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Solar Panel Maintenance: Easier Than You Think

Solar panels are more durable than ever, some carrying warranties of up to 25 years. Theyre also relatively maintenance free. Some installation warranties may even cover basic maintenance or checkups for the first few years. Over time, however, bird droppings, pollen, dust, and other debris can accumulate and affect energy production if you’re not careful. A quick cleaning can make a difference in your system’s output. Before doing anything with your panels, make sure you understand and follow the specific manufacturer’s suggestions to ensure you do not void any warranties. 

Can I clean rooftop panels myself? 

Most solar panel cleaning can be done by yourself. To remove minimal build-up, gently spraying the panels with a hose should do the trick. For heavier soiling, use a soft sponge and a mild soapHere are six tips to consider while cleaning to prevent personal injury or damage to your panels. 

  1. Avoid cleaning your panels during the heat of the day. Panels in direct sunlight can heat up, causing the water to quickly evaporate and leaving a residue that will need to be cleaned off again. Instead, clean them when they are cool and not exposed to direct sunlight, such as early in the morning or in the evening.
  2. Never use abrasive scrubbers, brushes, or chemicals. Cleaning the panels with water or a gentle soap solution is best and, usually, all they need. 
  3. Keep yourself safe by staying on the ground. Never climb on the roof, walk across panels, or use an unsecured ladder. You may want to hire a professional if you are unable to clean the panel from the ground. 
  4. Hard water or mineral-rich water can damage panels over time. Try using an inexpensive garden hose water filter from your local home improvement store. 
  5. Do not spray too close with a high-pressured nozzle. High-pressure can damage and scratch the surface of the panels, impacting their production. 
  6. Spray from the top first and allow debris and dirt to slide down and off your panels. 

When is the best time to clean my solar panels? 

The best time to clean is while panels are not hot to avoid damage and reduce peak energy production loss. You may want to set up a routine quarterly reminder to help you remember. 

During spring and summer, the rain may naturally wash away dirt, debris, or bird droppings because of the way your system tilts. However, seasonal dust or rainstorms can leave behind a dirty residue, and you might need to do an occasional light spray to keep them clean. 

During fall and winter, rain and snow are a great way to keep the panels clean. However, you should check them monthly to look for leaves that could fall and obstruct the system or snow that doesn’t melt off by itself. 

How do I remove snow? 

Usually, it’s best to let the snow melt on its own. With minimal heat from the sun and your panels’ tilt, the snow will usually melt and slide off on its own. If snow or ice starts to build up, you may need to clear it away safely. Try using a long-handled soft brush and gently slide from the top of one side to the other, allowing the snow to slide off. If you have a two-story home or a lot of snow built up, consider hiring a professional or wait for it to melt to avoid personal injury or damage to your solar panels that might negatively impact your warranty. 

When should I hire a professional? 

Most experts will tell you that the return on investment from hiring an expensive professional to clean your panels isn’t worth it. But you’ll need to make that determination on your own. You should monitor the effectiveness of your system by tracking its production and by paying attention to your energy bills. To view your production in real-time (as well as your homes consumption), consider investing in smart monitoring system, like Curb. As you track your overall energy production, you will be alerted to your system’s overall performance and any required maintenance. While solar panels are relatively easy to keep clean, inverters are more complicated and may require other forms of maintenance. It is a good idea to have them checked annually. 

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