Solar Panel Cleaning: What You Need To Know

Solar Panel Cleaning: What You Need To Know

When you have solar panels installed on your premises, it is the day you receive optimum output from the panels. From this point, the performance starts deteriorating. Admittedly, the performance decline is slow, and you might not reach the worst possible performance until after 40 years.

Among the reasons for this deterioration is dirt buildup. Immediately you place the panels out in the open; the dust begins collecting on them, shielding off sunlight, thereby reducing efficiency.

The most logical remedy is paying someone to clean the panels or fold your sleeves and do it yourself.

And at times, this go-to solution becomes an obvious requirement. For example, when dust storms have your panels covered in dirt or there is bird excrement on the panels, it becomes necessary to clean them. 

What Makes My Solar Panels Dirty?

With time, your solar panels will get dirty due to exposure to pollutants and dust blown by the air. Dust particles can accumulate on PV modules much quicker if installed near construction sites or industrial complexes.

Installing solar panels on farms puts them at significant risk of accumulating nitrogen-rich particles and fertilizers that eventually corrode components of your solar panel. Bird droppings are also a common source of shade that decreases energy production and can lead to hot spots on the panels.

Typical Solar Blockers – Leaves, Dust, and Water

Dust leads to recurrent issues beyond the accumulation of grime with time. However, your particular location plays a crucial role in determining the extent of its effect on the system and its causes.

A small amount of dust may not significantly affect the system since light still manages to penetrate. The recommendation is to allow nature to take its course since rain gets much of the panel cleaning done.

Your No. 1 Enemy; Bird Droppings

Birds poop on a solar panel is more harmful than a dust film. Does your collection feature micro-inverters or a string inverter? This is essential since systems with microinverters (an inverter linked to every separate panel) can indicate where droppings cover some parts. During such instances, the inverter stops indicating current flow.

If there are many trees nearby, more so deciduous trees, they tend to drop leaves on the rooftop and invite birds. Both the birds and dropping leaves cause debris accumulation over time. It, therefore, becomes more crucial to hire the services of solar panel cleaners regularly.  

Among the primary considerations is your array angle. Flat panels require extra upkeep since water can collect and leave muddy residue on evaporation. In angled panels, the rainwater running across them does the cleaning.

Cleaning Solar Panels on the Roof

How should you best clean your solar panels? If you are a DIYer, identify the materials at home. Since you would not want to scratch the system by any means, the best practice is to use plain water and a non-abrasive sponge to apply soapy water. Use mild detergents if you require extra help.

And if you are considering using a pressure washer to do your solar panel cleaning, the advice is just to use a basic hose. Using a high-pressured device can damage your panels. Instead, use a sponge if birds leave behind a mess and no detergent stronger than the one you would use for your dishes. Again, the desire is to prevent any potent chemicals from marking your panels.

Safety First! Solar Panel Equipment and Maintenance

The ideal means of accomplishing the task is while on the ground using long-handled equipment. However, if this proves impossible and you opt to climb onto your roof, you need to take precautions. For instance, you should attach a rope to a safety harness to avoid falling to the ground. Most professionals use this method.

Furthermore, it would be best if you never went onto the roof without a safety harness and a hard hat. The environment is hazardous and potentially fatal!

Discoveries for a Cleaner and More Efficient Solar Panel

Though there might be professional solutions and DIY services to remove debris on the array, industrial innovations have paved the way for even easier upkeep. These are:

  • Robotic cleaners for dirt removal at night without needing water – they utilize air blowers and soft brushes.
  • Unique coatings for glass to reduce soiling and repel dust.
  • Commercial tools tailored to gauge dirt levels.
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Some of these commercial tools use photodiodes and LEDs to monitor the extent of dirt accumulation on your array. You can then decide on when and the frequency of cleaning your installation for peak performance.

Additionally, professional facility management organizations recommend cleaning the system no less than twice annually. By doing so, you maintain your investment in the best shape for guaranteed cost savings and enhanced efficiency. 

A Step-by-Step Guide Towards Cleaning Your Solar Panels

Completely shut down the system

The system needs to be entirely shut down before starting any cleaning according to the shutdown strategy highlighted in the user manual or the operating manual from the inverter manufacturer. For example, a DC system will require a complete shutdown, whereas AC systems should be powered off using the main switch of the solar supply.

Block off or disconnect any gutters or rainwater collections

Where you have rainwater tanks installed and linked to the guttering system, ensure they are temporarily shut off or disconnected from your gutters to ensure no dirty or run-off water goes into the tank.

Clean during a calm and mild time of day

The association of hot panel glass and cool water put the glass at a high risk of cracking from the drastic temperature change. Furthermore, if the scorching sun is shining on your panels, the water you use evaporates quickly, leaving behind dirty marks. Cool, early mornings are an excellent time of day for the cleaning.

Dew settled on your panels overnight has at this time loosened the grime and dirt; hence you will require less energy and a reduced amount of water to clean the panels. If you cannot accomplish the task early in the morning, a mild, cool evening or overcast day is your next best time to do the solar panel cleaning.

Solar Panel Cleaning

Clean the panels from the ground where applicable

Due to safety concerns, it is advisable to clean solar panels from the ground if you can by using a hosepipe to direct water to the panels. The hose should have a proper nozzle to let the water stream get to your panels.

Ensure that water is only directed towards the top of the solar panels

Though it is inevitable for some water to get to the back of the panels, you should avoid letting the water get into direct contact with the back of the panels or the gaps between the roof and your panels.

For persistent grime, use mild soap and a soft cloth

You will not necessarily have to invest in fancy cleaning solutions as only mild soap and water will suffice to get the job done. A quality soft brush and squeegee with a cloth-covered sponge on one side and plastic blade on the other, together with an extended extension, can leave you with the ideal tool for the task and guarantee your safety on the ground.

Do not risk climbing on the roof without suitable safety gear

Using water increases the risk of working on the roof. In addition, roofs may become slippery as you use water to clean the panels. Where you cannot clean the panels from the ground, avoid trying to access the rooftop unless with appropriate safety gear and training. To guarantee your safety, the best thing is to hire the services of a suitably qualified expert cleaner.

Solar Panel Maintenance Tips

  • Keep the panels from shade since energy conversion is less efficient when placed somewhere with hindrances from sunlight.
  • Watch your solar panels and ensure that the inverters flash green lights. If they do not flash, you lose money by failing to make up for your electricity use.
  • Note down the daily performances to boost solar panel maintenance. It is essential to document the amount of energy produced at a particular time daily and take note of days when it was cloudy.
  • Monitor your systems to help identify the extent of your benefit from the environment and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. Monitoring can also aid in knowing how much you stand to reap from the feed-in tariff project.
  • If you lack time to clean your solar panels, you could install an automated cleaner that works like a sprinkler system or plan appointments with panel cleaning services.

Conclusion

The output of your solar panel may be decreased if the panels are covered in dirt, grime, or dust. These block sunlight from getting to your panels hence reducing efficiency. To realize the complete cost-saving advantage of solar energy, you should ensure that your solar panels are maintained free from debris and relatively clean. 

Dirt, dust, bird droppings, leaves, and pollen can harm the performance of a solar system. However, a consistent cleaning schedule can cause differences and significantly improve the panel’s efficiency. Usually, rainfall will naturally clean off dirt or dust particles, though you might still be required to aid nature using a garden hose.

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Hi there! I'm Ally, I can help you find out if solar makes sense for your home in 30 seconds!

See if your home qualifies and how much you could save with current programs available...