What To Do & What Not To Do When Cleaning Solar Panels

May 21, 2024

The worldwide transition to renewable energy relies heavily on solar panels. They effectively convert solar energy into a reliable and powerful electrical energy source. Notwithstanding this, their efficacy is frequently undervalued. In this regard, maintenance is critical.

Solar panels, similar to other complex engines, require diligent upkeep. Thus, their operational tenure is ensured to be filled with optimal functionality. On the surfaces of the panels, dirt, grime, and detritus may accumulate. This hinders the quantity of sunlight that is able to penetrate the photovoltaic cells. Energy production consequently decreases in a measurable manner. Consistent upkeep is therefore essential. It represents a conscientious approach to solar energy system ownership and a dedication to maximizing its capabilities.

view of clean solar panels

Source: pveurope.eu

If you already use solar panels, SolarPowerSystems can offer you tons of useful information in the field of solar industry. However, if you’re just considering going green and aren’t sure where to start, our solar experts can provide you with free solar quotes from the top installers in your area. You can also check out our blog on integrating solar power into sustainable living practices and the largest list of US solar installers at SolarPowerSystems.org.

Due to the potential energy loss that grime and detritus may cause, it is vital to keep solar panels clean. Debris-covered solar panels may experience a 20% reduction in energy output, according to the Solar Energy Power Association. This percentage, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, could reach 25%.

The primary objective of this article is to furnish readers with the fundamental understanding required to oversee solar panel maintenance diligently. It includes guidance on how to clean solar panels most effectively and how to avoid potential hazards.

Do Solar Panels Need To Be Cleaned?

An increasing number of countries are adopting renewable energy sources, solar panels in particular. The increasing demand for renewable energy drives the significance of solar power systems’ dependability and efficiency.

The figure below illustrates how the number of solar energy increased tenfold between 2012 and 2022, as reported by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The data is color-coded as follows: solar energy is represented in yellow, wind energy in gray, geothermal energy in red, bioenergy in green, and renewable hydropower in blue.

renewable energy growth chart

Source: public.tableau

This demonstrates the criticality of effective management in achieving sustained success.

Only when exposed to sunlight can solar panels generate electricity. Weather conditions have a significant impact on the frequency with which solar panels require cleaning. Frequent cleansing may be necessary in the presence of smoke, pollen, pollution, debris, and detritus.

In most locations, occasional rain is enough to clean solar panels naturally and free of anything that might lower their photovoltaic (PV) output. Periodic thorough cleansing of your panels can still increase their photovoltaic output.

Popular Myths About Solar Panels Busted 5

Environmental Factors Impacting Solar Panel Efficiency

The power output of solar panel modules is substantially impacted by irradiation and temperature, which are two environmental factors. As irradiance decreases and temperature rises, respectively, the efficacy of these modules may diminish. Consequently, for optimal performance, they require the utmost sunlight exposure and a temperature of up to 25 degrees.

Nonetheless, a challenge may result from the accumulation of dirt on the surface of the panels. Unfavorably, this decreases irradiation. Dust, snow, ice, and even organic matter are all potential components of the impure material. Sunlight absorption may be impeded by these substances.

comparative view of dirty and clean solar panels and view of solar panel cleaning brush

Source: linkedin.com

To be more precise, the issue at hand pertains to microscopic particulate particles. They integrate into the surfaces more thoroughly. This may exert a more pronounced adverse influence on output performance.

The Impact of Cleaning of Solar Panels on Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency can decrease by as much as 50% percent, according to research, in the absence of routine solar panel cleaning. To ensure optimal performance, this underscores the critical importance of implementing efficient cleansing methods. Logistics can be complicated, particularly in the case of large-scale solar arrays, due to the ongoing cleansing and monitoring that must occur after installation.

Solar panel washing encompasses a multitude of methodologies, each exhibiting distinct advantages and disadvantages. A comprehensive analysis of various cleansing methods is presented in the table. The aforementioned techniques comprise forced-air cleaning systems, hydrophobic and hydrophilic coating, natural cleaning, manual cleaning, robotic cleaning, heliotex cleaning, and electrostatic cleaning.

