Cleaning Solar Panels: Best Practices
Maintaining solar panel efficiency is an important detail to prioritize, whether you are currently working on a solar module installation or are simply planning for one. In this article, we will discuss the efficacy of cleaning panels yourself or hiring someone to do it for you.
Important considerations in cleaning your solar panels:
Think of solar panels like windows. After rain or during a period of long dryness, you may notice residue on the window. These residues can include pollen, dust, calcium, sap, or bird droppings, and they will likely affect solar panel efficiency over time.
Considering the maintenance of your solar energy system, the following benefits should be considered when deciding upon cleaning routines.
- Improving or maintaining efficiency; Caring for the cleanliness of your solar system will inherently correlate with the energy efficiency and output of the system.
- Staying valid on the warranty; Many PV manufacturers require cleaning around an every-6-month period to maintain warranty validity.
- Maintain panel durability; Just like many other appliances you keep, cleaning and caring for your solar panels will maintain their longevity and durability.
- Faster R.O.I; An increased efficiency resulting from proper cleaning will correlate with a faster return on investment.
- Aesthetics; No one wants a dirty solar system on their roof!
We can all agree that there are many benefits to cleaning your panels, but should you consider hiring someone to clean them for you or do it yourself?
A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego recently conducted a research study about the loss of efficiency on panels in dusty drought-like conditions. Their findings revealed that there was an approximate 7.4% reduction in efficiency over 145 days with no rain. Washing the panels halfway through this period would have resulted in a twenty-dollar electricity production gain. While economies of scale might dictate the feasibility of hiring someone to clean your solar panels, larger installations could appear net positive. One of these engineers suggested that “most homeowners won’t get the money back that they spent hiring someone to wash their solar panels.” The average efficiency lost for panels under similar conditions is about 0.05% per day. Thus, customers may use this as a benchmark when trying to calculate how much is appropriate to spend on solar panel cleaning.
So you’ve decided to clean your panels, but how should you go about it?
Consider your solar panels as a lifelong investment, you wouldn’t take steel wool to a brand new car, would you? According to longtime home improvement TV Host Bob Villa, the best cleanser to use on solar panels is soapy water and a soft sponge. If you use anything abrasive on the panels then you might ruin the materials and hinder the efficiency of capturing sunlight, effectively diminishing the value of your panels. Additionally, don’t forget to anchor yourself securely to the roof, taking appropriate precautions to ensure your own safety. All of these measures, whether you choose to clean your panels or hire them out, are part of a happy sustainable PV system. If you are interested in getting started cleaning your solar panels, here is a helpful resource providing top DIY tips for safety and effectiveness.
A few years ago, one used to be able to buy a cleaner you could attach to the end of a hose (an ionic surfactant), not unlike a fertilizer spreader, but I'm not seeing that anymore. Has anyone else?