Solar Panels in the Ground

How to Clean Solar Panels: Is it Worth it?

In this article, we’re talking about a subject that is too often overlooked with solar panels – cleaning them. Keeping your solar panels clean can increase their effectiveness over time, but you have to be sure that you clean them the right way. We’ll walk you through the process step-by-step.

Why Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?

The topic of cleaning solar panels is a sensitive one among solar panel owners. Some will tell you that it’s completely necessary, while some claim that rain will simply wash away any problems that the panels may encounter.

The answer is somewhere in the middle. Solar panels don’t need to be cleaned, but you will be sacrificing some efficiency by not cleaning them. And while rain will certainly wash away certain substances that accumulate on the panels, it won’t be as effective as a manual clean.

Generally speaking, the dust, dirt, pollen and debris that accumulates on solar panels has the potential to decrease the efficiency of a solar panel by roughly 5%. This isn’t a major difference, but depending on the size of your solar power system, it can add up. And if you live in an area where it rarely rains, or where it’s particularly dusty and dirty, this effect can be magnified.

The bottom line is that your panels may need a good cleaning from time to time. So, if you want long-lasting panels operating at max efficiency, then you might consider giving them a good clean. Here’s how to do it:

How to Clean Solar Panels

Cleaning solar panels, for the most part, is not that difficult. The most difficult part might actually be having the tools to reach the entire surface area of the panel, and this will depend on how big your panels are.

Depending on the extent of the mess on your panels, you might not need to do much to wash them. This is why we recommend that you first evaluate the panels. Check them out, and see the extent of the debris, dirt, and substance build-up on the panels (are there sticky substances such as bird droppings?).

From there, decide how to clean the panels:

For Minimal Dust Build-Up: Use a Hose

If your panel’s messiness is mostly just dust and dirt build-up, then you likely won’t need more than a simple hose-down to get them clean and tidy. A garden hose should do the trick, provided it can reach your panels. Simply spray them down fully, and you’re good to go. You can let them dry off in the sun.

Just be sure that you don’t spray the panels with high-pressure jets, or with a pressure washer. This might scratch or damage the panels themselves, which can lead to lowered performance and efficiency.

For More Extensive Mess: Scrub Them Down

If the mess on your panels is more than just dust and dirt, and includes sticky substances such as bird droppings or sticky plant materials, then you might need to give the panels a good scrubbing.

Once again, you don’t want to be too hard on the panels. Pick a soft scrubber, squeegee, or brush, that won’t scratch or damage the panels. Also pick a very mild soap, that doesn’t contain any chemicals which could harm or degrade the panels.

From there, here’s how you clean the panels:

  • Fill a bucket with warm water and add a small amount of mild soap.
  • Rinse solar panels with a hose, or with another low-pressure sprayer.
  • Use soapy water and the scrubber to gently scrub the panels and clean them of any debris or buildup.
  • Rinse solar panels thoroughly to remove any soapy water.
  • Allow panels to dry in the sun.

And there you have it, it’s quite the straightforward process, and doesn’t require much beyond a scrubber that is capable of reaching across your panels. But remember, solar panels get very hot on sunny summer days. You might want to schedule your clean for early in the morning or late in the evening.

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Another Option: Have them Serviced

Another option, if you don’t feel like doing the work yourself, is to have the panels serviced by a professional. If you purchased directly from a solar panel company, then check the manufactures website to see if there are providers in your area that can have them serviced.

Many companies offer service plans upon purchasing the panel itself. These plans (depending on the provider) might include regular maintenance and upkeep. They might also include regular checkups to ensure that the panels are running as efficiently as they should.

But if it were up to us, we wouldn’t choose this option. These services might end up costing you a fair bit. You’re essentially spending money so that you can save on your electricity bill down the line. You’re cancelling out your own cost savings! And since cleaning solar panels isn’t a very difficult task to begin with, we’d recommend against hiring someone for this job in most circumstances.

Remember, you’re essentially comparing the cost of servicing the panels against the cost you’d save by generating more energy with cleaner panels. These costs will rarely offset.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading through our guide to cleaning your solar panels. We wanted to not only help you clean your solar panels, but also to help you decide when it’s actually necessary to clean your panels. Solar panels are strong and resilient, and might not need as much upkeep as you think.

And for everything you need to know about solar energy, be sure to check back regularly to Greener Choices!