Solar panel cleaning is one of the first topics to come to mind when any current or future solar owners consider the upkeep and maintenance of the system. It is an important consideration since the efficiency and also payoff of the system depends on the panels’ surfaces ability to absorb photons. Thankfully, the required cleaning is minimal and will in most cases be taken care of naturally by the rain. In some cases, however, there are some considerations regarding how to clean solar panels. Occasionally, a homeowner should call an expert, but this is only in cases of major contamination, and may not be worth the cost. Read on to find out what special cases exist in regard to the need to clean solar panels as well as some tips for doing the job correctly and safely when it’s needed.
A Minor Consideration
Cleaning solar panels increases output, but this is a very minor increase and in most cases, the rain will get this job done. One of the nicest things about solar energy, in general, is the extremely minimal amount of maintenance in general involved, and cleaning is no exception. The climate does not make too much of a difference here either; a more pervasive factor here is the exact location of the install. For instance, systems near airports, golf courses, and other locations present greater debris and dirt quantities and will compel homeowners to clean more often. For the average solar homeowner, rinsing the system off with a hose from the ground once a year is the standard recommendation. Homeowners in unique locations like the ones listed above may consider doing more.
In locations like highways, airports, or near farmland the rain may not do the job and can even make it worse if the consistency of the contaminants is such that the rain may make a slurry. These are the kind of cases in which you may consider getting on the roof for a little deeper of a clean or in extreme cases calling a professional. Ask your Rooftop Solar expert if you think you may be in one of these special cases, or if getting the solar panels clean is being handled by mother nature.
There are other considerations that will make your need to clean your panels greater: flat pitched panels will harbor more dirt, as will panels placed near pollen, industrial smoke, or wildfires. Finally, bird droppings could play a role, but it is rare that systems are surrounded by substantial amounts of trees.
How to Clean Solar Panels
If further cleaning is needed beyond the yearly rinse from the ground with a house, most experts agree that it is perfectly fine to clean your panels with a solution of a very small quantity of very mild soap and water. Others in the industry argue that soap will leave a residue and would recommend a solar panel cleaning solution or just good old elbow grease and water. Either way, this task should be performed with a very soft, noncorrosive sponge, and extreme caution needs to be taken to be safe on the roof, and should not be done if the roof is high. A squeegee can then be used to dry the panels. Finally, this should not be performed mid-day, as the soap will dry quickly, leaving that residue we talked about. Other solar panel cleaning products exist, but they are largely used for larger, commercial solar farms, and may only be needed in the most extreme cases of contamination.
Again, high levels of safety are required to get on your roof and clean your panels, and you should use a safety harness and rope. If you live in a high pollution area and your roof is too high, you have physical limitations, or you don’t own a ladder/simply don’t want to put in the time cleaner beyond the basic ‘hose from the ground’ may not be the move. In these cases, you may in fact need a professional solar panel cleaner.
Some companies will use higher-end solar cleaning products as mentioned above, but again these are usually only worth the cost on larger systems. Many companies will use similar techniques to what is listed above, but again this may be necessary if you have extremely dirty panels and cannot perform the work yourself.
Overall, most systems do not need cleaning and will be taken care of by the rain. The extra diligent solar homeowners should hose their system off once a year from the ground, and getting on the roof is usually not needed. As mentioned, contact your Rooftop Solar specialist to find out if your system or prospective system needs this kind of attention, and always be extremely cautious when it comes to solar panel cleaning.
Contact Rooftop Solar today for help with everything from washing solar panels to getting a quote for you or a friend. Find out how much you can save and stay sunny!