Questions When Considering Solar Panel Cleaning Needs
Dirt, dust, pollen, bird droppings, leaves, and other debris can negatively affect solar panel efficiency. When it comes to how often to clean solar panels, monitor your energy bills and check how the power output changes before and after cleanings.
The Cleaning Dos And Donts
One of the very first things you must consider when cleaning your solar panels is safety. It bears repeating to never climb onto a wet roof or one filled with slippery leaves. The last thing you want is to take a trip to the hospital when you could be having fun cleaning.
Once you have determined the roof is safe to climb about on, and you are comfortable doing so, you will need to shut off your solar system. Always follow your installers or manufacturers directions so as not to harm your system.
Never clean your panels when they are boiling. You risk cracking or shattering them as soon as the cold water touches the hot surface. Once they reach 140150°F, it is best to wait . The optimal time to clean is on a cloudy day or early morning before the panels have time to heat up.
Always inspect your panels for cracks or exposed wires prior to beginning, as you risk having soapy water seep into the panel.
Once all the above precautions have been performed, take your soft brush and gently brush off any loose dust, pollen, dirt, or debris. Choose an attachment for your hose that creates just enough pressure to loosen and wash what you could not brush off. The right amount of pressure may let you skip the brush and solution step .
Can You Clean Solar Panels By Yourself
You can clean solar panels by yourself, but its highly recommended that if you are inexperienced or afraid of heights that you get help and take proper precautions to ensure your safety.
As I mentioned above under tools, if youre going to be up pretty high you may want to consider scaffolding or a ladder to get up onto the panels without risking injury.
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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.
Why Do You Need To Clean Solar Panels
If you have a residential solar energy system installed, your solar panels are generally flat, tilted, and on your rooftop. How often do you clean your roof? Probably not very often, most likely never. Whys that? I hear you saying Isnt that what rain is for? Thats kind of the same logic for solar panels too.
In most cases, you wont need to clean your solar panels often, if at all. After all, anything that accumulates dirt on them , will get washed off the next time it rains. There are some times it might make sense to clean your solar panels though. If youve got a lot of bird droppings on your panels, rain might not wash these off very readily, so its a good idea to clean them off. Also, if you live in a state thats prone to droughts or, if it rains, its only a very light, misty rain, you might need to clean them every now and then.
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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:
Solar Panel Cleaning Soap
Its always a good idea to check with people who made the Solar Panels before using Windex or any household cleaner that contains harsh chemicals like ammonia or any solvents that may not be suited for cleaning Photovoltaic systems or Solar Panels regardless if you assume there safe. Check it out first. A California-based solar installer and maintenance provider called The Bland Company never uses a cleaning agent on solar panels, instead of relying on deionized water and a rotating-brush system to wash solar panels.
Soaps can leave a film or residue that not only shades panels like the dirt that was just washed off, but it can also encourage dirt to stick and build up faster, said Daniel Green, Bland marketing director. We use deionized water that is applied through our rotating-brush system. This is the best way to leave the solar panels with a spot-free shine thats as beautiful as the first day they were installed.
National residential and commercial O& M provider SunSystem Technology also stays away from soap and uses filtered water and a rotating brush to clean panels, but the director of marketing Jeff Strohm said the company uses a mixture of diluted vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to aide in scrubbing away dirt and grime. In other words, the Professionals stay away from soapy household water saying it causes a film over the cells that can hinder the suns light affecting the efficiency of the panel.
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Consider The Cost To Clean Your Solar Panels
There are a lot of cleaning companies that are popping up selling solar panel cleaning as a service. They sign customers up for monthly cleanings and come out in big vans filled with buckets, proprietary soaps, and fancy cleaning tools.
Weve already explained how most panels can be simply cleaned using water. Weve also mentioned how you rarely have to wash the panels. Now that you know these two things, it may not be worth it to you to pay a company to come out and clean your panels on a regular basis.
But, if you have a large home, a lot of panels, or have trouble with mobility, theres no reason why you shouldnt hire a professional to take care of that cleaning for you. Just understand that it doesnt need to be cleaned every month. If they came out once or twice a year to clean your solar panels, that would probably be enough.
