Tips to improve the performance of Solar Panel
Installing solar panels on your roof is an effective way to reduce energy costs and live a more sustainable lifestyle. However, like any other home equipment, solar panels require maintenance to perform optimally. One primary maintenance task is solar panel cleaning. Learn more about this task, including how often you should clean your solar panels and the recommended cleaning techniques.
What Causes Dirty Solar Panels?
Solar panels capture energy across various radiation wavelengths, from ultraviolet through visible light and into the infrared spectrum. Over time, debris can accumulate on the panels, forming a barrier that interferes with sunlight absorption and reduces power output. Some of the most common culprits include:
- Bird droppings: These cause localized soiling, which refers to concentrated areas that can obstruct sunlight, cause hot spots, and reduce panel efficiency.
- Pollen, dust, and dirt: These particles can leave residue on the panels and act as a sunlight barrier.
- Loose debris: Leaves, twigs, and other loose objects can create shady spots, affecting the overall performance of your solar panel system.
Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?
The short answer is yes; experts recommend cleaning your solar panels once or twice a year. Spring and fall are ideal, as they avoid harsh summer and winter weather conditions. However, several factors affect how frequently you should clean your panels:
- System design: Complex systems might require more frequent checks and cleanings.
- Installation angle: Panels installed on a low slope are more likely to accumulate dirt and might require more frequent cleaning.
- Amount of local dust and pollutants: Homes near airports, factories, freeways, and other sources of pollution may require more frequent solar panel cleaning due to higher particulate accumulation.
- Weather: Areas with limited rainfall may need more frequent cleaning due to lower rates of natural washing.
Can Solar Panel Cleaning Improve Performance?
The effects of dust and cleaning methods on solar panel efficiency differ widely depending on the specific environmental conditions. While the exact percentages vary, studies suggest an average increase in energy production of 3.5% after cleaning the panels with a soft rag and water. Interestingly, heavy rain only increases performance by an average of 1.9%, indicating that proper cleaning is more effective than a rain shower.
This leads to an important question: How much does the dirt on your solar panels cost you in lost energy generation? To estimate how much solar panel cleaning can save you, calculate your yearly energy production (in kWh), the estimated production loss from dirty panels (for example, 5%), and your electricity cost (per kWh).
For instance, if your system produces 10,000 kWh of electricity per year and you estimate a 5% loss of production due to dirty panels at $.20 per kWh, you lose $100 annually. Depending on your solar panel cleaning cost, this 5% production boost could certainly be worth the effort.
Solar Panel Cleaning Tips
Cleaning your solar panels doesn’t have to be extensive or tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the job done:
- Manufacturer’s instructions: Before you begin, check with your product’s manufacturer for specific cleaning instructions.
- Initial cleaning: Start by spraying the panels with a garden hose. If residue remains, a more thorough cleaning may be necessary.
- Equipment: Gather the supplies needed to clean your panels thoroughly, including a bucket of warm water, dish soap, a soft cloth or sponge, and a squeegee. For homes near airports or truck routes, a rag and isopropyl alcohol can help remove oily stains.
- Timing: Wait until evening, morning, or a cool and cloudy day to avoid burns from touching hot solar panels. Too much sun can also cause soapy water to evaporate quickly, leaving smears.
- What to avoid: Never splash cold water on hot glass or step on your solar panels. Avoid using sharp-bristled brushes, high-pressure power washers, or strong cleaning chemicals like ammonia.
- Cleaning procedure: Apply warm soapy water using a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid cleaning the wiring underneath the panels. Remove dirty water with a squeegee. For oily stains, apply isopropyl alcohol to a rag and wipe gently in small, circular motions.
- Professional cleaning: When in doubt, hire a professional solar panel cleaning service.
Learn More from Kapital Electric, Inc.
Solar panel cleaning is crucial for maintaining efficient solar panels. Now that you understand the correct cleaning procedures, you can enhance your system’s performance and longevity.
Based in the Chicago area, Kapital Electric, Inc. is a trusted partner for all your solar panel needs. After over 25 years in the industry, we understand the intricacies of solar panel systems, including the importance of proper maintenance. Call us today at (630) 833-2389 for help making the most of your solar investment.