Are you wondering do solar panels need to be cleaned? Are you worried about dirt affecting their output and performance? We can help answer that.
As a general rule solar panels do no need to be cleaned providing they are installed at enough of an angle for dirt not to lay on them. If you are in a dusty area however, you may want to hose them off from time to time. Build up of dirt and grit can reduce performance.
This article will give you some general knowledge of installation being the key to maintenance free years of enjoying the usage of your solar panels. Read on…
1. Knowing When To Clean Your Solar Panels
Knowing when to clean your solar panels is important. Look for signs of dust or dirt or discoloration on the glass of the panels. Overtime you will see this buildup from the elements and the weather on the panel. Depending on how they were installed and what angle they were installed at, will greatly affect how often you need to clean them.
As a general rule if they were installed in an ideal location you shouldn’t need to clean them at all. In any case you should probably clean your panels at least once per year. Buildup of dust or dirt discolor the tempered glass on the panel which reduces production. Solar panels are very sensitive to sunlight and if the glass isn’t completely clean it will result in less output from the panels.
It is worth a mention to have your solar panels installed on a 40° angle. This will allow enough of an angle for debris snow dust and dirt to slide right off the panels especially during a rain storm. Furthermore if you have the panels installed close together in a tight configuration on the roof. the dirt will slide off in the rain.
2. Location Matters
In more southern states or southern areas south of the equator it is a better idea to install them on at least a 30° angle or less of an angle to the sun. This gives them direct sunlight and you usually don’t have to worry about dirt coverage running off. Providing you keep them cleaned off you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Also worth a mention is that tree buds and pine gum can become an issue. Keep an eye out for signs of this. These can lay on the panels and blow on from the wind and discolor the panels reducing their output. Tree debris can definitely become an issue, pollen in the spring can also affect the output of the panels so be sure to keep that cleaned off as well.
There will be certain times of the year that would will need to clean your panels depending on where you live.
More southern areas of the world you will be dealing with dust, dirt etc. For more northern areas, snow.
3. Does Cleaning Solar Panels Make A Difference?
On average making sure your solar panels are clean does make a difference. You can lose up to 20% of their output level if they are not clean. Fact if you a leaf from a tree covered over one of the solar cells you’ll notice the amperage or power production greatly reduced. It is important that all parts of the panel exposed to as much full sun as possible. You will also notice that when the panels are cleaner they seem to work better.
Spending the maximum amount of money on your investment means you need to get the maximum amount back out of your investment so having your solar panels work at their peak performance is always the best..
Since solar systems can cost several thousand dollars you’ll want your payback period to be as quick as possible so that you can start making money.
4. How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned?
Solar panels should be cleaned at least once per year. You will need to clean them more than this if you live in an area that is undesirable. If you live in an area that has a lot of dust or dirt or dry area keep in mind you may need to clean the more.
In colder climates when it snows and melts off sometimes you have runoff from the snow which usually means it will keep the panels cleaner for you. As mentioned above if you have the solar panels installed on the correct angle take together then you shouldn’t need to clean them at all. The dust and dirt should slide right off during a rain storm. This also applies for panels like it covered in snow.
5.How To Clean The Panels
The best result to clean your solar panels is to scrub them. You can use a scrub brush with soft bristles to gently rub on the panels. A basic soap and water or vinegar solution is acceptable. We do not advise pressure washed panels due to the pressure caused by the pressure washer you can harm the panels. A simple garden hose will rinse off the panels and also allow you to get panels from a farther distance as a garden hose will shoot quite a distance itself if you have the right head on it.
If you have issues reaching your panels then you can use an extension arm on your soft bristle brush brush the same you would use to clean a large truck or tractor trailer. This will give you extended reach to the panels so that they can be scrubbed off. A gentle circular motion is ideal to get any dust or dirt off the panels.
6. When To Clean The Panels
This may sound like an odd question but it does matter. Do not clean your solar panels in the middle of a sunny day when they are at their peak production. Quick temperature changes with cold water can affect the integrity of the panel and possibly even crack the tempered glass. We all know glass does not like quick temperature changes.