Depending on the size or your solar energy system, the area in which you live, and the different tiers of cleaning packages your company offers, solar panel cleaning services can cost anywhere from $100-$600 a visit. We know thats a wide range, but again, the thing to consider is the level of effort youre willing to commit to this bi-yearly need. Its your call. Were just giving you the information you need to make it. Again, you may not even need to bother with keeping them clean. The most important thing is that you monitor them to ensure theyre working properly.
Does Solar Panel Cleaning Improve Panel Efficiency
Solar panel cleaning is an absolute must if you want to get the best possible performance out of your panels. Most commonly, the solar cells in a panel will be covered by a glass coating for protective purposes. The dirtier this coating becomes, the less efficient the solar panel will be.
A decline in efficiency in your solar panel could be caused by several factors. If the surface of the panels is obstructed by pollution, the dust from traffic, or even bird droppings, this could result in an efficiency decline, due to light being prevented from reaching the cells. While there are many factors that could affect the amount of electricity your solar panels will produce, dirty solar panels can be one of the biggest, as well as the easiest to fix. Its always good to regularly inspect your solar panels as well, which can help prevent the issues from arising in the first place.
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A Water Hose From Ground
Rinsing rooftop solar from the ground-level with a hose is the safest cleaning method in most cases.
The water spray should fall on the solar panels like rainwater and let gravity do the heavy lifting.
When bird poo proves to be a tough opponent to your man-made shower, be patient.
A second or third pass of the water hose should remove most of it after the bird dropping has been softened by the water.
Staying on ground-level also means there is less risk of falling.
Do Not Ever Walk Over The Modules
Solar panels are designed to withstand specific distributed snow and wind loads. If your concentrated weight is above the designed loads then you could cause micro-cracking, declining the performance of the module over time. Besides, the solar panels surface can be slippery, and if you are adding soap and water to the mix, the probabilities of falling are quite high. As long as you are careful, the chances of solar panels being dangerous are low.
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What To Avoid When Cleaning Solar Panels
When looking for tools to clean solar panels, its good to remember that some can do more harm than good. Therefore, you should avoid:
- Hard water because it leaves residue on the panels that can reduce their efficiency.
- Abrasive sponges can scratch and damage the panels.
- High-pressure water because can cause damage to the panel frame. Use moderate temperature when cleaning the panels using a nozzle.
- Freezing water can lead to thermal shock, permanently destroying the panels. Use water that closely matches the panels temperature.
- Detergents and solvents can cause damage to the solar collectors surface.
Does Snow Cut Down On The Yield From Solar Panels
The short answer is, yes, if theres enough snow up there. By enough, I mean that anything over two inches will block the sunlight from hitting those solar panel cells and thereby affect the yield.
A dusting of snow is no problem. It will usually blow off as soon as you start driving.
Deep, wet snow will completely stop the panels from producing electricity.
But since its wintertime, whats the problem with that? Few RVers in northern climates are out camping in the snow.
Now Jennifer and I do camp in the winter. But because the sun is its furthest distance from the earth away and not straight overhead even on a good winters day, solar power in the winter is limited by nature, When we do winter camp, even in the snow, we almost always find a campground with hookups.
If we are boondocking in the winter, be it overnight at a Cracker Barrel or Walmart, solar power is not a key need. Our batteries are topped off by driving during the day.
Most of the winter when we are at our Michigan home, our RV sits in the driveway. Snow-covered.
Over the years, when a really heavy, wet 12-16 inch snowstorm has hit and covered my panels, I have gone up top and used a long-handled push brook to cut down on the weight of the snow. I probably didnt have to. But it just seems to make sense.
One benefit of snow on the panels: When it melts, it rinses off the solar panels!
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How Frequently Should You Clean Solar Panels
Most professionals or manufacturers will tell you to clean your panels approximately every 6 months.
While this is a helpful guideline, the truth is simply this location dictates everything.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to solar panel cleaning frequency. You need to consider your immediate environment as well as the harshness of the seasons in your area.
