If you invest in solar panels for your home, you will want to do everything you can to ensure they’re as efficient as possible.
One of the easiest ways to maintain your solar panels is to ensure that they’re clean. If dirt, dust, and debris are allowed to accumulate on the surface of your panels, they will affect their efficiency and potentially limit their productivity.
But is it really necessary to regularly clean solar panels? And how do you safely clean your panels without calling a professional cleaning company?
We answer these questions and explain how to keep your solar panels clean in this guide. But let’s first remind ourselves of how solar panels work and why it’s important to keep their surface free from dust and dirt.
How do Solar Panels work?
Whether roof or ground-mounted, solar panels work by receiving light into their solar cells. The more sunlight that a panel can receive, the more power it will generate. (Related: Home Solar Panel Installation Cost & Consumer Guide) If your solar panels are dirty, the cells will be less efficient as they won’t be able to receive as much sunlight as they would if they were clean.
Do I need to Clean my Solar Panels?
An interesting study from Duke University researchers found that dirt, dust, and pollution can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by up to 25%. The researchers were concerned with monitoring how effective dirty solar panels were and found that the build-up of dirt, dust, and debris over just a couple of weeks blocked much of the sunlight from reaching the panels.
Remember, your solar panels need to be directly exposed to sunlight in order to produce power. As the Duke research exemplified, if your panels are covered in dirt or dust, they are bound to be less effective. For homeowners in certain states, regular rainfall may be sufficient to keep panels relatively clean and free from pollutants, dirt, and debris.
But for others, particularly city-dwellers who live in areas with high levels of smog and those living out in the desert with sand swirling around their panels regularly, routine cleaning is a vital step in the ongoing maintenance of solar panels.
How often should I Clean my Solar Panels?
Again, how often you clean your solar panels depends on where you live and how dirty they become. Some installers recommend that you clean your solar panels once every six months, but this might not be necessary if you live in an area with heavy rainfall. Equally, if your panels are exposed to large amounts of smog or sand, you might need to clean them every couple of months to ensure they’re functioning well.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Solar Panels
If you’ve decided that you want to clean your solar panels yourself, you can do so by following the simple steps listed below:
Step 1: Turn off your System
Although your panels are water and weatherproof, it’s best to turn off your system before undertaking cleaning and maintenance. You can follow the instructions listed in your manual to find out how to turn off your system safely.
Step 2: Remove Debris and Dirt
Begin by removing any debris like fallen leaves and twigs from your panels. Then, with a soft brush, remove as much dirt and dust as you can without wetting the panels, as this will make your life easier during the steps that follow.
Step 3: Wet the Panels
Using a garden hose, spray the front of your panels evenly. Be mindful of the pressure of your hose, and don’t set it too hard, as doing so can cause damage to the panels.
Step 4: Wipe with a Soft Cloth or Windshield Cleaner
Once your panels are wet, wipe them with a soft cloth or standard windshield cleaner. At this stage, you might need to use some warm water to remove stubborn pieces of dirt or bird droppings, but you should avoid using soap or detergents.
Step 5: Respray your Panels
After you’ve wiped your panels, respray them with the hose and remove any bits of debris that are still clinging to the surface. Again, make sure the pressure of your hose isn’t too high.
Step 6: Leave them to Dry
Leave your panels to air-dry for a few hours. You can also remove excess water if you wish, using a squeegee with a fitted rubber blade. Once your panels are dry, you can turn the system back on.
Key Considerations when Cleaning your Solar Panels
The most important thing to remember when cleaning your solar panels is not to damage them. Scratching or damaging the glass will render your system ineffective, so you need to be diligent when cleaning your panels. Here are some important considerations before and during the cleaning process:
Cleaning Solar Panels: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you don’t want to clean your solar panels yourself, you could always hire a professional company to clean them on your behalf. But be mindful that installers tend to charge a lot of money to clean your panels, so make sure you weigh up the pros and cons before engaging their services.
While rainwater will remove surface-level debris and dust from your solar panels, it won’t effectively clean your panels. Think about how rainwater affects your car windshield for a minute. Outside the range of your wipers, there is always a film of dirt and debris that affects visibility through the windshield. If you rely on rainwater alone to clean your panels, they will never be truly clean, and a small layer of dust particles will affect their ability to receive sunlight.
Some homeowners don’t bother cleaning their solar panels and find that they still generate sufficient energy for their homes. But, as we’ve mentioned, cleaner panels work better than those covered with dirt, sand, and pollutants, so cleaning your panels once in a while will undoubtedly improve their efficiency.
In most instances, snow will slide off your solar panels as it melts. However, you could always use a snow rake to remove any excess snow from your panels. It’s important not to use a standard broom or shovel as you could damage the glass that protects the panels.
It’s pretty much impossible to protect your roof-mounted solar system from bird droppings. If you can see that some of your panels are covered in bird droppings, it’s a good idea to get up there and clean them, as the poop prevents your panels from doing their job to their full capacity. Also, the longer droppings sit untreated, the harder they will be to remove.
There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to cleaning solar panels. But that being said, removing dirt, dust, and debris from your panels will undoubtedly improve their performance and increase the amount of power they are able to generate.
If you live in an area with high levels of smog or sand particles in the air, it’s a good idea to clean your solar panels every couple of months to guarantee their efficiency. The good news is that you can easily clean your solar panels with water and a soft cloth, so you don’t need to invest in expensive cleaning materials or a professional cleaning service.
Just be careful not to damage the surface of your panels during cleaning, so avoid soaps, detergents, and pressure washers that are likely to do more harm than good.