Solar panels are expensive, so you will want to make sure that you care for them properly to prevent long-lasting damage to them. While they are pretty self-sufficient systems, they do need regular monitoring and occasional cleaning to make sure everything is working as it should be.
Solar panels don’t need a lot of care, but they do need some. Regular care of your solar panels ensures that you are getting maximum power and efficiency. It also helps you to catch any problems early so you can fix them before it permanently damages your system.
There are two main kinds of solar panel care, which are cleaning and maintenance. You can often do both of these at the same time to minimize the amount of time you are climbing on top of your roof.
One of the major pieces of solar panel care is making sure they are properly cleaned. Cleaning is necessary for making sure your panels are at their peak efficiency, and that you are getting plenty of power. Besides having to climb on the roof occasionally, cleaning solar panels is easy and cheap.
For the most part, you don’t have to clean solar panels too often. Unless you live in an area where there is a lot of dust or smog, generally, every six months to a year is enough. If you have solar panels that can be rotated to follow the sun during different seasons, you can clean them during that process.
If you start to notice your power levels are lower than normal even when there is full sun, you can also just do a little cleaning whenever. Sometimes water or dust can layer on the solar panel thickly enough that it reduces the efficiency.
Snow and ice can also stick to solar panels, so if you want power faster, you should make sure to remove that shortly after the storm is over. Just take care to be gentle and not put too much pressure on the panels when removing snow or ice.
Cleaning solar panels is relatively easy. By doing it regularly, you can increase the lifespan, power, and efficiency of the panels for longer. Dirty solar panels can have efficiency levels that are reduced by as much as 1.5 % to 50% depending on where you live. (1)
Things like smog, dust, leaves, and bird droppings can all accumulate over time and reduce efficiency. Over time, this can reduce the power you get, and the efficiency of your panels, which is why it is important to clean them regularly. (2)
Most companies recommend hiring a professional to clean them so that you don’t have to worry about it being done incorrectly or harming your panels. Also, you don’t have to be worried about injuring yourself, because you won’t have to climb up on the roof.
However, if you are careful, they are easy enough to clean on your own.
All you need is a non-abrasive rag, like microfiber, and water. A hose gently releasing water or a bucket is ideal. You don’t want to use anything abrasive, or any harsh chemicals. There are kits dedicated to cleaning solar panels, so you can ensure you have the proper tools. (3)
There are automated solar panel cleaners as well if you don’t want to have to bother with cleaning them yourself. (4) However, since you still have to do regular maintenance and checks on your solar panel, we don’t recommend this option, as you will want to still climb up there regularly to make sure everything is working properly.
Maintenance is also an important factor in taking care of solar panels. By doing regular checks yourself, and getting a professional to come and look at your panels, you can ensure that they last as long as possible and that any problems are resolved sooner rather than later when they become big problems.
Checking your wattage, power use, and system health via an inverter or monitoring system can be done more regularly to easily catch when something is a little off.
You can check your solar panels twice a year. Usually, just doing basic checks of the panels and the system itself when you’re up there cleaning them is plenty. You can also hire a professional once or twice a year to do a thorough inspection and notice things you might miss.
You may have to do extra checks after storms to make sure that heavy objects like branches or hail haven’t damaged them or cracked the glass cover.
For the most part, you shouldn’t do too much of the maintenance yourself. This can void your warranty, or make the problem worse if you aren’t sure what you are doing. The manual that comes with your solar panels will walk you through the basics that should be checked and simple things you can do.
However, when you are up there, there are some basic checks you can do to make sure that things are working for the most part. There are some established checklists out there to get you started, but you can make your own or add on items to check as well, based on your solar system. (5)
Some basic checks include:
- Making sure everything is still mounted, screwed in, and secured properly
- Checking for any wiring or connectors that are loose or hotter than others
- Looking for any cracks or discoloration on the panels themselves
- Checking that there aren’t any warning lights on any of your system parts
Professionals will double-check all the areas you did, as well as delve deeper to make sure there are no faults, shorts, or areas that are damaged you may not be able to see without proper tools. (6)
- Maghami, M. H., Hizam, H., Gomes, C., Radzi, M. a. M., Rezadad, M. I., & Hajighorbani, S. (2016). Power loss due to soiling on solar panel: A review. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 59, 1307–1316. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032116000745
- Why Clean Solar Panels? – Solar Panel Cleaners. (2021, February 7). Solar Panel Cleaners. http://www.solar-panel-cleaners.com/why-clean-solar-panels
- Tucker Water Fed Pole Solar Panel Cleaning Kits & Equipment. (n.d.). https://tuckerusa.com/solar-panel-cleaning-kits/
- RST CleanTech | Automated Solar Panel Cleaning. (n.d.). https://www.rst-cleantech.com/
- Thompson, C. (2020, October 24). Solar Commissioning Checklist: Off-Grid System. Unbound Solar. https://unboundsolar.com/blog/solar-commissioning-off-grid
- Solar Panel Maintenance Services | Solar Maintenance. (2023, February 16). Coldwell Solar. https://coldwellsolar.com/solar-installation-maintenance-services/