Tips for Cleaning Solar Panels
Installing solar panels is a great way to do your bit for the environment and save some money at the same time. With this, though, comes the issue of cleaning them. Cleaning your solar panels is something which needs to be done, generally; dirty solar panels will not be able to capture light energy and turn it into electricity if they are covered in dirt. Photovoltaic cells – the clever bits of technology which turn light into electricity – work best when solar panels are sparkling and clean.
Solar panels are generally regarded as ‘self-cleaning’, but in particular areas (such as dry and arid climates) or where your solar panels do not have much of a tilt to them, dust, dirt and bird droppings, amongst other things, can build up over time. Dirt and grime does not need to cover a solar panel entirely to hamper its efficacy and in these circumstances, it is necessary to get up there and clean them.
How to Clean Your Solar Panels
We always recommend consulting a professional to clean your solar panels. After all, they are expensive pieces of equipment which, in many cases, are mounted high up on rooftops. If you are set on doing it yourself, however, here are some general tips.
- Conduct an Inspection - It may go without saying, but you should ensure that your solar panels actually need cleaning before you get all the equipment together and head up there. Physically inspect your solar panels for dirt and debris! There are also clever monitoring systems which can detect problems and alert you when they arise. These problems include cleanliness as well as mechanical and electrical problems.
- Safety First - Before you get up there and start cleaning your solar panels, you should shut your system down. You should have instructions which explain how to do this. Don’t worry, though -- your house won’t shut down with the solar panels, there will be plenty of energy reserves stored which can be used in the meantime!
- Use the Right Equipment - You don’t need any fancy cleaning equipment to get your solar panels shiny as new again. Some good quality hard-wearing cleaning tools such as soft brushes and squeegees are the perfect tools to clean them. In addition to a brush and squeegee, a hose is also very useful to give the solar panels a proper rinse down afterwards so that all the soap and suds are washed away. One thing to keep in mind is whether you have hard water. If you do, it may be best to use distilled or bottled water (or rain water) as hard water may leave some residue on your solar panels.
- Getting the Job Done - The best time to clean your panels is either very early in the day or late in the evening. You may think that this is because cleaning in the middle of the day will mean your solar panels lose out on some valuable light energy, but that’s not the entirety of the reason. If you begin cleaning your solar panels when the sun is blazing down, water and soap will evaporate quickly meaning that streaks and marks are left on the panels. When you begin cleaning your solar panels, give them a quick rub down first with a dry soft brush, as this will remove excess bits of loose dirt and debris. If you live in a hard water area and are using this to do your cleaning, ensure that you squeegee the solar panels extra well so that as little hard water residue as possible is left behind when the panels dry out.
Is Cleaning Solar Panels Worth It?
There is no ignoring the fact that cleaning solar panels requires a great deal of effort. Many experts state that it is not worth cleaning solar panels because some statistics suggest that dirty solar panels change energy output by as little as 5%. Considering this and the fact that rain water does a good job of cleaning your solar panels anyway, going to all the effort to get them shining and like new can be, in some cases, time wasted.
It does depend on your individual situation, however. Like we have already said, if you live in drier and more arid climates where rain is rare and the air is dustier, cleaning solar panels is definitely something you will need to do. Likewise, if your solar panels lay completely flat or at a very slight angle, rainwater is not as effective because it will not run off of the solar panels and take the dirt with it.
If you do have the time to spare though, go for it; you do not have much to lose by cleaning your solar panels and, although it does require some effort, it is not exactly a complicated job.