Cleaning Technique Merits Demerits Power Output Efficiency Compared to Clean Panels
Natural solar panel cleaning No investment cost is involved Depends on the location’s weather condition 4%
Manual solar panel cleaning Involves simple design Requires expensive materials and the use of human labor 90.67%
Robotic solar panel cleaning Effective and sustainable in all climates Requires complex construction 99.5%
Heliotex solar panel cleaning Effective for non-sticky dirt Requires a lot of water 12.5%
Electrostatic solar panel cleaning Effective for dry dust and requires no moving parts High voltage is required, and the design is costl 3.35–11.5%
Hydrophobic and hydrophilic coating Does not require water and labor Coating presence reduces screen efficiency 6.62%

Vibrating cleaning system

Applicable for dry dirt in dry weather An external source is required to power the vibrating motor 95%
Forced-air cleaning system Applicable for dry dirt in dry weather An external source is required to power the air pump. Only removes small dust larger than 20 µm 86.4%

How Often To Clean Solar Panels

Multiple significant factors influence the frequency of cleansing. The aforementioned factors comprise the climate, location, and inclination of the solar panels.

  • Climate

The frequency of cleanings is significantly influenced by the climate. Solar panels may accumulate grime at a faster rate in areas with low precipitation or high levels of dust and pollution. Maintaining the panels cleaned every two to three months is recommended in such climates. Conversely, regions characterized by normal precipitation may necessitate less frequent sanitation. Because rainfall can naturally purify the panels, this is the case.

  • Location

Additionally, the frequency of cleansing is impacted by geographical location. For example, the cleansing frequency may be increased in areas characterized by a significant accumulation of airborne particulate. Frequently, this occurs in heavily trafficked areas or industrial zones. Another example would be coastal regions. Special care may be required to prevent the accumulation of salt on panel surfaces due to the corrosive properties of salt precipitation.

  • Panel Tilt

Also influencing the rate at which grime and grit accumulate is the solar panels’ tilt angle. In comparison to panels erected at a steeper pitch, those positioned at a horizontal angle may accumulate dirt at a quicker rate. As a result, periodic cleansing may be required for flatter panels.

Owners of solar panels are able to tailor their maintenance schedules by appreciating these factors. There is no universally applicable maintenance schedule for solar panels. It ought to be customized to suit the specific circumstances of each geographical area.

view of solar panel cleaning

Source: apexwcpros.com

Benefits of Proper Solar Panel Cleaning

Solar panels derive numerous advantages from routine, comprehensive cleansing. The immediate operational efficiency and extended lifespan of your solar energy system are both significantly influenced by these advantages. Consider the following advantages:

  • Energy production enhancement is the most immediate and conspicuous advantage of routine solar panel cleaning. What is the cause of this? Unimpeded access to the photovoltaic cells by obstructions is facilitated by a pristine surface. Dirty or filthy solar panels establish an obstruction. Sunlight absorption is impeded by this barrier. However, a greater proportion of sunlight can be converted to electricity by clear panels.
  • The durability of solar panels is additionally enhanced by routine solar panel cleaning. In the absence of remediation, dirt accumulation over time may result in corrosion or damage. This deterioration can be averted through routine solar panel cleaning. This prolongs the lifespan of the panels by ensuring they remain in pristine condition. Your investment is protected by this proactive approach. Premature replacements and expensive repairs are also diminished in probability.

  • The efficacy of the solar energy system as a whole is improved by a spotless solar panel surface. Battery life, inverter performance, and other component performance are all enhanced in a positive manner. The solar energy system will work without any disruptions, delivering power that is dependable and continual.
  • Additionally, the aesthetic allure of your installation is enhanced by well-maintained solar panels. This aesthetic purity is appealing in addition to its practical advantages. Furthermore, it demonstrates a dedication to sound energy practices and environmental stewardship.
rooftop solar panel cleaning

Source: coldwellsolar.com

What To Do When Cleaning Solar Panels

Routine maintenance includes the cleaning of solar panels. This guarantees the optimal operation of your system. Outlined below is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to solar panel cleaning:

Step 1. Before cleansing solar panels, you must always power them off. Your safety and the integrity of the system depend on this. Obtain guidance from the manufacturer or a professional if you are uncertain about how to proceed.

Step 2. Use suitable protective equipment, such as slip-resistant footwear. A safety harness may be required as well. Employ a professional if operating the panels is uncomfortable or unsafe for you.

Step 3. Choose an appropriate time for solar panel cleaning. Perform this task during the late afternoon or early morning hours. A hasty drying process can result in water stains or traces when cleaning in direct sunlight. Additionally, solar panel cleaning is facilitated by overcast days.

