If you’re like most people, you probably think of solar panels as a clean and green way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. But what happens when they get dirty?
Pollen, mould, and stubborn dirt that accumulates over time on dirty solar panels can reduce your solar performance and yearly rainfall isn’t nearly enough to thoroughly clean it all away.
Solar panel cleaning is an important part of maintaining your solar system to ensure it will last for years to come. In fact, if you don’t have clean solar panels, their efficiency can be reduced by up to 30% as it can limit the amount of sunlight being absorbed. So what’s the best way to clean dirty solar panels? Should you hire a professional? And how often should they be cleaned?
Well, that really depends on your system and the environment in which it is located. Generally speaking, most cleaning professionals recommend cleaning every six (6) months to ensure optimal performance. But there are also several things you can do to keep your solar panels clean.
Relax – normal grime hardly affects solar panels
Before we start we should point out that the dirt on solar panels is normally largely harmless to them. A lot of people fear that they will need to constantly clean their panels every month to ensure they perform well however this isn’t the case. The majority of Australian homes are covered by rainfall that can keep them reasonably healthy. The grime builds and eventually, rain comes to wipe most off.
Cleaning is only required periodically, say every 6 – 12 months or so, to remove grime that hasn’t rinsed off in normal rain.
How to clean solar panels by yourself?
Solar panels are the most common source of renewable energy in Australia. They provide more power than any other form of clean energy, and they’re on track to be the cheapest form of electricity by 2024. But like anything else, solar panels need cleaning every once in a while to stay at their best performance level.
So what’s the best way to do this? Should you hire professionals or try it yourself? Well, that all depends on your system and where it is located. Here are some general guidelines for keeping your solar panel system looking its best!
First, try to keep your vegetation at least 10 feet away from solar panels. These plants may hold onto dirt and debris which can then clog up the water channels in your system.
Invest in a water fed cleaning system
Second, if you want to do it the right way, invest in a water fed cleaning system that you can use on the dirtiest parts of your installation once every six (6) months. A water fed cleaning system uses a low-pressure spray of water, fed through soft brushes to clean solar panels without causing any damage. A water fed system can include an extension pole that will stretch up to 9m. The soft brushes on the pole will agitate the dust, bird poo and other debris before rinsing it away.
The water-fed pole’s effectiveness is due in part to the fact that only pure water is used to clean the solar panel. To remove all minerals and pollutants, the water is passed through a reverse osmosis filter. Once the grime is washed away, there’s no need for detergent. Because the water is clean (the filter ensures there is no trace of any dirty water), it won’t leave behind any water streaks, residue, or mineral deposits. The windows are streak-free because the water fed pole only uses clean water, even though they are not sponged or chamois. If you like, you can also use the water fed system to clean windows around your home.
Use a microfiber cloth
Third, if you prefer not to invest in a water fed system, you can take a microfiber cloth and gently wipe down your solar panels when they need a light cleaning. Try not to use any chemicals or household cleaners that might leave behind streaks or residue, we suggest only using such cleaners if the dirt buildup is stubborn and won’t come off with normal water and a soft brush or water-dampened cloth. If you do need to use such chemicals, isopropyl alcohol can be effective on stubborn dirt and bird droppings.
The bottom line is this: It’s beneficial to clean your solar panels regularly to ensure that they are functioning properly and to increase their efficiency. In most cases, a simple wipe-down with a water-dampened cloth is all that is needed to keep them clean. You can also use a garden hose with a gentle spray to rinse them off, or if you want an even better (and easier option) use a water-fed cleaning system. If you have a more stubborn build-up of dirt or grime, you can use a mild solution mixed with just water to help loosen it up but be sure to rinse the panel thoroughly afterwards.
Don’t use a high-pressure washer
When completing a solar panels clean, never use a strong high-pressure washer or harsh chemicals. Many people assume a Karcher cleaner from their local Bunnings store is a good option for doing a wash of their panels however this isn’t the case. Your panels may be harmed by high-pressure cleaners or hazardous chemicals, causing you to do more harm than good.
Choosing professional cleaners for cleaning solar panels
Depending on the size of your solar system, it can cost you between $200 upwards to have a professional company clean them. This can be money well spent when you consider the risk of working metres off the ground.
The good news is that some companies do offer discounts if their customers subscribe to a maintenance plan or have repeat cleans throughout the year. We recommend that you always ask for their credentials and customer reviews before committing to any one company.
Some situations, such as when you have solar panels on an apartment building, will require a professional and shouldn’t be attempted by anyone else due to the risks involved should an accident occur.
An important aspect of choosing a solar panel cleaner is whether or not they offer warranties. If the company provides guarantees on its workmanship, this means they could return and clean your panels again for free should they fail to do their job. But again, make sure the warranty comes with fine print that includes specific details about what’s included in the contract.
If you would like recommendations on solar panel cleaning services please reach out to our friendly staff at Skyline Solar.
Flat solar panels definitely need cleaning
Flat panels require a wash more frequently than tilted solar panels. Why? Because water collects on the flat panels and has nowhere to go if there are no drains. The water will evaporate, leaving dirt behind.
It’s highly likely that a solar panel in a flat position will need a good clean, especially if it is in a place where it cannot be rained on directly. You can also get dirty panels from factory residue (particularly in commercial installations) and high traffic dust. This can result in lost production because the dust impedes the energy output of the cells (and therefore your energy bill).
An important safety message
Home solar install cleaning is a good idea, but it isn’t advised. DIY cleaning can be harmful to you and the modules! If you have rooftop-mounted solar modules, we recommend that you hire specialists to clean them for you. Safety is important and it’s a risk climbing up on the roof, you might do yourself an injury, particularly if working near the edge of a structure.
Furthermore, solar experts can check your installation while it is being cleaned and identify any issues that need to be addressed as part of a maintenance routine.
How often should you clean your solar panels for optimal performance?
For the most part, cleaning solar panels should occur about twice a year – once in winter and once during summer. Of course, this depends on the climate where you live and how dirty your panels get. Whilst it will get rid of most debris, you can’t just rely on rainfall to keep them clean since debris accumulates over time so it’s good to do a manual clean now and then.
What are the benefits of having your panels cleaned? Cleaning solar panels manually can help you save up to 20% on your energy bill! A lot of homeowners don’t realise how much dust is collected over time, which has an adverse effect on solar energy output.
When washing the solar panels only use soft materials, like microfiber cloths or water-fed poles to ensure your solar panels are not scratched. As the sun tends to fade the colour of tiles over time, you want to make sure your solar modules get cleaned without affecting their functionality.
The roof itself should be checked to ensure that it hasn’t become misaligned or uneven, which could mean the solar panels aren’t working as efficiently as they should. A misaligned roof can sometimes be fixed by repositioning screws, but you might need to get your roof looked at by a professional if that doesn’t fix the issue.
Solar panels are a great way to reduce your energy bills and become more environmentally friendly, but they need to be cleaned regularly to maintain peak performance. In this article, we have outlined the best way to clean your solar panels – using soft materials and avoiding harsh chemicals or high-pressure washers. We have also advised how often you should clean them for optimal performance.
Hopefully you have a better idea of cleaning solar panels, how often you should clean them and options for getting them done professionally however if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact the solar power experts here at Skyline Solar.