We like to keep our windows clean and free of dirt and grime. The same thing goes for the set of wheels in your garage. A well-serviced car will perform better, so why should you make an exception for cleaning your solar panels?
When solar panels are given the same level of care, they too will perform better. The debate should be more about when and how often you need to put in the hard work. So, in this article, we’ll answer all of your burning questions about how to clean small solar panels and establish a successful maintenance regimen.
Table of Contents
What’s the point of cleaning a solar panel?
If you have a domestic solar energy system installed, your solar panels are usually flat, inclined, and on your rooftop. Do you clean your roof on a regular basis? Probably not so often. After all, isn’t that what rain is supposed to do? Well, solar panels work much in the same way.
You don’t have to clean them very often. When dirt or dust is collected on the surface of the solar panel, it will be rinsed away the next time it rains. Cleaning solar panels, though, will be necessary at times. If you have a lot of bird droppings on your panels, rain alone is certainly not going to wash them away easily. Bird droppings are your biggest enemy when you have a solar panel. Also, if you live somewhere where droughts are common or do not rain very often, you will need to clean solar panels now and then.
Now, is it true that dirt and debris can reduce the efficiency of your solar panel? And, if so, how much will it cost? In a nutshell, yes and no. And there isn’t much. Yes, dirt and debris can reduce the amount of sunlight that can be converted into renewable energy. However, the reduction in efficiency is minimal, say about 5% or less. And, with a normal 5kW solar system, this might be a £ 12 reduction in your monthly energy expenditure, or it can even be every year.
How to check your solar panel
There are several ways to determine whether your solar panel requires cleaning:
1. Physical examination
You should inspect your dirty solar panels regularly, especially if you live in an area where the weather conditions are bad or there is a lot of dust. At this point, you should also examine the connections to ensure that you are up to date on how they are performing.
2. Using a monitoring service
A physical inspection is performed regularly, but it’s a good idea to have a monitoring system in place to complement it. These devices will regularly monitor the state and condition of the solar panels. You can pay an upfront fee or a monthly subscription, and then your system’s performance levels can be monitored at all times. Always make sure that the inverters are flashing green lights, as this will help in the prevention of damage and may extend the life of your panels.
3. Check the amount of electricity generated by the solar array each month
You will need to get information about whether the system is down or not working at optimal levels. Furthermore, a solar monitoring system can show you how much energy is saved and the amount of CO2 that is avoided from entering the atmosphere. It can also demonstrate how much money you’re saving.
Is cleaning your panel worth it?
Some people believe that regular cleaning is too much trouble to bother with. However, as you have more dirt buildups on the panels’ surfaces, their efficiency will decrease. Over several years, it could fall by a few percentage points or by a large amount.
Solar panels have a protective covering applied to them to keep them safe from the outside elements. The accumulation of dust and other materials will degrade the overall efficiency over the years. Cleaning a standard 5kW solar system in a residential home once a year would only result in a few pounds of extra electricity generation.
The accumulation of dust on solar panels does affect performance. If the decrease in solar power production is minor, though, and your panels still cover the household’s power use, then the whole cleaning process may not be worth the additional expense.
The financial losses are greater if the solar panels do not operate optimally on a larger commercial rooftop installation. However, it will be enough to justify the cost of washing the panels, especially because it does not happen very often.
If you hire a professional cleaning service to clean and polish your solar panels, there is no return on your investment. As a result, the expense of cleaning usually exceeds the value of the results obtained.
How location can impact your solar panel cleaning
The location of solar panels impacts how to clean them and how often they need to be cleaned. Consider the following:
1. Polluted areas
PV panels in polluted areas, like near factories, highways, or airports, will experience significant atmospheric dirt and oil deposition levels. Therefore you will want to clean them more often.
2. Wooded areas
Leaves are more likely to fall on the panels when you have a lot of trees nearby, obscuring solar absorption. Plus, birds are naturally attracted to trees, which, in turn, will increase the accumulation of droppings that obscure the solar light cells, harm the surface of the panels and lower their efficiency.
What cleaning equipment should you use?
You can clean solar panels with a good quality soft brush on one side and a damp cloth on the other. Add to this a water hose with an appropriate nozzle. If the water pressure of your mains is harsh, you can use collected rainwater as the last rinse because it leaves less residue on the panels.
How to clean small solar panels step-by-step
Step 1: Spray them with a hose
If you live somewhere with a lot of pollen, sandstorms, or ash, you will want to wash your panels with a hose. Go outside, get a garden hose, and use a nozzle attachment to spray water on your roof to rinse your solar panels. Once you are finished, let them air dry. If you have a flat roof and your panels are unclean, you can clean them with warm water and a soft cloth-covered sponge or squeegee.
However, unless you have a harness or a roof anchor, you will not want to clean your roof by hand if it is pitched. If you want the panels to be clean, you might then want to hire a solar panel cleaning service.
When the weather is particularly hot and sunny, avoid washing your panels. To keep the panels from experiencing rapid temperature changes, you can either clean them in the early morning or wait for an overcast day.
Step 2: Use a broom or a leaf blower
If snow accumulates on your panels and you have a roof access hatch, go up to the hatch with a broom and clear the snow. If you have a flat roof, you can walk up there. But if you have a pitched roof, you must leave the hatch open.
Alternatively, you can use an extension rod and a squeegee to wipe the panels from the ground. If the air reaches the solar panels on a one-storey building, you can also use a leaf blower. If there’s a little covering of snow on the ground and it will be sunny in a day or two, you will not need to bother.
You should remove snow only if there is a protracted period of intense winter weather as the panels will eventually heat up in the sun. Don’t worry about wiping the snow off the panels. You will not be hurting the solar cells as they are quite tough. The panels should be all right as long as you do not use any abrasive cleaning solutions or detergents, such as dish soap.
Step 3: Hire a professional cleaning service
If your panels get too dirty and you can’t reach them with a hose, or if too much gunge is accumulating and you have a sloped roof, contact a solar panel cleaning company to come and completely clean them. It’s not a good idea to go up on your roof by yourself if you don’t know what you are doing. A professional staff member would clean solar panels more thoroughly. Hiring a cleaning service isn’t that expensive. You wouldn’t need to hire a cleaning service more than once a year to perform this.
The cleaning service can set up cleaning robots and automated systems with a solar installer to accomplish this comprehensive cleaning. Still, these systems can cost thousands of quids and are unnecessary.
Thanks for taking the time to read our solar panel cleaning tutorial. Solar panels are powerful and durable, and we hope you can now determine when and how to clean and maintain them properly!