Solar Panel Maintenance & Cleaning Guide

Learn how to maintain and clean your solar panels - doing so will keep them efficient, extend their lifespan, and save money

Greg
February 14, 2024
Caring for solar panels

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The growing popularity of solar panels is not just a trend; it's a conscious choice made by homeowners who are embracing renewable energy and aiming to reduce their environmental footprint. But installing solar panels is just the beginning of your journey towards a more sustainable and cost-efficient energy future. To truly reap the benefits of your investment, it's essential to understand how to maintain your solar panels effectively.

This article serves as your comprehensive guide to solar panel maintenance. We'll explore why maintaining your solar panels is important, providing insights into their longevity, efficiency, and the consequences of neglecting maintenance.

Why is Solar Panel Maintenance Important?

Maintaining your solar panels is not merely a suggestion; it's a fundamental part of solar panel ownership. The importance of solar panel maintenance cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts the longevity and efficiency of your system.

Longevity and Efficiency

Your solar panels are a long-term investment in clean energy. When well-maintained, solar panels can have a lifespan of 25 years or more. However, neglecting maintenance can significantly shorten this lifespan. Dust, dirt, debris, and weather elements can accumulate on your panels over time, forming a barrier that inhibits sunlight absorption. This reduces the solar panels' efficiency and, consequently, the energy output.

Financial Consequences of Neglect

Neglecting maintenance isn't just a longevity concern; it also hits your wallet. Unmaintained solar panels, as mentioned above, will suffer from reduced sunlight absorption and thus lower energy production. This means you won't be harnessing the full potential of your system, and the financial benefits of solar energy will fall short of expectations.

According to research conducted by Bergin et al. , the efficiency loss due to dirty solar panels can range from 15% to 35% depending on location and environmental factors.

In simpler terms, that means if your solar panels are dirty and not adequately maintained, you could potentially lose up to a third of the energy that could have been produced. That's a significant financial impact over the lifespan of your panels.

Neglecting maintenance can also lead to more significant issues, such as the need for costly repairs or even premature replacement of your solar panels.

How to Maintain Solar Panels

Maintaining your solar panels doesn't have to be a complex task. In fact, it's quite straightforward. Follow these simple steps to ensure your solar panels continue to operate at their best:

1. Regular Inspection

Begin by inspecting your solar panels regularly, ideally every few months. Look for the following:

  • Visible dirt, dust, or debris that may have accumulated on the surface.
  • Visible damage, such as cracks or chips. If you notice damage, contact a solar panel technician for repair or replacement.
  • Ensure that all wiring and connections are secure and free from corrosion. Loose or damaged wires can affect your system's performance.

2. Cleaning

Cleaning your solar panels is a key part of maintenance. Here's how to safely and effectively clean your panels:

  1. Provided that you can access the roof safely, the quickest way to remove dirt, leaves and other debris is by using a soft brush or sponge with a long handle.
  2. If there's stubborn grime, mix a solution of water and mild detergent (avoid harsh chemicals) and gently scrub the panels.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to ensure no soap residue remains.
  4. Avoid using abrasive materials or high-pressure water, as they can scratch or damage the panels.
  5. For safety, clean your panels from the ground using an extension pole, or hire a professional cleaner if your panels are difficult to reach.

Note - If you have window cleaners come by, you could ask them to give your panels a quick wash. They typically have the necessary equipment for safely reaching your solar panels.

3. Seasonal Considerations

In the UK, where the seasons bring distinct weather patterns, it's a good idea to consider seasonal maintenance:

Spring and Summer: These seasons generally bring cleaner conditions. However, after spring showers or summer storms, it's still advisable to inspect your panels for any debris that may have settled.

Autumn: Autumn brings falling leaves and plenty of debris. Regularly check and clear your panels to maintain efficiency.
Winter: Winter may bring snow and frost, which can temporarily reduce panel efficiency. In such cases, it's advisable to clear snow from your panels gently using a soft broom or wait for the snow to melt naturally.

4. Professional Servicing

Consider scheduling solar panel servicing every few years. Professionals can perform a more thorough inspection, clean hard-to-reach panels, and address any technical issues.

One of the best ways to determine if your solar panels need servicing is by monitoring their performance. A noticeable dip in energy output can be an indicator that something is obstructing your panels from receiving sunlight. Common obstructions may include heavy snow or accumulated dirt.

