Solar systems don’t require much maintenance. However, birds may leave thank-you gifts as they fly by. Wind may blow dust up to your solar panels to sit for eternity. For these reasons and many others, a solar panel cleaning may be necessary at some point. That’s not to say they’ll stop working in these conditions. But they generally work better when sun exposure isn’t restricted.
Here’s what to expect if your solar system needs maintenance.
Who does the Solar Panel Cleaning?
If you can wash a car, you can wash a solar panel. That is, once you get on the roof. However, if your solar panels are still under their warranty, that’s probably not a good idea. If someone other than the solar company works on the solar panels, it may void the warranty.
If you prefer to do it on your own, you can hire a company or do it yourself. Regardless of your choice for maintenance, Home Advisor suggests an annual inspection for damage and efficiency. The average cost for inspections is about $150.
These companies commonly do solar panel cleaning, as well. According to Home Advisor, “Depending on factors such as roof slant, home height and system size, companies charge between $3 and $10 per panel.” Sometimes companies charge a flat rate for the service instead.
To do it yourself, you need to get on the roof with a hose and a bucket. Use a gentle soap; liquid dish soap is a good option. To scrub, use a non-abrasive sponge. Do not use a presser washer. Above all, be careful and safe.
When is the Best Time to Clean Solar Panels?
Dirt and debris can collect on solar panels at different rates throughout the seasons. Another factor to consider is the climate in your area. Lastly, think about the benefits you expect from cleaning the solar system.
Firstly, there’s a difference between solar panel maintenance and solar panel cleaning. Keeping solar panels in the minimal condition to achieve efficiency doesn’t require much maintenance. According to U.C. San Diego, efficiency alone isn’t worth multiple cleanings of solar panels per year.
“Researchers found panels that hadn’t been cleaned, or rained on, for 145 days during a summer drought in California lost only 7.4 percent of their efficiency.” In fact, they noted that “washing the panels halfway through the summer would translate into a mere $20 gain in electricity production until the summer drought end.”
While that example is in California, plenty of other climates across the country may result in dirtier, less efficient solar panels. The best time to clean solar panels in these climates will vary. For example, if you live near a forest where plenty of pollen falls and wildlife live, an annual cleaning may be necessary.
Some companies recommend solar panel cleaning after certain seasons. After Spring, solar panels may have a build up of dust and pollen. After Fall, the business of active wildlife will begin to fade presenting a good cleaning opportunity.
Finally, no matter what season it is, the best time to clean solar panels is early in the morning or in the evening. During the day, the sun rapidly evaporates moisture. This can make cleaning rather frustrating and not as efficient.
Why Should I Bother with Solar Panel Cleaning When They Still Work?
While solar panels don’t need a lot of maintenance, there’s something to be said for regular cleanings. Solar panels add a sleek look to any home. But dust, pollution, bird droppings, and many others diminish the grandeur of their appearance. In other words, you may have the nicest yard on the block. But if you don’t maintain it regularly, the aesthetic isn’t so pleasing.
Most important is how well the solar panels work. You bought a solar system with the capacity to generate a certain amount of power. A few days or even a few weeks of debris and buildup may not be a noticeable loss of power. But as time goes by, the efficiency dips lower. Before you know it, you need more electricity from the power company than you expected.
According to How Stuff Works, “Energy loss could reach 25 percent, but some reports bring the number as high as 30 percent for consumers who never clean their system.” That means you paid for a solar system that can put out more energy than it is. Generally, that’s only because they’re dirty. A simple solar panel cleaning can restore the original efficiency of your solar panels.
Solar systems don’t need much maintenance. But taking proper care of them will go a long way in getting the most solar electricity possible. Solar panel maintenance can happen at a variety of intervals. Whether you clean them yourself of hire a company to do it, you’ll be maximizing the amount of solar power that your system generates. It doesn’t hurt that the solar panels you have on your beautiful home are sleek and shiny, either.