How to Clean Solar Panels & Maintain Them - A Complete Guide

How to Clean Solar Panels & Maintain Them - A Complete Guide

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Many homeowners decide on solar panel installation for their ability to reduce or eliminate a home’s dependency on the grid, lower their carbon footprint, help reduce air pollution from dirtier alternatives, and ultimately save money on their energy bill.

However, you need to be aware that solar panels need cleaning regularly and some maintenance to maintain their full efficiency, energy production and longevity.

If you have recently had solar panels installed, whether that be roof-mounted panels or otherwise, or are thinking about doing so, it's crucial to familiarise yourself with how to take care of them. While the best ones are quite durable, that still doesn't mean they're invincible.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of solar panel cleaning and maintenance to help you make the most of your energy savings.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon and Wayfair associate, we do receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made via links within this article.

Why clean solar panels?

Like a car, house windows, or any other item continually exposed to the elements, regular solar panel maintenance involves thorough cleaning.

Over time, grime and other debris can build up on the solar panels and diminish their ability to absorb sunlight and turn it into usable energy.

Any solar panel system can become covered with dust, pollen, and bird droppings, which reduces their efficiency and power output. In some cases, this can cause the entire system to fail. Tests have found that solar panel cleaning can improve panel efficiency by up to 30%.

What you will need to clean solar panels


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Here are some additional items that could be helpful to have as part of a basic solar panel cleaning tool kit:

  • Microfiber towels: These towels are great for drying solar panels after they have been cleaned, as they are gentle on surfaces and absorb moisture effectively.
  • A squeegee: This can be useful for removing excess water from panels after they have been washed.
  • A ladder: Depending on the height of the solar panels you are cleaning, a ladder may be necessary to reach higher areas.
  • Protective eyewear: If you are using any chemicals when cleaning solar panels, it is a good idea to protect your eyes with goggles or safety glasses.
  • Rubber gloves: To protect your hands from any harsh chemicals or detergents you may be using to clean your solar panels.
  • Protective clothing: If you are working with any potentially hazardous materials, it is a good idea to wear protective clothing such as a jumpsuit or overalls.
  • A nozzle extension: If the solar panels you are cleaning are located in a hard-to-reach area, a nozzle extension can be helpful to extend the reach of your hose or spray nozzle.

Best practices for cleaning solar panels


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If like many homeowners, you only see solar panels as objects that sit on your roof and continually provide solar energy without any maintenance needed, unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

If you want to maximise the life of your solar panels and keep them in good condition for efficiently creating solar power, it's important to know how to clean and maintain them and the entire solar PV system properly.

Things to bear in mind before solar panel cleaning


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Here are some basic safety precautions to bear in mind every time you are preparing to clean your dirty solar panels. These few tips are written with your safety and the longevity of your solar panels in mind.

  • Always use proper safety measures when cleaning solar panels on a roof and be sure to use a harness if you are on a sloped or slippery roof.
  • Always do a physical inspection of your roof cabling and solar panels for cracks or damaged wiring before starting cleaning, as you don't want to risk having water seep into any of the panels or onto live exposed wires.
  • We don't advise standing on a solar panel when attempting to clean it. Even though they are made from sturdy tempered glass, standing on them could be extremely dangerous, especially after the glass surface becomes wet from either adverse weather conditions or cleaning.
  • Never clean your dirty solar panels when they are boiling hot, you risk cracking or shattering them as soon as the cold water touches the surface.
  • It is not advised to spray water directly onto the rear side of your panels, as this is where the junction box is located. If you wish to clean this area, simply use a dry or moderately damp cloth.
  • If you are wondering whether it is safe to clean panels without turning off the inverter, yes it is fully safe.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals when you clean solar panels, as this could damage the surface and lead to decreased efficiency.

Basic steps for cleaning solar panels


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If you notice after inspecting your solar panels that there is any minor damage, we advise that you get your solar panels cleaned as soon as possible to prevent any further problems from occurring.

If the damage is severe, or you are concerned, always seek professional advice as there are dangerous voltages involved.