For instance, a solar system that is in close proximity to the sea will require more cleaning due to the salt crust that forms on outside surfaces.
Your panels will also require extra cleaning if youre in a particularly pollen-heavy area.
In the end, be mindful of the outside conditions and pay attention to general surfaces that are exposed to the elements. If things are looking very dirty, chances are your solar panels will be too.
Does Self Cleaning Solar Panel Technology Really Work
Something else to consider is an automated solar panel cleaning system. Instead of periodically cleaning your panels, you can fully eliminate soiling losses by investing in an automated system that can clean your panels weekly.
Keeping your array clean often can increase your energy production by up to 30%! Sometimes a cleaning crew can cause damage to your panels through their use of abrasive cleaners or hard water, which can void your warranty on the installation.
Weve discovered a fully automated cleaning system that has a patented feature of purifying the water used to clean your panels from limescale. The water from the system is applied through drip irrigation technology at a low pressure and at night, avoiding potential cracking of the solar panel glass if cold water is applied during warmer temperatures.
On top of that, the system has an app that allows you to remotely clean your array and notifies you of faults.
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Spray With Water And Scrub With Non
The maintenance of solar panels should be executed with water and a non-abrasive cleaner. As was mentioned before, some chemicals have the potential to damage your solar panels, so avoid those products at all costs! Spray the panels to get them wet, and then use a soft pad on the end of an extension pole to clean them with the non-abrasive cleaner.
Cleaning Solar Panels Is Worth The Effort
Cleaning solar panels is not really that much different than cleaning a typical window. It is not very time-consuming either. In return, you could see a big boost in your system performance, and big cash savings on your electric bills.
In other words, neglecting to clean your solar panels is like throwing money out of the window.
If you dont want to clean the panels yourself, solar panel cleaning services are available for those out there that are willing to spend the extra buck.
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Why Do Solar Panels Need To Be Cleaned
Panels covered with too much dirt or debris may begin to produce less power.
In most cases, the loss of power isn’t significant maybe 1 to 4.7 percent. But one study found that long-term dirt buildup can reduce a solar panel’s electricity production by as much as 25 percent.
The good news is that seasonal rain and snowmelt usually wash off dirt or animal droppings that may have accumulated. But if your area receives very little precipitation and has dusty, windy weather, your panels may need to be cleaned occasionally. Some homeowners are confident washing the panels themselves, others choose to have them cleaned by a professional.
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How Do I Tell If My Panels Need Cleaning
You can do so in two ways. First, physical inspection of the modules. When you look at the panels, you can tell if you should clear the solar panels. If they contain bird droppings, leaves, dirt, or dust, its time to get them cleaned.
Second, you can monitor the solar panels output. If you notice that their production has reduced, it can indicate that you need to clean the solar panels. However, if cleaning the solar panels does not solve the issue, you may need to call an expert to diagnose your system.
Can You Clean Solar Panels With A Pressure Washer
A pressure washer is one of the best tools you can have on hand to clean solar panels. You do need to be cautious though since some pressure washers can damage the panels, especially ones with copper wiring.
A pressure washer will help blast off any caked-on dirt and debris but if its just dust or small leaves then they may pass right through without helping much in cleaning at all.
Make sure you read about how to adjust the pressure and nozzle to get the best results. Too little pressure and you run the risk of wasting your time and effort without any real cleaning action. Too much pressure and you could damage the solar panels.
So how do you know what the right pressure is? If your washer can adjust for different pressures, then it should be on a low setting with an adjustable nozzle tip size between .017 and .070 inches in diameter. Youll want to experiment until you find the best fit for your needs and equipment.
If not, try starting out at 3000 PSI which is considered medium-high pressure but still safe since most people use high or super-high settings when washing their cars.
However, if that doesnt work well enough there are other techniques and tools including using dish soap as a lubricant to help blast off caked-on dirt without damaging the panels.
Whenever I write about a tool that could potentially damage your solar panels, I always STRONGLY encourage you to check with your solar installation expert and ask their opinion.
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