If you’re currently in possession of solar panels for your home, then you’re already taking a step in the right direction. You’ve made a choice to equip yourself with a smart, long-term energy investment that will serve you for decades. However, the maintenance of your solar panels is a whole other ballpark that you need to grapple with.
While it may seem like a daunting task at first, solar panels kits are extremely durable and can be cleaned easily with just the right equipment. You may also be wondering how often you need to clean your solar panels – here; you will find the answers to your most pressing question related to solar panel care.
Is it necessary to Clean Solar Panels?
A common misconception that many have is whether it is necessary, if at all, to clean your solar panels. The short answer is yes – of course, it is necessary to clean your solar panels whether they are fixed in the roof or are portable solar panels that can be carried. This is important since solar panels may become nets for dirt, dust, leaves, bird droppings, and whatever else the sky may bring your way.
Statistically, clean solar panels bring about a 130% difference in energy output, as opposed to panels that have accumulated all sorts of debris. As for how often you should be cleaning your solar panels? The answer largely depends on the climate around you. However, for most cases, cleaning twice a year should do the trick – that is, at the beginning of fall and at the end of winter.
How to Clean Solar Panels on the Roof
There are a variety of methods in which you can clean your solar panels. All of them make use of a ladder, so the first step is to grab that ladder and get yourself on your roof. This may be a precarious process, so be careful and position yourself so that you’re looking down at the slope of the solar panels. Additionally, you want to begin cleaning either very early in the morning or late into the evening. By then, the solar panels will have cooled down.
The next step depends on the method you’re going to be using for cleaning – soap and water or vinegar.
1. Cleaning Solar Panels with Water and Soap
Equipment needed: A long, soft brush with no abrasions, a bucket, and a hose.
- Mix a small amount of detergent or cleaning agent into a bucket of water.
- Start by hosing down (gently) the modules on your solar panels with water.
- Use your non-abrasive brush to scrub the modules with a mixture of soapy water. Make sure to be thorough but not too rough, and avoid the edges of the panels.
- Once you are satisfied and the panels have been thoroughly coated with soapy water, grab your hose once again.
- Rinse the panels with water from the hose. Keep in mind: the water pressure should be as mild as possible, as cutting sprays of water can damage the modules.
- The solar panels will now be set to dry.
Some argue, however, that cleaning solar panels with soap and water can be disadvantageous due to the thin film of soapy residue it often leaves behind. An alternative to soap and water is cleaning agents that are made specifically to clean solar panels. This residue can be avoided, though, by ensuring little or no sunlight during the cleaning process – plus scrubbing the panels with clean water after the final hosing can be an effective measure as well.
2. Cleaning Solar Panels with Vinegar
Equipment needed: ¼ cup of vinegar, a small amount of liquid or powdered detergent or cleaning agent, an adequate amount of water, a soft brush, and a hose. You may also use a sponge or a piece of cloth, though it is not recommended.
- Take all your cleaning materials and mix them together to form a cleaning solution.
- Hose your solar panels with a mild spray of water.
- Thoroughly spray or spread your cleaning solution over the solar panels after the initial hosing.
- Scrub the modules thoroughly and get all the dirt and grime out. The acidic content in vinegar acts as a quick cleaning agent and corrodes all forms of dirt.
- Once you have cleaned all accumulation of gunk, pick up your hose and, once again, spray a mild jet of water down the solar panels.
- Leave your panels to dry, and then connect them to power in a half-hour or an hour.
Is it Safe to use Vinegar for Cleaning Solar Panels?
It is extremely safe to use vinegar to clean solar panels. In diluted quantities, that is.
The high amount of acidic content in vinegar makes it a corrosive of the cleaning agent variety. Using raw, undiluted vinegar may cause damage to the solar panels. While using vinegar might be the most effective household method to clean solar panels, make sure you dilute it with detergent and water (or only water can do too!).
That said, you can use two varieties of vinegar for this purpose. White vinegar has an acidic content of 5%, while cleaning vinegar has an acidic content of 6%. For maximum protection, put on some rubber gloves before handling undiluted vinegar so that your solar panel cleaning session is safe and efficient.
3. Hiring a Professional
Or chances are, you might just want to leave it to the experts. If you’re unsure of how to proceed with the cleaning process, are apprehensive about damaging your solar panels, have a steep roof that you find it difficult to get on to, or just don’t have the time to fit solar-panel-cleaning into your schedule. In that case you can simply contact some professionals who can come and do the job for you. They are exponentially better equipped to clean your solar panels more efficiently and quickly and are armed with specialized tools for the same.
Even in possession of the aforementioned DIYs for solar panel cleaning agents, the chances are that it will be more physically taxing for you and also consume a large part of your early morning/late evening. It is also significantly less dangerous and, overall, the safest alternative so far.
Maintaining Solar Panels
As far as maintenance for solar panels goes, the overall workload is surprisingly low. Once they’re installed, you have to hardly think of them more than twice a year – wherein it is recommended to get them cleaned. Other than the occasional cleaning session, solar panels do not require any such notable forms of maintenance.
It is also easier to look after the upkeep of titled panels rather than flat panels. Additionally, ground solar panels are easier to clean than roof panels. That said, the lucrative returns of the solar panels far outweigh the effort that is required to keep them optimally functioning.
Cleaning and maintaining solar panels sound like tasks that require days of preparation and planning, but as you have seen, they aren’t so. What’s more, you can take on the cleaning process with materials that you most likely have lying around your house – you just need water, detergent, white/cleaning vinegar (optional), and a soft brush that doesn’t damage your panels.
It’s necessary to clean your panels at least once a year for optimal functioning – as they may be coated with all varieties of grime. Or, if you’re unable to do it yourself for any reason, you can hire a professional at a minimal cost who can do the job for you. Care for your solar panels to maximize their potential and returns – all for minimal effort.