Do you have to clean solar panels to ensure optimal sun exposure? The decision to install solar panels is one of the best investments a homeowner can make. However, exposure to direct sunlight is vital to produce power — the less exposure there is, the less output your panels will generate.
Ultimately, cleaning your solar panels falls under proper maintenance. Still, the decision depends on your location, the climate in your area, and even the placement of your solar panels.
What’s the Big Deal With Dirty Solar Panels?
Pollen, dust, grime, or air pollution — basically anything in the air can get onto your solar panels and accumulate over time. Thankfully, the average rain shower will remove enough dust and dirt from your solar panels, allowing them to continue generating a decent amount of power.
However, rain can sometimes make the situation worse. For instance, a light but dirty rainfall can lead to the accumulation of more grime. If you don’t rinse off dirt and grime properly, a residue will form, leading to further obstruction. Dirt and barriers on solar panels can cause anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of output decline.
Do You Have to Clean Solar Panels?
Many factors influence the necessity and frequency at which your panels will need to be cleaned, such as:
- Environment/type of climate
- Amount of debris buildup
- Placement/installation of solar panels
Understanding these factors will help you assess your solar panels’ condition and decide on the best way to clean them.
Unlike with ground-mounted panels, rain can do a good job cleaning solar panels tilted at 5 degrees or more. In case you have panels that sit entirely flat, you can’t rely on the rain to keep them dust- and grime-free. The good news is that since ground-mounted panels are on the ground, they’re easier to reach, making cleaning a real breeze.
In areas with little to no rainfall, high levels of dust, pollen, ash, smoke, bird droppings, and foliage will not be washed away. In that case, you will have to clean the solar panels more frequently to maintain high-capacity solar energy production.
As a rule of thumb, most manufacturers recommend having your solar panels cleaned every six months to a year.
Do You Need Expert Help?
To safely clean solar panels yourself, your roof needs to be low enough to the ground for you to hose them down. Anything too steep, high, or slippery is not safe and warrants hiring qualified professionals. They can offer a full suite of cleaning services that will leave your panels spot-free and gleaming. Prices for these services vary depending on the location, but most average around $10 per panel.
Important Tips for Cleaning Your Solar Panels
So, you’ve assessed your solar panels and concluded that they need to be cleaned. If you feel confident enough to do it yourself, here are some important tips to consider before you begin cleaning your panels. And remember, safety always needs to be your top priority!
Always follow the maintenance instructions provided by your installer. If in doubt, check with the installation company.
Avoid cleaning solar panels during the hottest part of the day. Not only is this a hazard to your health, but the extreme temperature variance may cause the glass to crack too.
Many commercial cleaning products are too harsh to use on solar panels, so it’s best to avoid them. Mild soap and clean water, a hose, a soft sponge, and a squeegee are all you need to do the job yourself.
The use of pressure washers and hard-bristle brushes is not advisable.
As a precautionary measure, shut down the system before cleaning the panels.
So do you have to clean solar panels? Well, more often than not, you’re better off saving your time and money by letting Mother Nature do the job. If, however, you reside in an area that warrants more regular cleaning, calling professional cleaners may be the best and safest option out there. That way, you won’t have to lift a finger to ensure your solar panels generate as much power as they’re supposed to.