Why Do I Need to Clean My Solar Panels? Do I Even Need To?
To be straight up, in most cases you won’t need to clean your solar panels because the rain will do most of the work for you. However, rain won’t always be able to come to the rescue if you have bird poop on your panels, or if you just don’t get that much rain in the first place.
So… How Much of an Impact Does Dirt Have On My Panels?
Not by much honestly. Researchers at UC San Diego found that panels that hadn’t been cleaned by rain or other means for 145 days only lost 7.5% in efficiency. For a residential system in the range of 5kW, the cost of washing your panels would not be worth it since the energy bill might shoot up by $20/month while cleaning services will cost quite a bit more.
However, if you have a large system or the amount of dirt on your solar panels lowers your efficiency significantly, then it might make sense to clean your panels.
I Want Them Shining Clean, How Do I Clean My Solar Panels?
There are two ways to go about it: hire a professional or do it yourself.
If you want to hire a professional, just do a Google search, see who has good reviews and make sure that the cost of their services doesn’t exceed what you are losing on your energy bill.
If you want to do it yourself, there’s a couple of precautions you should follow:
Safety first: If you have a roof-top solar system, make sure you have the right solar safety equipment to ensure you don’t fall off the roof and injure yourself. If using a ladder, make sure it is well secured. It’s also best to clean during a cooler part of the day to avoid potential burns from the sun.
Damage-prevention: You don’t want to cause micro-cracks or scratches on your solar panels. They are pretty resilient, but you should still avoid walking on them, using a high-pressure water spray or an abrasive tool.
The simplest way to clean solar panels is with a hose and a soft sponge, which most of the time is enough to do the trick. You can also get a sponge on a long handle to reach further.
If you, however, find just regular water to be not enough, you could opt to use soapy water, in which case make sure it’s gentle, such as dish soap, and not the harsh chemicals that you might use to clean your bathroom with. Lastly, make sure when cleaning that you remove all of the soapy residue because if left on, it would impact your panel’s efficiency, thereby killing the point of cleaning in the first place.
Solar Panels and Snow Removal
If you have snow on your solar panels, it’s generally not a big deal as the snow will slide off assuming your panels are installed at an angle. However, if the snow stays on, do not try to remove the snow using a broom, shovel or any other abrasive tool, because as mentioned, it could potentially damage your panels. To safely remove the snow you will need a modified snow rake. You can purchase regular snow rake and then securely attach a soft squeegee-like strip to prevent damaging your solar panels.
Do you really need to clean your solar panels? Most of the time, the answer is no, because the efficiency lost is usually manageable. In the case that it does make sense to clean your solar panels and you want to do it yourself, make sure you are prioritizing your safety first and use non-abrasive tools and chemicals to clean your panels. In most cases, water and a soft sponge is enough to do the job.
“UC San Diego News Center.” Cleaning Solar Panels Often Not Worth the Cost, Engineers at UC San Diego Find, ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/cleaning_solar_panels_often_not_worth_the_cost_engineers_at_uc_san_diego_fi.