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Solar Panel Cleaning: Is it Necessary for Efficiency?

solar panel cleaning

Keeping your solar panels clean is key to getting the most electricity out of them. Think of it this way: when your panels are dirty, they can't catch as much sunlight. That means they won't make as much electricity for your home. 

But, if you clean them regularly, they can catch more sunlight and make more electricity. In fact, clean solar panels can work about 25% better than dirty ones. That's a big deal because it means you can save more money on your electricity bills and make better use of your solar panels.

So, it's pretty clear: a little bit of cleaning can go a long way in making sure your solar panels do their best work. And if you're not up for cleaning them yourself, you can always get a professional solar panel cleaning service to help out. This way, you keep your solar panels working great and help the planet by using more solar power.

In This Article


Do I Really Need to Clean My Solar Panels?

Do you really need to clean your solar panels? Well, sure. Although rain does a decent job at giving your panels a natural rinse, it's not always enough. Think about it—depending on where you live, the amount of dust, leaves, or even bird droppings can vary a lot. 

If you're in a place that gets a lot of rain, you might think you're off the hook. But what about those dry spells? Or if you're in an area with lots of trees or near roads with heavy traffic, your panels might get dirtier, faster. That's when grabbing a hose or calling in the pros can make a big difference.

So, yes, while nature does lend a hand, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Keeping an eye on your panels and giving them a clean when needed can help ensure they're working their best, turning sunlight into savings for you.

How Dirt Affects Your Solar Panel Efficiency

solar panel cleaning

You might think, "It's just a bit of dirt, how bad could it be?" Well, it turns out, quite a bit. Research, including a notable study from the University of San Diego, highlights a subtle yet critical point: dirt and debris can reduce your solar panels' efficiency by less than 0.05% each day. Sounds negligible? Think again.

For a standard 5 kW home solar system, this seemingly minor daily loss accumulates, potentially leading to a noticeable dip in electricity production over time. Specifically, during dry seasons with little to no rain to naturally clean the panels, this efficiency loss could translate to a tangible financial impact. Imagine losing out on savings, all because of a layer of dust.

Now, if you're running a larger setup, say for a business or a farm, the stakes are even higher. More panels mean more surface area for dust to settle, and consequently, more efficiency loss. The question then becomes: "Is it worth cleaning them professionally?"

Considering the average cost for a residential solar panel cleaning service hovers around $133, it's a balance between immediate costs and long-term gains. Sure, a downpour might give your panels a free rinse, effectively boosting their efficiency again. But for stubborn grime—think bird droppings or sticky pollen—a professional clean might just be the ticket to maintaining peak performance.

So, What's the Verdict?

It boils down to this—keeping your solar panels clean is an investment in their efficiency and your wallet. While nature's rinse cycle works wonders, there are times when a professional touch can make all the difference. After all, why let a bit of dirt cloud the benefits of your solar investment?

DIY vs. Professional Cleaning

solar panels cleaning

While we advise against cleaning your solar panels yourself, if you're inclined to do so, here are some guidelines to prevent system damage:

  • Consult your solar installer for any specific advice or precautions before you start.

  • Ensure you're equipped with the right safety gear.

  • Use only a gentle flow of water from your hose, avoiding high-pressure attachments that could harm your panels and void your warranty.

  • Avoid using waxy, abrasive, or corrosive cleaners; plain water is recommended by manufacturers to avoid damaging the panel's coating.

  • Solar panels can become extremely hot in direct sunlight, so choose a cloudy day for cleaning to reduce the risk of overheating or damage.

Tackling the task of cleaning your solar panels might seem like a savvy way to save a few bucks, but have you considered the risks? Climbing up on your roof with a hose in hand isn't just a balancing act—it's a gamble with your safety and your solar system's health.

Let's break it down—DIY cleaning could put you in a tight spot, risking more than just a slip. You might unknowingly void your warranty or, worse, damage your panels with too much water pressure or the wrong cleaning solution. And really, is shaving a bit off your energy bill worth the potential cost of repairs or replacements?

Now, pivot to the pros. Hiring a professional cleaning service brings expertise and the right tools for the job, ensuring your panels are cleaned safely and effectively. They know the drill, from the gentlest cleaning agents to the safest methods, keeping your warranty intact and your panels in peak condition.

Best Practices for Solar Panel Cleaning

When it comes to keeping your solar panels in top shape, knowing the right way to clean them is crucial. Here's the lowdown on the best practices for solar panel cleaning, ensuring you get the most out of your green investment.

Materials and Methods: First things first—ditch the abrasive scrubs and harsh chemicals. They're no friends to your solar panels. Instead, opt for a soft cloth or a sponge and some lukewarm water. If you're dealing with stubborn grime, a mild, biodegradable soap can do the trick. Remember, gentle is the name of the game here. A soft brush can also be used to loosen any dirt before you rinse it away with water.

Timing and Frequency: Timing is everything. The early morning or late evening is ideal for cleaning because the panels are cooler. As for frequency, it varies. A good rule of thumb is to check your panels every few months, but if you live in a dusty area or have lots of bird traffic, you might need to clean them more often. After a heavy storm or if you notice a drop in efficiency, it's also a good time to give them a once-over.

Preserving Your Investment: Regular cleaning isn't just about keeping your panels looking good—it's about safeguarding your investment. Dirt and debris can significantly reduce your system's efficiency, meaning less power and higher bills. By keeping your panels clean, you're ensuring they operate at peak performance, extending their lifespan, and getting the best return on your investment.

In short, a little care goes a long way. With the right approach to cleaning, your solar panels will continue to serve you well, turning sunlight into savings for years to come.

How Often Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?

Wondering how often you should clean your solar panels? It's not a one-size-fits-all answer. The frequency really depends on a few key factors—your local climate, where your system's located, and what kind of dirt we're talking about.

If you're in a dusty area or have trees nearby, you might find yourself needing to clean them more often than someone living in a cleaner, urban environment. And let's not forget about bird droppings or leaves; they're pretty good at sticking around until you give them a nudge.

So, how do you know when it's time for a clean? Keep an eye on your solar system's performance. A sudden drop in efficiency could be a sign that your panels are in need of a good cleaning. Most modern systems come with monitoring tools that make this easy to track. 

Although cleaning services are not among our offerings, our NABCEP-certified maintenance crew stands ready to assist should you experience a drop in production that appears too significant to be merely due to dirt accumulation. Discover more about our maintenance options or use the form below to schedule an assessment or pose any inquiries you might have.


How do I keep my solar panels clean automatically?

Consider installing an automatic solar panel cleaning system. These systems use robotic cleaners or sprinkler-like mechanisms to regularly wash your panels, reducing manual effort and maintaining efficiency.

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