply prefer not to be the one who does all that work.
For plenty of solar customers, professional cleaning can be the most worthwhile option. At that point, the obvious choice is to call the company that installed your panels in the first place to ask if they offer cleaning services. They should have information regarding your roofing materials, roof pitch, square footage of your solar array, and either photographs or digital renderings of how your solar panels are laid out across your rooftop. Armed with all that information, it should be very easy for them to give you an accurate price estimate right over the phone or at least point you in the right direction.
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Dont Clean Panels Install A Larger System
Installing a slightly larger solar system to compensate for losses from dirt costs less than paying someone to clean panels. One extra panel on a 20 panel system increases its output by around 5% which is more than twice the average loss I would expect from not cleaning them. Installing a system one panel larger will definitely cost less than the $600 or more it could cost to have your panels cleaned 4 times. One extra panel can more than compensate for loses from dirt for the entire life of the system.
While adding panels to an existing solar system is often not practical, there are still plenty of things people can do that will save them more money and have greater environmental benefit than paying for panel cleaning. For example, they could invest in insulation, LED lighting, a heat pump hot water system, or buy a bicycle and use it for some trips instead of a car.
If You Want Pay For Clean Panels Please Go Ahead
If you want to pay to have your solar panels cleaned, please go right ahead. Dont let me stop you. Just be aware that most of the time it will cost more money than it is worth.
I have no desire to put solar panel cleaning companies out of business, so if you decide against having your panels cleaned, please consider hiring them to do something else you will find worthwhile. For example, some solar panel cleaners also do windows.
For those interested in cleaning their solar panels themselves, regardless of whether or not it makes economic sense, I will write an article on the best way to go about it very soon .
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Reasons To Get Your Solar Panels Cleaned
1. WarrantyThere are solar panel installation companies and manufacturers that have included the necessity to clean the solar panels in their warranty. This means that you will need to provide proof of regular solar panel cleaning by a local professional cleaning company if you are experiencing any issues with the panels to be covered by the warranty.
2. Rainwater Wont Clean your Solar PanelsUnlike what many people think, rain isnt a satisfying way to clean the solar panels. This is because it contains airborne dust particles that attach to the surface of the solar panels right after the rainwater evaporates. As a result, grime accumulates and forms a film of dirt, which, in turns, reduces the light getting into the solar panels and increases your financial burden.
3. Monitoring your Solar Panels will Help Catch any Issues at BirthKeeping an eye on your solar panels when up on the roof to clean them is a great way to check on the inverter display and make sure everything is alright. If the green light is flashing, its probably not good . And, the longer it flashes before you notice it, the more it will probably cost you to bring the solar panels back to their original, excellent condition . Chances are you wont be able to figure out whats wrong with your system, but you have your warranty covering you if you have been meticulous in properly cleaning your solar panels as previously mentioned!
Do It Yourself Or Call In The Professionals
Its certainly more cost-effective to clean your panels yourself. There are, however, important aspects to consider regarding:
- avoiding damage that could invalidate the panels warranty
We always recommend that you check with the manufacturer before attempting to clean solar panels yourself. If you still intend to go ahead with the cleaning, here are some tips:
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How To Gauge When Its Time To Clean Solar Panels
The most obvious way to tell when solar panels need cleaning is when the efficiency of the system begins to decline.
Pollution is typically higher during the winter when cold air traps pollutants closer to the ground than the warmer air of summer. That means spring is the best time of year to clean solar panels, as they become too hot to touch during the summer. The best time of day to clean them is in the morning or early evening when they are cooler.
There are companies working on ways to use advanced technology to monitor the condition of solar panels and remove some of the guesswork.
Researchers in Spain have received a patent for a solution that attaches a sensor to the glass surface of a panel and uses an LED light to measure the amount of dirt that has built up. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory is also developing a way to monitor the amount of electricity panels produce every day to detect when soiling has begun to degrade output.
Ecoppiaâs cloud-based platform uses sensors and machine learning to monitor a solar PV system, collect weather data, and travel across trackers to clean panels on an optimized schedule.
Tips For Cleaning My Solar Panels
Before setting out to clean your panels, you must keep in mind one crucial point: Avoid scratching or damaging the glass at all costs. You don’t want your energy production to plummet.
When cleaning solar panels, you will always be gentle with them by using these solar panel cleaning tips and tricks:
- Solar panel models are not all created the same. It’s prudent to check with your product’s manufacturer to see if they have specific instructions for cleaning.
- Consider using a garden hose first. But if grime and dirt have built up on your equipment, it’s time for a thorough cleaning.
- Most likely, the only equipment you need is a bucket with clean, warm water, a soft cloth, dish soap, and a soft brush or squeegee.
- Pick an evening, a morning, or a cool day to do the cleaning. You don’t want to get burned by hot panels on a sunny day. If its too sunny, the soapy water can evaporate before you get time to wipe it away, which can leave a smear or residue that can reduce your panels’ efficiency.
- Avoid splashing cold water on a hot glass surface. It can lead to cracks due to sudden contraction.
- Apply the warm water and dish soap on the panels’ surfaces using a soft cloth or sponge. Do NOT clean the wiring underneath.
- Use a squeegee to get rid of dirty water.
- Never step on your panels, as this can damage them and cause premature failure.
- Avoid brushes with sharp bristles that can scratch your solar glass surface.
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Why Clean Solar Panels
Solar panels work by allowing light into the solar cells. The more light that hits a panel, the more power it will generate.
