Do solar panels need to be cleaned?

Do solar panels need to be cleaned?

Two main things to check periodically are accumulation of leaves under the panels, and soiling on the front glass.

A buildup of leaves inhibits airflow under the panels, resulting in a higher operating temperature which reduces system efficiency. In the wet season, masses of leaves hold moisture against the roof which, over time, can compromise roof integrity.

Solar panel front glass gets dirty primarily from wind-blown dust and pollen. A light dusty film may only cause a 5 percent output decline, while heavier buildup can cause a 20 percent decline. A good rainstorm will usually wash away most of the accumulated soiling. Summer is a good time to clean your panels (if you need to at all).

The old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to most residential installation scenarios where cleaning just isn’t worth the bother – or the potential danger of accessing your roof. Unless dirt is clearly visible or performance is noticeably impacted; simply let nature do the job for you :).

Factors that may warrant cleaning solar panels:
Array tilt. Panels at 15 degrees or less are more prone to dirt accumulation.
Local environment. Bird droppings, heavy pollen, and soiling from nearby construction/agriculture.
Personal. You love your panels and want them operating and looking their best!

DIY NOTE: Do not attempt to access your rooftop to maintain your panels unless you have the appropriate safety equipment and training. If you don’t; hire a suitably qualified professional instead.

Cleaning tips: Early morning can be a particularly good time for cleaning as dew will likely have softened the dirt on the panels; meaning you’ll need to use less water and less energy to clean your solar panels. Clean water and a little scrubbing with a soft brush should remove the most stubborn grime. Rinse and squeegee dry to avoid mineral deposits. A widely available and effective tool is an adjustable pole fitted with a brush/squeegee head.

4 Comments

  • Posted April 25, 2017 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

    I want to have a solar panel installed, but I’m not sure what kind of maintenance they require. It’s nice to know that they just need to be cleaned every once in a while! I’ll make sure that a professional does that, since they would have the proper tools and training.

  • Mike Swift
    Posted May 1, 2017 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    Except for flat-mounted panels, Google found that there is no need to clean them as costs of cleaning will not be recouped with increased output. https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/should-you-spring-clean-your-solar.html This does not mean that if a lot of leaves are packed under the panels that they should not be removed.

    • Posted May 1, 2017 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

      Mike,
      If you’re getting an accumulation of leaves under your array, ask your installer to add a screen around the perimeter once you’ve cleared everything out. You can even do this yourself, just be aware of your DC cables in the process. Good luck!

  • Posted May 25, 2017 at 10:10 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing fabulous information. It’ s my pleasure to read it.

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