You can track your solar system's performance through your inverter, which provides data on energy production. Regularly checking this data can help you identify any issues that may require attention.

Solar Panel Maintenance Checklist

Here's a handy checklist you can follow to ensure your solar panels stay in peak condition:

  • Regularly inspect for dirt and debris.
  • Clean panels every few months or as needed.
  • Check for visible damage or cracks.
  • Ensure secure wiring and connections.
  • Keep gutters and nearby trees free from debris.
  • Address seasonal challenges promptly.
  • Consider professional servicing every few years.

By following these simple maintenance steps and using the checklist as a guide, you can keep your solar panels operating efficiently and maximise your energy savings.

Does Rain Clean Solar Panels?

In the UK, where rain is a frequent guest, you might wonder if nature itself takes care of solar panel cleaning. The good news is that rain can indeed help keep your solar panels clean by washing away dust and some dirt that may accumulate on them.

However, there's a crucial factor to consider: the angle of your solar panels. Solar panels are typically installed at an angle to allow rainwater to run off the surface. This angle helps prevent water from pooling up, which can occur if the panels are flat.

Recommended guide: Can you put solar panels on a flat roof?

If your panels are correctly angled, rain can do a remarkable job of keeping them clean. It's a free and environmentally friendly way to maintain their efficiency.

Post-Storm Maintenance

While rain is an ally in solar panel maintenance, it's not always enough, especially after storms or heavy winds. These weather events can deposit debris like twigs or branches onto your panels, obstructing sunlight exposure.

To ensure your panels continue to function optimally, it's a good practice to conduct a visual inspection after such weather conditions. Whilst solar panels can withstand heavy winds and storms, it’s also good practice to check for any damage that may have caused.

Safety Precautions When Cleaning Your Solar Panels

While maintaining your solar panels is essential, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some key safety measures and easy-to-follow guidelines for homeowners during maintenance:

1. Safety Gear - Wear appropriate safety gear, such as slip-resistant shoes or boots, gloves, and safety glasses to protect your eyes from dust and debris.

2. Switch Off and Disconnect - Before cleaning or performing any maintenance, turn off your solar panel system and disconnect it from the electrical grid. This step is crucial to prevent electrical accidents.

3. Stay Grounded - Whenever possible, clean your panels from the ground using an extension pole. Avoid climbing on the roof unless you have the necessary training and equipment.

4. Check for Obstructions - Before accessing your panels, check for overhead obstructions, such as power lines or branches, that may pose a hazard. Maintain a safe distance.

5. Be Cautious with Detergents - If you use a mild detergent solution for cleaning, ensure that it doesn't come into contact with your eyes or skin. Follow safety instructions provided with the detergent.

6. Keep Tools Secure - Securely fasten any tools or equipment you use to prevent them from falling onto your panels or the ground.

Solar Panel Warranties

Solar panel systems, just like most electronic products, come with warranties to ensure their performance and durability. There are typically three types of warranties associated with solar panel installations:

1. Performance Guarantee Warranty (25 Years): This warranty guarantees that your solar panels will perform at a certain level for a specified period. For instance, our solar panel instals come with a 25-year performance guarantee, ensuring that they will output at least 85% of their original capacity during this time.

2. Product Warranty (12 Years): The product warranty covers any defects that may have occurred during the manufacturing process. It usually lasts for around 12 years and ensures that your panels are free from manufacturing flaws.

3. Workmanship Warranty (5 Years): The workmanship warranty covers the installation process. It safeguards against unexpected issues that may arise due to the installation, such as misplaced roof tiles or other installation-related problems. Workmanship warranties typically last for five years.

To avoid shoddy workmanship, we'd recommend giving the following guide a read: How to choose a solar panel installer - the advice in this guide should help you to pick a great installer and avoid ever having to use workmanship warranty.

Final Thoughts

In the world of green energy, solar panels shine as a sustainable solution that not only reduces your carbon footprint but also leads to significant cost savings. By maintaining your panels, you're not just protecting your investment; you're ensuring that your solar panel system continues to work efficiently for years to come.

Now that you're well-versed in solar panel maintenance, you're in a better position to make informed choices for your solar panel system. Remember, at MakeMyHouseGreen, we're here to support your journey to a greener home. Explore our Green Guides for more eco-friendly solutions, and if you have any questions or need expert advice, don't hesitate to contact our friendly Green Home Gurus at team@makemyhousegreen.com.

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