Wait, my solar panels require maintenance?
Many homeowners assume that once their solar panels are installed there is nothing else to do except harness the sun’s energy and reap the savings rewards! However, just like outdoor siding, decks, and windows, your solar panels are exposed to the natural elements and need a good cleaning every so often. An annual inspection of your panels or even hosing them down on the roof may be required. Summer is here now and there is no better time to get outside and inspect your panels for any maintenance needs.
But why should my SunPower panel glass exteriors need cleaning?
The exterior of a SunPower solar cell is glass. This not only helps it collect the sun’s rays more efficiently, but it stays cleaner longer than conventional panels and helps natural elements roll right off. However, dirt and grime can build up over time on the surface of the panels and reduce their effectiveness. At SAVKAT, we sell only SunPower panels, but even a dirty SunPower panel will lose efficiency.
Generally, the loss of efficiencies due to dirty panels are between 1 and 4.7 percent. However, if left completely unattended, one study shows that long-term buildup can reduce a solar panel’s efficiency by as much as 20 percent! It is important to check your panels routinely to see that everything is normal, that no buildup is occurring. You can easily do this by staying on the ground and doing a quick glance to see if they look normal. If you notice they are looking particularly “grimy,” we have you covered!
How do I clean my solar panels?
Mother Nature does play a positive role in helping keep your solar panels clean year-round. Rain and snowmelt help wash off leaves, buildup, and any animal droppings. In most cases, this will be all the cleaning that the system requires. You can always stay ahead of any potential maintenance by performing a monthly visual inspection of the panels and look for any buildup. Over time, you can also keep in mind your electric bill changes: watch for any noticeable drop in efficiency and rise in cost that could indicate a time for cleaning.
If you live in a region that has a dry climate or windy weather, you may experience more accumulation requiring special attention. SunPower recommends that homeowners use a soft-bristle brush and an environmentally friendly soap to gently scrub away and lift debris from panels. Get out your garden hose extension and clean one panel at a time to minimize water marks dried by the sun. Like your car, it is best to wash your panels on a cloudy day and not in direct sunlight.
If your panels are not easily accessible, like those on a two-story home or a roof with a steep pitch, we suggest you use a high-pressure hose nozzle with an attachment that holds your soap. Spray soapy water on the panels and then quickly rinse them off – you do not want the soap to dry on the panels and leave behind an unsightly residue. The soapy residue could affect the performance of the panels and block them from efficiently absorbing the sunlight.
Tips & Tricks for Cleaning
We have compiled a list of best practices for those of you that like to “do it yourself”:
- Be safe. Try to stay on the ground and avoid climbing up onto your roof. If you must get on the roof, secure your ladder properly and use the necessary safety equipment to prevent accidents.
- You should always turn off your solar system before you start cleaning. Check your SunPower® solar manual to see how you turn off your system. If you’re still unsure, ask your SunPower dealer (that would be your team at SAVKAT Solar!) for help.
- Aim for a cloudy cleaning day and get out there early or late in the day when the panels are cool. In the direct sun, water and soap dry quickly making your cleaning process more labor intensive than it needs to be.
- Even on a cloudy day when your panels are cool, clean one panel at a time: this will further minimize any water and soap marks left on the panels. Start from the top of the array and work down systematically.
- Avoid using hard, mineral-rich water. Over time, hard water can damage your equipment. If you have particularly hard water, consider purchasing a water-softening filter attachment for your hose.
- Use soft bristle brushes, squeegees, and environmental soap; don’t use pads or powder detergents.
- If you decide to use a high-pressure nozzle system, don’t get too close to the panels. While they are extremely durable, you don’t want to damage a panel or cell by blasting it with high-pressure water.
Don’t expose yourself to any risk. If you have any doubts about your ability to safely clean your panels, hire a professional. Leave a comment below telling us how cleaning your panels went!
Are you ready? To find out how you can go solar and become less energy dependent, request a free quote from us at SAVKAT Solar. Still have more questions? Check out our Solar 101 page or our FAQ page. If that still leaves you unsure, we are happy to answer any other questions by giving us a call at 800-860-6932.