Should I Wash My Solar Panels?
Once you have purchased and installed solar panels on your rooftop, you may begin thinking about maintenance responsibilities. Should you wash them every day, every week, or every year? Or, should you leave them alone?
Today, we will look at the benefits of keeping your solar panels clean and well-maintained, as well as some strategies for achieving these goals.
Washing Solar Panels
Fortunately, solar panels are some of the easiest pieces of equipment to maintain. In fact, you can leave your solar panels unattended for years without doing any permanent damage to the system. However, even though you are not doing anything to actively harm the panels, you also are not helping them to work at their best. What this means is that by not doing some maintenance to your panels, you are costing yourself money in reduced efficiency.
Solar panels are exposed to the elements every day of the year. In even the best conditions, this means they will be accumulating dust, dirt, and pollutants along the way. Because we don’t all live in ideal weather conditions, the panels may also be exposed to falling leaves or debris, snow, even the occasional bird dropping. While all of these things can cover the panels, it does not render them inefficient at capturing the sun’s rays. In fact, the amount of debris that will land on your panels is such a small amount that it does not affect your system’s productivity.
Panels work best when they are cleaned and able to fully harness the sun’s energy. So, how should you clean the panels?
How to Wash
As one solar technician once said, “You want to wash the panels the same way you would wash your boss’s car.”
Although you want to do a thorough job in cleaning the panels, the real goal is to not do any damage to the unit itself. This means that you need to take extra precautions before you set out to clean the panels.
First, most panels are mounted on rooftops. This means you must take care when climbing on your roof and use a harness for support. There is little benefit to having clean solar panels if you suffer a broken back for your efforts.
Before climbing onto the roof, you should first check your manufacturer’s guidelines (or contact your solar company) to determine if the system must be powered down before cleaning. Some systems have this requirement, while others can be cleaned while they remain operational.
In most cases, your garden hose will be sufficient to clean off the dirt and grime that has accumulated on your panels. There is really no need for a pressure washer, which can damage the wiring beneath the panels if you are not careful with the hose. Keep in mind that the panels themselves are designed to withstand dramatic weather events, so spraying them with a garden hose should not cause any damage.
If the water hose is insufficient, you should use a soft bristle brush and soapy water – similarly to how you would wash your car. After you wash the panels, be sure to rinse them with water so they do not acquire a soapy film. They can be dried with a soft cloth to complete the job.
Be sure to complete the cleaning process either in the morning or on a cool, cloudy day. If you try to clean the panels in the middle of a summer afternoon, you will run two risks: First, the panels become extremely hot and may burn you. Second, they will have water spots after cleaning.
Panels do not need to be cleaned often – once or twice a year is sufficient. If you live near a freeway or airport, or your panels are situated beneath heavy trees, you might consider cleaning them once per season.
Hiring a Professional
If the thought of climbing on your rooftop to wash solar panels seems daunting, there is another solution: Most solar companies offer cleaning services or can direct you toward reputable companies in your area. The best step will be to contact your solar provider. You might also consult work-for-hire websites such as Angie’s List, which can show you cleaning crews near you.
Solar panels are designed to be efficient and sturdy in many types of weather conditions. If you install a system today and leave it alone for the next twenty years, it will continue to function. However, by cleaning it on a regular basis (once per year), you will ensure that it continues to work at maximum efficiency. With a small amount of maintenance, you will prolong the life of your system and save yourself money in the process.