Assuming that there are no problematic issues after your visual checks, here are the basic steps for solar panel cleaning:

  1. Be prepared by making sure that you have the tools and equipment suggested earlier before starting.
  2. Remove dirt, dust and debris from the panels by gently brushing them with a soft brush or by using a water hose with soapy water.
  3. Mix any cleaning solution according to the manufacturer's instructions and be sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear.
  4. Use a stiff brush to scrub and agitate the surface dirt of the solar panel with a mild soap or specialist cleaning solution. Be sure to get into all of the difficult-to-reach areas.
  5. Do a final rinse to remove any remaining cleaning agents with clean water from the hose.
  6. Allow the solar panels to naturally dry out for a few hours, or wipe the water off by hand with a soft cloth.
  7. Apply anti-fungal solution, if you deem it necessary.
  8. For extra protection, spray a specialist protective clear coating product or apply a coat of wax to the surface of the panels. Once complete allow the panels to air dry for several hours.

Get Rid of Snow and Leaves


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Aside from the regular build-up of dirt and grime, you should also be wary of both snow and leaves residing on your solar panels.

If you avoid cleaning either of these when they are present, they can block sunlight and reduce your energy absorption significantly.

You can try to remove snow using a leaf blower, but sometimes that alone is not sufficient. You may need to sweep it off by hand with an extendable soft brush or squeegee. The same goes for leaves in autumn.

Another option involves spraying the snow with some warm water (not hot!) to melt the more frozen areas, before removing it with a brush or squeegee as previously mentioned.

Whatever you do though, don't sprinkle it with rock salt, because that could end up causing damage to your solar panels.

What is the Best Time of Day To Clean Solar Panels?

We advise that any solar panel cleaning is undertaken either during the early morning, later in the evening, or when it is a cool overcast day.

If it is a sunny day or the heat from the sun's rays are at their peak, the panels will become very hot and spraying water onto them could potentially cause micro-cracks.

Pouring cold water onto solar panels whilst they are hot can also result in the water quickly evaporating and causing further dirt and grime to accumulate, which will subsequently need cleaning.

How Often Should I Clean My Solar Panels?

You should do a proper full clean of your solar panels at least once or twice a year. However, you may live in an area where there are a lot of dust particulates or sporadic weather variances, meaning that you may need to do extra less vigorous cleans in between.

The time of year that cleaning solar panels should take place very much depends on the particular area in which you live, and the type of climate and seasons that occur.

At times of the year when there is a lot of rain and cloudy weather, moss growth is a bigger problem, whereas in areas with large amounts of pollen and dryer weather, it’s best to clean the panels during the pollen season, or once it has ended.

Solar panel maintenance


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Once you have solar cells installed, solar panel maintenance is by far the best way to keep them working at full efficiency. This is important so that you continue to get the maximum benefit from your renewable energy source.

For full and detailed maintenance instructions consult your solar panel manufacturer.

Here are a few simple tasks that you can do by yourself without the need to call on any solar panel professional services or solar experts.

  • First and most importantly, always make sure that the solar panels are clean. Debris, such as leaves, pollen and general loose dirt can block the sun's rays and reduce the solar panel efficiency. Use a soft brush or a garden hose to clean them off regularly.
  • Do monthly visual checks to see if there are any new areas of damage. It is a great way to pick up any issues before they get worse and cause more costly problems down the line.
  • Check the alignment of the panels periodically to make sure that they're facing the optimal direction and angle. Reposition them as necessary.
  • Keep the area around the panels clear of moss, weeds and other obstructions. The solar panels need to get as much sunlight as possible to be at their most effective.
  • Trim any large trees or branches that might be shading the sunlight from your solar panels.

My Final Thoughts

Keeping your solar panels clean and well maintained are very important for solar panel efficiency and life expectancy.

Regular cleaning will extend the life of your whole solar PV system and avoid any potential damage, which could also reduce their overall performance and the amount of renewable energy that you benefit from. This could potentially stop you from getting the maximum savings on your energy bills.

Now that you've learnt how to keep your solar panels clean and how to maintain them, you can ensure that they continue to run like a charm for many years to come!

If these are jobs that you are unable to do yourself, don't be afraid to hire professionals and get your solar panels cleaned by solar panel cleaning services. You won't then have to even think twice about the maintenance and cleaning chores again.

There's always more to learn when it comes to solar panel cleaning and maintenance, so don't forget to look into more great solar information.

Author: Matthew Chiappini

Author Bio: Matthew studied art and design at Stamford college, including interior design and colour theory. He still has a great love for art, home decor and interior design and is a keen DIYer, having worked as a carpenter after leaving school. Matthew has been writing home and home decor articles since 2020.

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