Due to the upwards angle of solar panels, they are more prone to bird droppings and a build-up of general dust and dirt that does not wash off with just rain. This reduces the amount of light hitting the panel and reduces its output. As the projected energy figures claimed by solar panel manufacturers and installers are based on the optimum performance of clean solar panels, this build-up of dirt can adversely affect the panels ability to meet those projections. So it is important to clean solar panels in order to protect and maintain your investment. Regular solar panel cleaning will also help you to make the most of the government feed-in tariff.
While solar panel cleaning in the UK is relatively new, in other parts of the world solar panel cleaning has been around for a long time. Early adopters of the technology soon realised that if their solar panels were not cleaned regularly, they would not run at their optimum performance. There has been study in the U.S. suggesting solar panel cleaning is not necessary in some of their climate, but it is proved that solar panel cleaning is necessary in the UK.
Why Clean Solar Panels
Frameless Panels Stay Cleaner At Low Angles
If you cant avoid installing panels at an angle under a 10 degrees, frameless panels can help. These have no metal frame around the edge and are often called glass-on-glass or double glass panels because the solar cells are the filling in a glass sandwich. The lack of frame helps water flow off them and keep them clean.
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Solar Panel Cleaning: Why How & How Often
Should you clean your solar panels? If the answer is yes, then how often should you clean your solar panels and whats the best way to clean them? How to clean solar panels? These are questions that many solar system owners have asked themselves. Solar Choice recently had the opportunity to catch up with Leanne Masters of Lime Solar Cleaning an Australia-wide solar panel cleaning service to get answers to these questions and more.
How Often Do You Need To Clean Solar Panels Of Different Types
Unfortunately, not all solar panels are created equal. Some types of solar panels especially those with high levels of surface area coverage need to be cleaned more regularly.
Here are a few types of panels that need frequent cleaning:
1.Thin-Film Panels: Thin-film panels have higher levels of surface area coverage than crystalline silicon panels. This means the sun has more room to shine on the panel, and so does the accumulation of dirt and debris.
2.High Concentration Photovoltaic Panels: These solar panels use lenses and mirrors to concentrate a large amount of sunlight onto a small area. The combination of intense sunlight and the highly concentrated nature of these panels makes them more susceptible to the buildup of dirt and other particulate matter.
3.Flat Roof Mounted Panels: The mounting angle for these types of solar panels is relatively low, so they are more likely to collect dirt than other types of solar systems.
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Cleaning Your Solar Panels: Recap
If we had to summarize everything we just went over, we would say 2 things:
Why Should I Clean My Solar Panels
We know that dust, dirt, pollen, bird droppings, and other debris can negatively affect solar panel efficiency.
Google conducted a groundbreaking experiment at their 1.6 MW solar farm in Mountain View, California. They found that cleaning the solar panels was the number one way to maximize the energy they produce. Cleaning solar panels that had been in operation for 15 months doubled their output of electricity.
Google concluded that for flat solar panels, relying on rain alone is not an adequate way of cleaning solar panels.
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How To Clean Solar Panels On Your Roof
What is the best way to clean solar panels? For the DIY-minded you should find the materials at home. Because you dont want to scratch your system in any way, its best to use just water and a non-abrasive sponge to apply soapy water.
Use a mild detergent, if you feel like you need some extra help.
And if youre asking yourself if you can use a pressure washer to clean your solar panels, we encourage you to only use a normal hose. Using anything with high pressure may cause damage. Use a sponge if the birds have made a mess and nothing stronger than the detergent you would use with your dishes. You dont want any strong chemicals marking the panels.
Cost To Clean Your Solar Panels
As said before, you can hire a cleaning service to clean your solar panels. Many companies will provide you with this service. But, before you make the professional cleaning decision, you must look for the cheap option first, which is to clean the panels by yourself. It is not that difficult. You only need water, detergent, and a sponge.
The cleaning companies come with fancy cleaning equipment, tricking you into believing that they will clean it better for you. Therefore, spending money on them might not be worth it if you can do it yourself. However, if you have many solar panels for cleaning, you should consider hiring the companies.
So, if you do not have the time and equipment to clean them by yourself, let these companies handle the cleaning for you. But, again, you must understand that you do not need to clean the panels very often. Having the cleaning companies visit once or twice a year will be enough.
Depending on your area and your solar panels size, the cost of cleaning them might differ. Usually, it can cost anywhere from $100 to $600 per visit to hire solar cleaning companies. So, it is your decision do you want to spend hundreds of dollars cleaning your solar panels? On the other hand, if you can do it yourself with almost zero dollars in cost, why not consider taking the time and effort to do so?
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How To Clean Those Dusty Dirty Solar Panels
1. Be sure to check your panel manufacturer instructions for shutting down the system before cleaning, if necessary. Try not to go on the roof to clean your system. Its risky both for you and your panels.
2. Brushing any loose dirt off before spraying them with water will make the squeegeeing process quicker and easier.
3. A good nozzle attachment on your garden hose might work just fine. If a lot of dust and dirt has accumulated, you might need to clean more thoroughly. Try to clean with squeegee extension like this one. If youre interested in the whole kit and kaboodle for home solar cleaning equipment, Mr. LongArm is one of the most popular.
4. Dont use metal objects, abrasive products or detergents. Scratches on a solar panel can create shadows and affect efficiency. Simply use clean water and a cloth-covered sponge or soft plastic brush.
5. Rainwater is low in mineral content, but some people have hard water or mineral-rich water from the tap. If this is the case for you, just be sure to squeegee the panels dry to avoid mineral deposits and streaking.