Step 4. Establish a consistent cleansing routine for your solar panels. This ensures that grime and detritus do not accumulate. A cleansing interval of three to six months is suggested, although this varies by location. In accordance with your particular circumstances, modify this frequency.

Step 5. Employ cleansing materials that do not contain abrasives. Scratches are thus avoided. It is advisable to utilize a moderate detergent or soapy water. Utilize a gentle sponge to apply this. Ensure that there are no abrasive particulates on the cleaning instrument, as these could cause surface damage to the panel.

Step 6. After scouring, rinse the panels thoroughly. Apply a mild spray attachment to a hose and use clean water.

Step 7. With a soft cloth or squeegee, dry the panels. Water stains are thus avoided. Avoid causing damage to the glass surface by ensuring that the drying material is devoid of any debris.

solar panel cleaning with a soft cloth

Source: brightearthsolar.com.au

You can effectively clean solar panels by adhering to these instructions and placing safety first. Their longevity and effectiveness will be increased as a result.

What Not To Do When Cleaning Solar Panels

Take cautious not to do anything that can damage your solar panels while cleaning them, and adhere to these basic guidelines:

  • To begin with, exercise caution when handling abrasive substances. The use of abrasive scouring brushes and steel wool is not recommended. The solar panels’ surface may be scratched by these. This may impair their efficacy over time.
  • Avoid caustic chemicals as a second precaution. Hazardous substances and potent cleansing agents include ammonia. They are capable of causing harm to the solar panels’ protective coatings. The performance of the professional may be adversely affected. Utilize cleansers that are moderate and nonabrasive. These will maintain the panels’ integrity.
  • Do not use high-pressure water nozzles. The surface of the panel may be compromised or harmed by them. Water under high pressure can also breach the panel seals. Their structural integrity is thus compromised. Hose attachments or mild sprays are the safer option. Potential harm is thus averted.
  • Walking directly onto the solar panels should also be avoided. Breakage or reduced efficiency may result from this. Consider utilizing platforms or walkways if maintenance is necessary. These uniformly disperse the load.
  • As a final step, clear with mild pressure. Even with nonabrasive substances, harm can be caused by excessive force. It may cause defects such as dents or fractures. Dirt can be eliminated with a light stroke. Furthermore, it preserves the efficacy of the panels.

Optimal Care For Sustained Efficiency

To preserve the efficacy of your solar energy system, you must take preventative measures. This may involve professional solar panel cleaning services, fast problem-solving, and the implementation of critical maintenance procedures:

  • Visual inspections on a routine basis are vital. Solar panel proprietors can benefit from this straightforward practice.
  • It is crucial to address issues promptly. Preserving optimal performance requires prompt resolutions.
  • Professional solar panel cleaning services may be the more practicable option to consider for larger installations or if you feel uneasy with do-it-yourself cleaning. These experts provide specialized knowledge and apparatus. They guarantee an efficient and comprehensive solar panel cleaning service.
  • When seeking expert solar panel cleaning services for solar panels, it is crucial to do business with reputable companies. Consider the testimonials and evaluations of customers. Take the time to evaluate these. They offer insightful information regarding the contentment of past consumers. Ascertaining the service quality and overall client experience is facilitated by firsthand feedback.
washing solar panels using water

Source: solarnegotiators.com

  • Licenses and certifications should be verified. Please verify that the cleaning service possesses the appropriate licenses and certifications. This is a critical phase in ensuring that the service provider can clean effectively and safely in accordance with industry standards.
  • Verify that the solar panel cleaning techniques employed adhere to the guidelines provided by the solar panel manufacturer. This is of utmost importance to prevent potential damage to panels while cleaning.

Any doubts left? Feel free to surf our solar platform SolarPowerSystems, full of the latest industry news, or ask directly for a personalized solar quote!

In Summary

Dos and don’ts regarding solar panel cleaning are insightfully discussed in the article. Maximizing efficiency and longevity are its primary objectives. Those who wish to optimize the performance of their solar panels should consider following the advice given in this article. By implementing responsible and efficient maintenance procedures, they help accomplish these primary objectives.

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Andy Worford
Andy Worford

Andy is a Founder, Chief Content Officer, regular contributor, and idea generator behind Solar Power Systems. He is well-versed in various aspects of solar energy, including photovoltaic systems, solar policy trends, and green technology innovations.

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