One question that may make you hesitate before jumping on-board with solar panels is, “Do they require maintenance?” You’re investing a lot of money into your solar panel system, and this is a valid point – you don’t want to spend more time and money on maintaining your equipment. While solar systems do require a bit of common maintenance, the expense is likely less than you think. Plus, a well-maintained system will give a greater performance – delivering better energy savings. Before you give up on the idea of residential solar panels because of maintenance, get the facts straight.
How Often Does Your System Need Cleaning?
Luckily, solar panels are relatively low maintenance. Unlike generators, solar panels are pretty simple pieces of equipment that don’t involve dozens of small parts working together. This makes for simple maintenance and repairs. Solar panels don’t have moving parts that can wear down, break, or rust. Instead, they operate based mainly on the exterior surface and the delicate cells within the system.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends cleaning your panels at least four times per year (or one thorough cleaning annually). The Department estimates that the average solar panel owner will spend about 8 to 16 hours maintaining the system per year. If your home or building is surrounded by foliage, lots of birds, or dusty areas, you may need to clean your panels more often. Keep in mind that it’s mostly the thick glass or acrylic exterior of the panels that need cleaning and maintenance rather than the delicate interior components.
You do not have to clean your solar panels regularly to prevent serious performance loss. Your solar system will work to save you energy costs unless it has extreme residue build up. Most areas – even desert regions like Arizona and New Mexico – experience enough rainfall to naturally remove dirt buildup that solar panels collect.
How to Keep Solar Panels Clean
The main type of maintenance solar panels require is keeping the equipment clean. Solar panels work by absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them into energy. If your panels are dirty or covered in a layer of grime, they won’t be able to capture sunlight as efficiently. Luckily, it’s easy to clean your solar panels. You don’t need special tools or products – use the same techniques you would to clean your home’s windows. You can also purchase a special solar panel cleaning kit, which will contain liquid soap, a small brush, and a wiper.
Mix soap and water according to the directions on the label. Dip the brush in the mixture and gently rub your solar panels. Use the wiper to squeegee the panels while still wet. Don’t allow soap to dry on the panels, as this can leave residue that blocks sun absorption. Avoid using cold water on hot panels, as this could crack the surface. Only use cleaning products that are non-abrasive. If you don’t feel comfortable getting onto your roof to clean the panels, hire a solar company to do so for you. As long as you clean your panels regularly, you won’t have to do any extensive cleaning jobs to remove dirt and other debris.
Monitor Your Solar Panel Performance
You can gauge how often your panels need cleaning by monitoring their performance. With a low monthly subscription fee, you can sign up for a program that will keep an eye on how well your system is performing. Your monitoring tool will show you how much energy your solar panels are producing, how this energy is helping the environment, and when your system experiences problems. A monitoring system makes troubleshooting easy and tells you when your panels may need repairs. Declines in performance can point to the need to clean your panels.
Know When to Repair Your System
If you notice any issues with your solar panels and a wipe down doesn’t do anything, contact a solar installer to come inspect your system. There may be a minor issue with one of the components that’s preventing it from performing its best. When it comes to problems with your solar panel, you don’t have to worry. Most solar panel manufacturers provide 20-25 year warranties or longer. With a warranty, you won’t have to pay for major or minor solar panel repairs. The manufacturing company will cover these costs for you.
Get an Automated Cleaning System
Solar panels are self-cleaning for the most part. They sit at an angle that helps dirt, dust, and debris slide off instead of sticking directly onto the panels. If you live in a particularly dusty region, however, you may want to invest in an automatic cleaning system such as the Heliotex. With this device, you won’t have to climb up on your roof or worry about dirty panels decreasing efficiency. It works in a way similar to a sprinkler to keep panels clear from dirt and debris at all times.
Maintenance is so minimal on solar panels that it should not deter you from installing this incredibly beneficial system for your home or business.