Keeping Your Solar Panels Healthy - The Why/When/How Of Cleaning

12 September 2014
 Categories: Business, Articles

So you've decided to install solar panels on your home? Excellent, you've just taken a major step in becoming more self-sustainable and reducing the effect of fossil fuels on the environment. However, as you're probably already aware, solar panels don't come without their own difficulties. One of these difficulties is keeping your solar panels clean in order to harness their full efficiency, ensuring a healthy supply of electricity all year round. 

Why Is It Important to Regularly Clean My Solar Panels?

Unlike the windows on your house, solar panels must be clean in order to work at their maximum efficiency. Dirt, debris or other surface layers can decrease the amount of sunlight reaching the photovoltaic panels which means less electricity is being generated as a result. Research suggests that in certain areas, dirt on solar panels can decrease their efficiency by up to 25%. Typically, these aren't cheap units to install, so you'll want to be making sure you get your money's worth. 

One great way to check your panels' efficiency is to use a monitoring service. Although the amount of electricity generated each month is variable, there are typical guidelines as to how much power your system should be producing during different times of the year. Solar panel  monitoring systems are able to use the information and inform you if your system is underachieving so that you can take proper steps to solve the problem. 

As technology progresses, system monitoring services become more readily available. Nowadays -- depending on the system installed -- you can access the diagnostics from the internet, from within your home or even from your smartphone. These systems typically incur additional costs, however they are well worth the investment as they can troubleshoot the problem entirely on your behalf. 

Doesn't Rain Effectively Clean Solar Panels?

The answer to this is yes...and no. Photovoltaic solar panels produce much more electricity during the summer months, when the sun is shining and rain is (hopefully) nowhere to be found.

When it does rain, some of the looser dirt particles are removed from the surface, however this only helps to reduce the amount of dirt on the panels rather than cleaning them entirely. Bird droppings, for instance, can affect your solar panels all year round and can remain on the surface for weeks if not months unless the panels are cleaned regularly. 

How Often Should I Clean My Solar Panels?

The majority of industry experts will recommend having your solar panels cleaned at least twice a year. Some sources may suggest cleaning every couple of months, but oftentimes this is too conservative. Of course, much of this decision depends on the season, location of your house, style of solar panels and number of panels installed. 

A good rule of thumb is to have your solar panels professionally cleaned at the start of March, as this is when clocks change meaning longer days and more sunlight exposure for your panels. Later in the summer, or at the beginning of fall, they should be cleaned again to ensure they're working optimally for the darker months. 

How Should I Clean My Solar Panels?

You may believe that carrying out a DIY cleaning job on your panels is no big deal, and that this will save you money on hiring a cleaning company. However, this generally isn't recommended due to the hazards involved. If you don't heed the proper safety precautions, you may fall or damage your solar panels due to inexperience. 

Thankfully, there are many companies that provide solar panel cleaning services that are willing to do the job for you! These experienced cleaning companies have access to the proper equipment, as well as employing skilled and experienced workers who know how to get the job done. 

Professional solar panel cleaning companies don't operate in the same manner as window cleaning companies. For instance, with solar panels you can't use standard window cleaning tools as they will leave a soapy residue on your panels which would decrease the amount of light being harnessed as energy. Rather, solar panel cleaners use a water fed pole system that can actually reach your roof panels from the ground. After this, they will use a de-ionised water system and a soft brush to avoid dealing any unnecessary damage to the panels. No chemicals will be used throughout this process, as oftentimes they can damage the integrity of the panels which decreases their overall efficiency.