Solar Panel Maintenance
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, our demand for energy is also increasing. Almost every device we use today uses electricity. It is needed to charge batteries on portable devices such as mobile phones or laptop computers as well as devices connected directly to a power supply.
This is why solar panels are such a great discovery that reduces our consumption of fossil fuel sourced electricity. This alternative energy source is free after the initial costs of installation. Solar panels are photovoltaic cells that are used to absorb photons from the sun.
These photons become direct current or, through an inverter, alternating current which can be used as a power source for most electrical devices. These panels can be installed on a roof, carport, or on portable devices to be used during trips or while going off-grid.
However, like any other device, solar panels require maintenance to lengthen their lifespans. This article will look at solar panel maintenance, its dos and don’ts, and its associated costs.
Solar Maintenance Facts
Do sun-powered panels need to be maintained? If so, what kind of maintenance do they need? First, let’s look at what they’re made of. Solar panels are made of silicon crystals, either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin amorphous silicon. There are other types, but these three are the most popular. Having said that, they can be treated like glass in terms of their maintenance.
This means that they still need to be maintained because they accumulate dirt and other debris, but not the same degree as other devices. This also means that any maintenance must be performed using the right materials or it could lead to scratching them and reducing their efficiency.
These crystals can last from 10 to 25 years with minimal maintenance. However, if they get damaged, the repairs can be costly, especially if they are not covered by solar provider warranties.
Cleaning, on the other hand, can become mandatory depending on your location. Some locations often have heavy snowfalls. Solar panels systems installed on buildings near busy roads can accumulate more dirt than those far from the crowded streets.
Spring can also bring a lot of debris onto your roof that will need to be removed. These elements are must be considered when thinking about when and how to maintain your system.
Solar Panels Maintenance Tips
What are the best practices when it comes to solar panels maintenance? One key factor is that they are dependent on sunlight. Therefore, clearance is important in keeping them in their best shape. Here are some of the expert tips when it comes to taking care of your device.
- Keep the shade away. Make sure that the path of sunlight is clear and is hitting your panels well throughout the day. This will keep them efficient and productive when the sun is up.
- Check on your panels regularly. If you’re using an inverter, make sure that its green light indicator is flashing. This means that your solar cells are converting energy that you can use for your devices.
- Watch out for consistency. If your system is producing the same energy (or more daily), then it is in good shape. However, if you see a significant decline in its efficiency, then, perhaps, it’s time to get it checked by an expert. Or, maybe it’s time to clean them.
- Be aware of the weather’s effect. If there’s a season change, it can be a good trigger for you to get that water hose and start sprinkling. When you do, make sure that the pressure isn’t so high that it will scratch the cell surface. Don’t use harmful chemicals or cleaners on your system. Distilled water is enough in keeping it clean and sparkling.
- Invest in automatic cleaners. Accumulated dirt can cover the panel’s surface and lead to reduced productivity. If you don’t have time to clean the device yourself, or you don’t think it’s safe for you to climb a ladder to reach it, then you can use automatic sprinklers to clear your panels. However, this is not necessary.
- Never step on your panels. Even if you’re barefoot, it is never safe to step on your panels. Dirt on your foot may scrape the crystal’s surface and do more harm than good. If you need someone to check on it, seek the help of a professional who will know how to keep the system safe and functional.
Who Is Responsible for Maintenance?
There are various options for installing solar panels onto your roof. You can do a self-install if you have sufficient skills and experience in handling panels and their parts. You can also get the installation done by a solar company, which means you don’t have to worry about everything else, and you just have to pay the necessary fees and buy the parts.
If you choose the former, then you will have to shoulder the solar panel maintenance cost yourself. This means you are responsible for deciding when the inspections should be, and you need to find a professional to do the check-up. The costs will depend on various factors, and these will be discussed in the next section.
If you did the latter, then the maintenance expenses can be shouldered by your solar provider. Maintenance can either be in terms of performance, workmanship, or equipment. Solar providers usually offer warranties on these three elements. Performance warranty means that they will make sure it will perform as promised for a certain number of years, depending on the contract specifications.
A workmanship warranty means that they are promising that the panels are installed properly, and they will shoulder any expenses associated with damage caused by improper installation. Equipment warranties would mean that they will repair or replace any solar system equipment, like inverters, should they malfunction within a certain number of years. Check out these warranties when you render their services.
Cost of Solar Maintenance
How much will the solar panel maintenance cost be? The expenses will be dependent on the type of maintenance that will be performed. The average maintenance costs in the United States in terms of performance ranges from $150 to $500 annually, depending on the capacity of your system and the number of panels you have.
Some companies charge per solar panel, so you may want to consider this when calculating costs. For equipment costs, it will depend on the material that malfunctioned. If it’s a single panel, then you can buy one for less than $100. If it’s the inverter that needs replacing, then it could cost $500 or more.
For cleaning costs, it’s practically free if you just do it yourself. It is also the recommended route. All you need is a pail of water and dishwashing liquid (or liquid detergent), and you’re ready to get splashing.
The number of years you had the system will also matter when it comes to the maintenance that may be needed. If you’ve had the system for 2 decades and have seen a significant decline in its performance, then it’s likely that the system has reached the end of its life needs to be replaced.
If the degradation is observed in a relatively new system, then it could be a workmanship issue. In this case, you may want to consult your solar provider for maintenance at their expense, assuming it’s still within the warranty period.
Solar panels are indeed a great way to save on electricity costs, cut down your carbon footprint, and power your home. Their initial set up expenses can be costly; however, they provide a return of investment in just a few years’ time.
Like any other device, they require maintenance every once in a while. Luckily, the rain and the sun can eliminate dust and dirt regularly, but you may still need to check on your device regularly to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth.
Regular monitoring of your device’s efficiency can help you get a good understanding of your device’s performance. If you see a significant decline, it may be time to get it checked by a professional. An annual maintenance check can also be worth your while. If your solar provider offers this service, then you can save hundreds of bucks, so always check your contract.