Solar panels can be a great investment for your home or business but to get the best return, you’ll need to ensure that they are working at optimal efficiency. Failure to do this can extend the period required to break even on your investment and enter a period of profitability. Therefore, keeping on top of cleaning your solar panels is certainly worth the effort and by doing so, it’ll also help to increase your solar panel’s lifespan.
Below we walk you through everything you need to know about keeping your solar panels clean and ensuring your panels are always working at the best possible efficiency (skip to step-by-step guide ➔).
Understanding Solar Panel Cleaning Frequency
It can be tricky to know when to clean your solar panels, especially when they aren’t located in an easily accessible space such as on a roof.
There is also no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer as several factors can impact how often your panels need cleaning such as:
- Local weather conditions (such as snowfall covering your panels)
- Location (such as next to farmed land or a busy road)
- Vegetation (such as trees that may drop leaves on your panels)
Where possible, visually check your solar panels regularly such as once a month. When you see visible dirt, grime or vegetation build-up, act quickly to clean your panels. Monitoring your solar panel output can also help you identify when they need cleaning. For example, a rapid drop in yield can indicate that your panels have become dirty.
As a general rule, you should aim to clean your solar panels once a year to ensure peak performance.
When it comes to cleaning your solar panels, there are lots of safety precautions to be aware of.
After all, you are combining electricity, water and working at height (in most cases), so you need to take precautions to protect yourself and anyone else who may be nearby.
We can’t stress this enough – if you are not confident working at heights or you have any concerns about your safety whilst cleaning your solar panels then we strongly advise employing a professional to do this for you. In fact, many professionals have the right equipment to do this quickly and safely, meaning working with one is often cost-effective.
However, if you decide to do this yourself, here are some safety precautions you should take:
- Although your solar system is designed to be water safe (as they work outdoors, in the rain) when cleaning, it’s a smart idea to turn off your solar panel system to avoid any electrical dangers.
- Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from sharp edges or potential falling debris.
- When working at a height such as on a rooftop, ensure your ladder is placed on stable ground and securely fastened. You may also wish to use a safety harness for peace of mind.
- Avoid walking or placing weight on your solar panels as this may damage them.
Cleaning Tools & Supplies
So, now we know how often we will be cleaning our panels and the safety precautions we need to take, let’s dive into the tools and supplies we need.
There are countless tools you can use to clean your solar panels, although these can all be broken into two categories:
- A cleaning solution such as mild soap and water (some solar panel manufacturers may recommend and/or sell a specialist cleaning solution)
- Tools for applying the cleaning solution and scrubbing the panels such as soft brushes, squeegees and microfiber cloths.
The major benefit of this type of tool is that they remove the need to work at a height, making them safer and often quicker. The downside is that it doesn’t allow for close inspection. Therefore, this can make it tricky to ensure the surface is spotless. It can also make it a little harder to dry your panels (although a squeegee on a pole can help with this).
When cleaning your solar panels, we strongly recommend that you avoid any harsh cleaning chemicals or abrasive brushes. Although this may make the cleaning job easier, they can create microscopic scratches on the surface of the panels, impacting their performance.
How To Clean Solar Panels
Once you have your tools and supplies ready, it’s time to get cleaning. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Inspect your panels for any visible debris such as leaves, bird droppings or other obstructions and remove them by hand if possible.
- Rinse your panels using a hose pipe or a bucket of water. This “pre-wash” will get the panels ready for cleaning and may remove any remaining debris.
- Dip your soft brush into your cleaning solution and use it to gently scrub the surface to remove any stubborn grime or dirt.
- Rinse the panels again to remove the now dirty cleaning solution that’s left on the surface. This will help reduce any residue left on the panels and make the drying process easier.
- Dry the solar panels (to prevent water and soap marks) using a squeegee to pull the water across and off the panel.
Dealing With Stubborn Stains
Once you complete the steps above, you may still be left with some stubborn stains such as bird droppings or mineral deposits. These need to be approached carefully because aggressive cleaning may damage your panels.
For stains such as bird droppings, try soaking them using the soap solution you’ve already cleaned the panels with. Simply apply it to stain and give it time to soak in (but not long enough to dry out), then try scrubbing again using the soft brush. For mineral deposits, try using a 1:1 white vinegar and water solution to help gently lift and remove the stain.
If you try these methods and you are still left with stains, it’s best to consult with a professional.
Cleaning your solar panels is an important part of ensuring that they continue to work at their best.
Although you may be tempted to leave the intervals between cleaning your solar panels longer than recommended, keeping on top of cleaning them will make it easier to remove dirt, grime and debris in the future. It’ll also ensure that your solar panels can work at maximum efficiency because nothing is blocking the sun from reaching your solar panels.
This may seem like a hassle but regularly inspecting, cleaning and maintaining your solar panels will improve your return on investment, potentially extend their life and reduce the need for more extreme cleaning.