Instead the recommended processes to clean the panels in the morning or in the evening or even on a cloudy day. It’s a result in less temperature change for the glass and the associated parts with the panel. This will also less likely cause any damage to the panels. It is very important to protect your investment. If you end up cracking or damage in one of the panels can be very difficult to remove them if they are part of a larger solar array.
7. Turning Off Solar Panels To Clean Them
Although it’s not completely necessary to turn the solar panels off when cleaning them, it is recommended. If you have a grid tie system or selling back to your local power utility you could simply shut the breaker off in your main panel that sends back the power.
While cleaning, if you were hosing certain panels off and they are producing any amount electricity this can cause deficiencies in the circuitry in the panels especially if one is partially covered. You don’t want to confuse the solar inverter and have problems with the internal circuitry.
However if you were cleaning the panels in the morning or the evening like we should be in this shouldn’t be an issue and there’s no need to shut the breaker off. This is a common question when one askes do solar panels need to be cleaned.
8.Solar Panel Cleaning Solution
The best cleaning solution for your solar panels is just simply a mix of warm soapy water use a gentle cleaning solution or dish detergent. You can also use a watered down vinegar solution to clean your panels. After all solar panels are glass so they are the same as windows.
Here are some recommendations on cleaning products….
Using a vinegar solution on windows helps reduce streaking. This is the same principle and also applies for solar panels. Do not use any harsh chemicals to get any stuck build up of moss. We also don’t recommend using anything like javex or spray nine, as most panel frames have anodized aluminum.
Using harsh chemicals the panels will become discolored and give an undesirable visual effect. In addition to this if you have a shingled roof just got home the shingles for the asphalt surface.
9.Cleaning The Snow Off The Panels
Cleaning the snow off of your solar panels when they get covered is completely your preference. If you have small amounts of snow in the panels should naturally melts off after a few hours. Sometimes when you get freezing rain or snow that freezes quickly overnight it will not melt off.
Commonsense would tell you never to chip at the solar panels with any type of shovel or hammer or chipping device. Remember these are glass. In fact we do not even recommend using a standard scraper that would you would use on a car window. Let nature take it’s course and they will simply melt them selves off.
For larger amounts of snow you want to use a snow shovel with a plastic and or a push broom to pull the snow down off of the panels. Keep in mind never put weight on the panels or stand on them. You should do this from a distance. Some snow shovels with broom extensions can extend up to 20 feet so that you can stand on the ground and simply pull the snow off your solar solar array.
Again we recommend never to use a shovel or any blunt object on the panels because you will break the glass. It really boils down to how much snow you have and what area you’re in.
If you were more north of the equator and you get frequent winners and it may not be the best idea to be out there every other day cleaning the snow off the panels to make a dollar or two for payback. The pay back in the winter months are much less than in the summer months for example in Canada.
10.Will Cleaning Panels Void Warranty
Cleaning your solar panels will not void your warranty providing that you do it correctly in a non-harmful matter. If you start dumping harmful chemicals on your solar panels and it damages the glass and or the frames and then don’t expect to have this covered under warranty.
Obviously the warranty company would know that you did something to the panels. Keep that in mind when you’re cleaning them and you shouldn’t run into any issues at all. Most panels are rated for 25 to 30 your life and come with warranties that prorate them over the time.
11. Hiring Someone To Clean The Panels
Hiring someone to clean the solar panels for you may be a good idea. There are many snow removal companies that take care of roof cleanings in areas that have frequent snow. However this may not be cost-effective because it may cost you more to have the snow removed just let them to leave it on there.
It is ideal though to have it removed if weight becomes an issue on your roof. The roof was not designed to handle the weight of solar panels and snow. Keep this in mind and you should be able to find somebody in your local area that does snow removal. Be certain to be very upfront with them for them not to use shovels on the roof and do it in a non-intrusive manner.
We hope this article helped to help you understand do solar panels need to be cleaned.
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