Solar basics

How To Clean Solar Panels: Everything You Need To Know

12 May 2024 7 min read

How To Clean Solar Panels: Everything You Need To Know

While solar panels are designed to require minimal maintenance, giving them a periodic cleaning can help remove built-up dust, dirt, bird droppings, and other debris. However, whether or not you need to clean them depends on factors like where you live and the weather conditions. Using a monitoring app to track your panels’ performance can give you useful information. If your panels are still generating electricity as they should, you might not need to clean them right away. So, while it can be helpful to clean them now and then, it’s essential to check how your panels are doing before deciding if they need a wash.

In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know about cleaning your solar panels effectively. From understanding when and why cleaning may be necessary to learning the best practices and techniques for maintenance, we’ll provide you with the knowledge and insights to ensure your solar panels operate at optimal levels.

Whether you’re a seasoned solar panel owner or considering investing in solar energy for your home, this guide will equip you with essential information to maintain clean and efficient solar panels for years to come.

Cleaning Solar Panels: Is It Really Necessary?

The decision to clean your solar panels depends on various factors such as your location, prevailing weather conditions, and how your panels are performing. For instance, if you reside in a dusty area like Arizona or have experienced a recent storm, your panels might accumulate dirt faster. Rainfall can help rinse off some surface debris, but it may not be sufficient to thoroughly clean solar panels. Fortunately, many solar panel systems come equipped with apps that provide insights into their performance.

If your panels are still generating the expected amount of electricity, they may not require immediate cleaning. Additionally, consider the design of your panels; while most are angled to allow debris to slide off, flat installations might need more attention. Therefore, before reaching for the cleaning supplies, assess your panels’ condition and energy output. If they appear dirty or are underperforming, it’s likely time for a clean.

How To Clean Solar Panels: Two Simple Options

Let’s break down two simple ways to keep your solar panels clean. Whether you’re up for rolling up your sleeves and cleaning from the ground or prefer entrusting professionals for rooftop cleaning, both options have their advantages in maintaining your solar system’s efficiency.

Cleaning Solar Panels From The Ground

For most homeowners, cleaning solar panels from the ground is the simplest and safest option. Before you begin, ensure that your panels are cool to the touch to avoid potential damage from thermal shock. Start by gathering your cleaning supplies: a garden hose with a nozzle attachment, a soft brush or sponge, and a gentle detergent or cleaning solution if necessary. Begin by spraying down the panels with water to loosen any dirt or debris.

For particularly stubborn stains, you may need to use a mild detergent solution and allow it to sit for a few minutes before gently scrubbing the surface of the panels with the brush or sponge. Be sure to avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals, as these can damage the panels’ protective coating. Once you’ve cleaned the panels, rinse them thoroughly with water to remove any remaining residue. This straightforward method is suitable for routine maintenance and helps most homeowners keep their solar panels operating efficiently.

Cleaning Solar Panels From The Roof

In some situations, cleaning solar panels from the ground may not be practical, especially if they are installed on a high or steeply pitched roof. If cleaning from the ground is not an option, it’s best to hire a professional solar panel cleaning company.

These professionals have the expertise and specialized equipment needed to safely and effectively clean solar panels from the roof. By enlisting their help, you can ensure your panels are thoroughly cleaned without risking injury or damage. While this option involves additional costs, it provides peace of mind knowing your solar panels are being properly maintained by experts.

Costs Of Hiring a Solar Panel Cleaning Company

When considering hiring a solar panel cleaning company, it’s crucial to consider the associated costs. These costs can vary based on factors like the size of your solar array, its accessibility, the extent of cleaning needed, and your location. Typically, you can expect to pay around $8 to $25 per panel for professional cleaning services. However, prices may be higher for more complex installations or in areas with a higher cost of living. We definitely recommend reaching out to different companies to inquire about pricing before making a decision.

How Often Should I Clean My Solar Panels?

On average, most homeowners find that a single cleaning session per year with a hose is enough to keep their solar panels operating efficiently. However, it’s worth considering that in areas prone to high dust levels or pollution, like arid regions or industrial areas, cleaning twice per year might be a wise choice. On the flip side, in areas where dust buildup is minimal and the air quality is cleaner, such as suburban or rural locations, a hose-down every two or three years may suffice.

It’s key to emphasize once again the importance of keeping an eye on your panels’ performance using the monitoring app. Regular monitoring allows you to track energy output and detect any declines, which can indicate the need for cleaning. If you notice a decline in energy output, it’s a clear indication that cleaning is needed. By staying proactive and addressing any buildup promptly, you can ensure your solar panels continue to operate at their peak efficiency, maximizing your energy savings throughout the year.

Debunking Myths: Common Misconceptions For Solar Panel Cleaning

  1. Myth: Solar panels require constant cleaning.
    • Reality: While periodic cleaning may be beneficial, especially in dusty environments, solar panels generally don’t need frequent cleaning. They’re designed to be relatively low-maintenance, with occasional maintenance sufficing to uphold their performance.
  2. Myth: Cleaning solar panels is a risky task.
    • Reality: While cleaning solar panels from a rooftop might involve some risk, cleaning them from the ground is typically safe and straightforward. With the right tools and precautions, homeowners can effectively clean their panels without putting themselves in harm’s way.
  3. Myth: Rainwater cleans solar panels adequately.
    • Reality: While rain can help rinse off some surface debris, it’s not always sufficient to thoroughly clean solar panels. Over time, dirt, dust, and other pollutants can accumulate on the panel surface, impacting their efficiency. Occasional manual cleaning is still necessary for optimal performance.
  4. Myth: Using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals cleans solar panels better.
    • Reality: Abrasive materials and harsh chemicals can damage the protective coating on solar panels, reducing their efficiency and lifespan. It’s essential to use gentle cleaning solutions and soft brushes or sponges to avoid causing any harm to the panels.
  5. Myth: Solar panels need to be cleaned only during peak sunlight hours.
    • Reality: Cleaning solar panels during peak sunlight hours can lead to thermal shock, potentially damaging the panels. It’s best to clean them in the early morning or late afternoon when the panels are cooler to the touch.
  6. Myth: Cleaning solar panels is a time-consuming task.
    • Reality: While cleaning solar panels does require some time and effort, it’s typically a straightforward process that doesn’t take up much time. With the right tools and techniques, homeowners can efficiently clean their panels in just a short amount of time.
  7. Myth: Solar panels should be cleaned only when visibly dirty.
    • Reality: Even if solar panels appear to be clean, they may still have accumulated dust and debris that can affect their performance. Regular cleaning, even if the panels don’t look dirty, helps maintain optimal efficiency and ensures maximum energy generation.
  8. Myth: Cleaning solar panels negatively affects their warranty.
    • Reality: Most solar panel warranties include provisions for regular maintenance and cleaning. In fact, neglecting to clean your solar panels as recommended could void the warranty. As long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning, your warranty should remain intact.
  9. Myth: DIY cleaning is as effective as professional cleaning.
    • Reality: While DIY cleaning can be sufficient for routine maintenance, professional cleaning services often use specialized equipment and techniques to achieve a more thorough clean. In some cases, especially for hard-to-reach or heavily soiled panels, hiring professionals may be the best option.
  10. Myth: Cleaning solar panels increases their energy output significantly.
    • Reality: While cleaning solar panels can improve their efficiency by removing dirt and debris, the increase in energy output is usually modest. However, over time, regular cleaning can help maintain consistent performance and maximize long-term energy savings.

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portrait.png Jan Watermann Co-Founder, Quote for Solar

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