What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Solar Panel Cleaning
So, you’ve had solar panels installed, and you’re saving money on your energy bill each month. But after you’ve been enjoying your clean energy for a while, you may start to wonder when and how you need to maintain your solar system. In this blog post, we’ll talk about why, when, and how to go about cleaning your solar panels.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room…
Do Solar Panels Need Cleaning?
This is a fair question! As a solar panel owner, you should be asking if they need to be cleaned. On the one hand, they’re outside! Being exposed to the elements, they’ve got to accumulate dirt, debris, leaves, and more.
On the other hand, they are fragile, and you just spent a good amount of money on purchasing them. You don’t want to just head up to your roof with a pressure washer and blast them away! That’s why it’s important to do some research and learn the proper methods of solar panel care.
But in answer to our first question, yes, solar panels do need cleaning. And no, this isn’t just an extraneous service solar companies are trying to get you to pay for.
Dirt and debris decrease the efficiency of your solar panels, so they do need to be cleaned regularly if you want maximum efficiency.
Not to mention, some manufacturers require proof of regular cleaning and solar panel maintenance if you want to be able to take advantage of your warranty should something be damaged and need repair. You’d hate to lose your eligibility to use your warranty because you didn’t take care of dirty panels.
How Dirt & Pollution Can Damage Solar Cells
Layers of grime, caused by dirt build up and pollution can cause solar cells to deteriorate over time. Even fine particles of dirt cause wear and tear on solar panels. And no, rain is not enough to rinse your solar panels off for you.
Think about what your windshield looks like after it rains. Trace minerals, salt, and acid in the rain leave behind water spots on your windshield, and rain does that to your solar panels too. That’s why you can’t rely on rain to clean your solar panels.
How Much is the Output Loss Due to Dirty Solar Panels?
In addition to the damage to the panels, a layer of grime on your solar energy system causes it to operate less efficiently. You may be thinking, “How much output am I actually losing from some dust particles?”
Actually, the answer is quite astounding. Efficiency and performance improve by up to 21% with regular cleaning.
How Dirty Solar Panels Affect Your Bottom Line
What does that mean for you? When your solar panels are working optimally, you can create more power. If you are involved in a net metering program, maybe that means you can earn even more credits towards a future electricity bill when you need to use energy from the utility.
If you store up your excess energy in solar batteries, it means you’ll have even more energy ready to use on a (literal) rainy day.
If you have dirty solar panels, you’re not creating as much power as you could be, meaning you may need to pull more power from the utility than you would otherwise.
All that to say, while hiring a solar panel cleaning company may be an added expense, you’re already losing money if you don’t have clean solar panels.
Common PV System Blockers – Dust, Leaves, Pollen, and Bird Droppings
Now that you know why cleaning solar panels is essential, let’s talk about some common items that make your solar panels dirty and how to clean them off. In a bit, we’ll dive into whether you need to hire a solar panel cleaning company or if you can do it yourself. For now, we’ll share what you would need to do if you planned to clean your solar panels yourself.
How to Clean Pollen and Leaves off Solar Panels
If you live in an area where there are lots of trees nearby, you might experience a big influx of pollen on your solar panels in the spring. If you feel like you can wash your solar panels safely, you can certainly remove pollen on your own. Professionals use a soft brush or squeegee, a bucket of soapy water, and a hose to remove pollen from solar panels.
Start by hosing down the panels with a garden hose with medium pressure. DO NOT pressure wash solar panels since pressure washers can damage solar cells. Use the soft brush and soapy water to clean the panels more directly, and then rinse them off again. You can let the sun dry them or use a microfiber cloth or chamois to dry them.
To remove leaves from your solar panels, you can use the same methods as removing pollen. If your roof and panels are structured where leaves build up under them, you can use a leaf blower (if you can do so safely), a broom, or simply remove them by hand.
How to Clean Dust and Dirt off Solar Panels
Cleaning dust and dirt off your solar panels is similar to removing pollen. If you’re rinsing with a garden hose and then washing with soapy water, you’ll remove dirt, dust, and pollen in one fell swoop, no need for additional steps.
How to Clean Bird Droppings Off Solar Panels
If you live in an area where birds seem to frequent your roof or make a habit of passing over, you might notice bird droppings on your solar panels. You may even experience birds roosting or building nests on your roof around and on solar panels, which obviously becomes a problem.
These unsightly droppings might take a little more time and attention to remove than just the hose down and light brush you need to remove dirt and pollen.
You can spot clean bird droppings on your own with a microfiber cloth or a soft brush. But if bird droppings are a big problem, as they can be depending on your location, it might be time to ditch your DIY solar panel upkeep routine and hire a professional cleaning company. They’re going to have tools and solutions formulated for solar panels that you just can’t access as easily as a residential solar owner.
How Often Do Solar Panels Need Maintenance?
Solar panels need cleaning every six months to one year. If you do a quick web search of bird droppings on solar panels, you’ll quickly see that people have different needs for cleaning and maintenance based on their regional climate and surrounding environment.
If your solar panels are completely covered with bird droppings, obviously, you’ll need more frequent cleaning. If you’re just dealing with a light layer of dust and pollen, once a year will probably do the trick.
A reputable solar cleaning business in your area should be able to give you a better idea of how often you need to have your solar system cleaned.
When is the Best Time of Year for Solar Panel Cleaning?
There are two optimal times of year to have your solar panels cleaned. The first time in late spring or early summer, after that big wave of pollen has finished. Another great time to do it is in the late fall after all the leaves have fallen off the trees, that way, you can clear away any debris at once.
Should You Hire a Professional to Clean Your Solar Panels?
While we know many of you out there are capable DIY-ers, there are lots of reasons to hire professional cleaners to clean your solar panels. Here are some of the main reasons why you might want to hire it out instead of doing it yourself.
- Safety! Being on your roof is dangerous! If you aren’t extremely confident and able, it’s best to let the professionals take care of this one. Falling off your roof could lead to serious injury, which is something you don’t want to mess around with.
- For peace of mind. Sometimes those to-do items that hang over your head weigh on you more than you know! If you schedule regular cleaning with a solar panel cleaning company, you’ll know that you’re taken care of, and you don’t need to think about it.
- If you have rental properties. The more property you own, the more maintenance you have to think about! If you can outsource something like solar panel cleaning, that’s another to-do item checked off your list.
- Perhaps you do some light DIY cleanings during the year, you can hire professional cleaning to do a thorough cleaning once a year.
- Severe bird dropping problems. As we mentioned before, some solar panels get dirtier than others, simply due to their environment. If you end up with a lot of bird droppings on your solar panels, that may be more work than you can do on your own.
If you’re concerned about your safety at all, it’s best to hire a solar panel cleaner to clean your solar panels regularly. The cleaning is well worth it because it will prolong the life of your solar panels, as well as help them operate more efficiently. Use Google reviews as a guide, or ask for a referral from your solar installer to find a reputable cleaning company in your area.