Cleaning Solar Panel
If you have decided to go solar or if you’re pondering on whether to go solar in the near future, then you must already know that solar panels are a great way to save on utility costs while reducing one’s carbon footprint. It is also a way to cut down on our use of non-renewable resources.
Solar panels harness photons from the sun and transform this energy to direct current (or with an inverter, an alternating current) that can be used to power up devices without needing to connect to the grid outlet.
Aside from cutting down on home utility expenses, it is also ideal for individuals who are on the go and would like to stay connected even while in remote areas. For those who live in remote areas that have a scarcity of grid-based power, it can also serve as a very useful energy source.
Just like grid electricity, solar panels are installed either through the roof or mounted on a flat surface. Portable versions have more mobility and require less installation. However, regardless of the panel type, this device needs to be maintained.
As it is exposed for most of the day, one of the most crucial maintenance steps is solar panel cleaning. Cleaning your panels regularly will ensure a longer lifespan and better performance. How exactly does cleaning help?
Why You Need to Clean Solar Panels
There are various reasons why you’d need to clean your solar panels. First of all, you have to remember that panels are made of delicate crystalline cells. While they look sturdy, they are not absolutely scratch-proof or break-proof, and if not handled properly, they may get damaged. Damaged panels do not perform as well as scratched or damaged ones and constant damage leads to eventual deterioration and reduced lifespan for your system.
In a way, they can be naturally cleaned by rain, but as dirt accumulates on them, you may still need to start cleaning solar panels to keep them spotless. Dust can be easily washed off by rain, but there are types of dirt that cannot be naturally removed by the weather, for example bird feces, dried pollen, and grime will need much more effort to be removed.
If left stuck for a long time, it can hinder the system from performing at optimal capacity because it blocks sections of the cells, making it harder for light to come in and be absorbed by the photovoltaic cells. This energy loss can be minute at first, but over the years, the collected dirt can become bigger and bigger and result in significant energy loss.
This is why knowing when do solar panels need to be cleaned is vital to lengthen the life span of your system and ensure that it will produce sufficient energy for years to come. Knowing how to sanitize it will also provide you savings of seeking cleaning services from your solar system provider.
This also allows you to have a regular close-up check on your device to easily spot any malfunctions or damages. Bigger systems require more frequent sanitation as they have more area of coverage and are more prone to dirt and debris piling up.
When Is It Time to Clean the Panels?
Now that we’ve established why you’d need to wash down dirt from your panels every now and then, then next question is, how do you know when it is time to start cleaning solar panels on your roof? The timing may be dependent on various factors. One of these factors is your location. If you live in towns that experience sandstorms or even just thunderstorms, then you may need to wash them every season.
Leaves during spring can be easily dusted off of the panels, but collected sand may not be that simple. Your distance from the road may also be a factor. If your house is by the roadside with trucks carrying construction materials and sand pass by almost daily, then you may need monthly if not bi-monthly clearing of your roof panels’ debris, especially during dry months.
Some dry, overall sunny cities may require more effort when it comes to cleaning. However, panels often perform much better in these areas, so the extra washing of the panels is worth the high yield the panels provide. Another factor is the size of your solar system.
More solar panels would mean a bigger spread, so this can also mean more instances of dirt accumulation. However, this would not be much of a problem if it often rains in your location.
Tips for Cleaning Solar Panel
How can one best perform solar panel cleaning? It may seem like a simple dusting, but panels are quite delicate because they are made of silicon crystals. Therefore, cleansing them may be similar to washing your glass windows. You want to get rid of loose dirt before supplementing the washing with water or liquid cleaners.
You don’t have to necessarily use any other cleaning agent other than water. Just attaching a nozzle to your garden hose can put enough water pressure (but not too much) to get rid of stubborn dirt. This method could come handy for drought-prone areas with little or non-frequent rains. If you decide that you’ll be using soap, be careful to not use stronger ones that can damage the metal. You can also use a squeegee to clean hard-to-reach places.
However, you want to be extra careful in squeegeeing while on a ladder. Any physical injuries that lead to hospitalization cannot be compensated by the power gained by clean panels. Therefore, if you can’t help it, do not do it at a great height. It would also help to turn off the DC connection of the panels. This will ensure that no wiring will be water damaged while the electricity runs.
You also don’t want to ever step on your solar panels. If you’re wearing footwear, it will most likely have dirt, and it can do more harm than good to your panels. Going at it barefoot may not be a good idea either because you’ll most likely step on something and scrape the panels while you walk on top of them. Of course, you also run the risk of electrocution.
Whatever you do, don’t ever use metallic objects to remove stubborn dirt. The goal is to remove any debris without scratching the surface of the panels, and there’s no use in having clean solar panels if they’re all scratched up.
How to Clean Solar Panels
There are three ways to sanitize your solar system. One is the most effortless thing to do, which is to leave it be. If your location experiences enough rain showers monthly, then you won’t even need to go up on that ladder to check on your panels. The rain will take care of this for you.
The second method is to seek professional help. If this service comes for free as part of the maintenance services given by your solar provider, then by all means let the professionals do the work. They know best about panels and they will surely take care of it.
However, this is not recommended if you have to pay loads of money for someone else to do it since you can easily do it yourself. The return on investment of cleaning solar panel does not equate to the payment of services to professionals.
The next option is for you to do the cleaning solar panel yourself. When you do clean it, you’d want to use water with low mineral content such as distilled or deionized water. This will ensure that there will be no particle deposits on your panels after you’re done. When you do use a hose with nozzle, do not set it up for too much pressure.
Just like too much pressure damages your car, it may do the same for the photovoltaic cells’ surface. It is worth it to read the manufacturer’s manual for panel maintenance so you can properly take care of your system.
Of course, there’s one other option, but it doesn’t involve cleaning. Instead, what you can do is put special coatings in your panel that will make them practically dirt-proof. This will again require the help of a professional since you want to use the right coating agent and material for the job.
There are also electronic monitors that assess the dirt levels of your panels, but they are mostly preferred for industries with bigger solar systems in place and it may not be practical for home use.
Solar panels are a great way to save energy and cut down on utility costs. They are also a great way to contribute to the betterment of the planet by reducing your carbon footprint. However, just like any electronic device, they can become dirty at some point. One may think that they are not vulnerable to this since they’re situated on the roof and any dirt they accumulate can be easily washed off by rain.
This may be true, but in some locations, rain showers may not be enough to sanitize your panels. Bird droppings, for example, are more stubborn and may require scrubbing to be washed off. If this happens to your panels and you observe them not coming off, then it may be time to wear your gloves and start squeegeeing them.
It is a good idea to learn how to clean solar panels so you can do it well when you finally need to do the scrubbing. Remember, though, that panels, like your glass windows, can be delicate and may require extra care.
If you decide that you’ll clean them, make sure to turn off their DC connection, so the wirings, in case touched by water, won’t get water-damaged. If you’re going to use a hose with a nozzle, do not put too much pressure on the cells so they won’t break or get scratched. If you can use distilled deionized water, then go for this option. Do not step on the panels or use abrasive materials as scratches can reduce their efficiency. If you can help it, leave it to nature to do the cleaning. After all, it’s free.