If you have been lucky enough to have solar panels on your home, congratulations – you just took a great first step in helping the environment and reducing your overall carbon footprint. Now that they’re installed, you need to really think about how to clean solar panels to ensure they will operate efficiently for many years to come.
You honestly can look forward to saving money on your utility bill each and every month, among other advantages. But what about the maintenance needed on these new panels? Although solar panels are known to be low-maintenance, cleaning them occasionally is widely recommended and I dive into why and how we can accomplish this.
Why Clean Your Solar Panels?
Cleaning solar panels is something a lot of homeowners can think is unnecessary. In fact, a large portion of solar system owners are convinced that cleaning is not required very often. But think of it this way: if you live in a dry or dusty area that rarely gets rain, stuck-on dirt and debris may become a problem as this could directly affect the amount of sun that flows through photovoltaic cells of the panels before it is converted to electricity.
The larger the accumulation of debris you have, the higher percentage of energy loss you can suffer.
Since most solar panels are flat and tilted, when it does rain, the water does a great job of removing whatever light debris that you have on the panels, making them clean again. This means that for the most part, a great rainshower takes care of your solar panels for you so that you rarely, if ever, have to do it yourself.
Certain situations, however, can make it more necessary to clean your panels. For instance, let’s say you get a lot of bird droppings or leaves on your roof. This is never a good thing, for the overall efficiency of your solar system. As I stated above, having debris that covers your solar panels can affect the panel’s ability to absorb the solar energy.
By some estimates, a homeowner with dirty panels can have an energy loss of up to 30%. This means you are losing a big portion of your power savings because of some leaves and a little poop. Now that you have decided your panels need some spit and polish, what’s next?
How to Get Started
Once you’ve decided you want to do this, choosing how to clean solar panels usually involves a couple of options. The first is to get a professional to clean them for you, and the second is to clean them yourself.
Let’s start with the first option. If you choose to get a solar company to clean your panels, you will usually get charged a fee for this service which can end up being a little pricey. Something you might be able to do is to have your solar panels cleaned as part of a regular maintenance call for your solar system.
If the company comes out for more than just a cleaning, you can often work out package deals. Otherwise, the best advice I can provide is to compare the cost of having your solar system cleaned professionally with the amount of savings you would lose and decide from there.
What does this mean for you? It means that it is in your best interest to make sure that you look at the cost versus the benefits of using a professional service or using that good old sweat equity which can save you money on the cleaning bill, but could have unintended consequences that will be discussed shortly.
The bottom line is that if you want your solar panels cleaned the right way, you should go ahead and hire the experts. The panels will look great, and it will give you peace of mind that your solar power system is running efficiently.
Can You Clean Them Yourself?
Now let’s look at the second option – the sweat equity of cleaning the panels yourself. While getting on the roof and cleaning solar panels isn’t appealing to some people, others enjoy the fresh air and exercise, not to mention the knowledge that their solar panels are as clean as possible.
Determining exactly how to clean solar panels is easy, because in most cases, you can clean them with some dishwashing soap and warm water – you can even look at purchasing some specialized cleaning solutions made for solar panels if you like.
If you plan to clean the panels yourself, do not use any types of abrasive cleaners or abrasive pads and never use a high-pressure hose because all of these things can damage the panels. Another pro tip is not to use soap to clean the solar panels as it will leave a residue. Use sponges and not brushes, and try to pick a cool day to do the cleaning so you aren’t dealing with uncomfortable heat standing on the roof.
Cleaning these panels do come with some risk that you need to understand. Your first risk is personal injury because more often than not, cleaning your solar panels will require you to climb up onto your roof so please consider your own personal safety before you climb up that ladder.
The next risk you have to deal with is the fact that you are dealing with an electrical system and even though you are just cleaning the panels, there is still a risk it can short out creating an even larger maintenance bill having a solar company come out to fix your solar system. The final risk is dealing with the roof itself. Unless you are a roofing professional or have had a lot of experience, walking on a roof can be a dangerous proposition.
While you may think your do-it-yourself spirit of adventure will help you take care of this minor task, the risks you take can potentially cost you far more than a service call ever would have. Just remember that they are professionals in the solar industry who are licensed and insured, with insured being the operative word. If they break it, they will fix it free of charge. If you break it, they will gladly fix it while they charge you far more than you would have paid to begin with.