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Cleaning Your Solar Panels

Solar panels use an environmentally friendly source of energy – solar energy. They require direct exposure to sunlight to convert sunlight energy to usable energy. This means that any obstruction to the absorption of sunlight energy is disadvantageous. The presence of dirt on your solar panels may obstruct sunlight, thus reducing the amount of energy produced by your solar panels.

To avoid this problem, it is necessary to clean your solar panels regularly. This article brings you the best tips to help with cleaning your solar panels. Let's get right into it!

Why Do Solar Panels Become Dirty?

Solar panels are primarily installed in outdoor places. As a result, the solar panels are freely exposed to dirt and dust and other pollution agents in the atmosphere. These substances are highly likely to make solar panels dirty.

Moreover, birds' and insects' excretion matter contribute to making solar panels dirty. These form some shade spots on the solar panel, thus hindering the efficient absorption of sunlight energy. As a result, they lead to the reduction of energy produced by solar panels.

It has been found that the location of a solar panel installation also determines why and to what extent the solar panels become dirty. For instance, for those who install solar panels for use in large-scale farming, research indicates that fertilisers and nitrogen-rich chemicals make solar panels dirty. This is because these substances have a high ability to corrode the solar panel components.

Additionally, people with solar panels installed in regions in Australia close to construction or industrial sites experience a faster accumulation of dirt on solar panels. This is because these sites are known to produce large amounts of dirt or soot that can make the solar panels dirty quickly.

When Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?

As mentioned above, dirt on the solar panels reduces the energy produced by the panels. As a result, the best time to clean solar panels would be immediately after you realise a reduction in energy production by your solar panels. The next question then is how would you identify that there is a reduction in energy supply by your solar panels?

Modern technology has developed the most advanced monitoring systems used in a solar system. For instance, armed with power optimisers and microinverters, you can track each solar panel's energy output. This allows you to identify the specific panel that is producing lower energy than expected.

You could also track the energy production level of the entire system and know when to clean the solar system as a whole. Moreover, if you have flat-installed solar panels, then it would be best to inspect them for dirt every time after rainfall. This is because flat-installed solar panels have a tendency to accumulate rainwater, which in turn leaves behind dirt on the solar panels.

Why Is Cleaning Solar Panels Important?

The primary importance of cleaning solar panels is to increase the energy production by the solar panels, or better yet, prevent the solar panels from being obstructed by dirt. A previous study shows that cleaning them may increase energy production by a margin of 5-10%, depending on how dirty the solar panels are.

With this kind of statistic, cleaning solar panels is especially beneficial for commercial solar firms or utility-scale solar farms, which focus on the large-scale production of solar power.

You will most probably require this for a residence if your solar panels are flatly installed. However, if your solar panels are installed at an angle, it would help to let the rainwater rinse the solar panels during rainfall. Research has indicated that cleaning flat-installed solar panels can increase energy production by 36%.

How To Clean Solar Panels

The following tips are essential when cleaning solar panels:

Prepare for safety before you begin

Safety is a priority when cleaning solar panels. This refers to your personal safety and the safety of your solar panels. Before you begin to clean your solar panels, it is best to ensure that you follow the procedures in your user manual to power off the entire solar system.

Similarly, it would help to put on protective gear such as gloves, hats, or even protective clothes. Remember that depending on the location your solar panels are installed, you will most likely need to climb onto a ladder to reach the panels and clean them. Thus, it is always best to get a professional to help. Falling off the roof is never a great way to start your day!

Do it from the ground

You should clean your solar panels from the ground for better results and additional safety. To clean your solar panel from the ground, you will need a long brush, a squeegee, a soft cloth, a suitable nozzle, and enough water. Next, attach the soft cloth to one end of the squeegee and get the work done using the soft brush to scrub gently onto the solar panel.

Using the nozzle, rinse the solar panels with enough water. You won't have to risk climbing any ladders to reach your solar panels. This helps protect both you and your solar panels.

Right time to clean

It helps to time the cleaning of your solar panels. It is, therefore, best to clean your solar panels early in the morning or later in the evening. If you choose to clean them, say, around noon when the sun is burning hot on you, you may not achieve the best results you desire. The water on the solar surface will keep evaporating due to the heat, leaving behind an accumulation of dirt from the dust blown by the wind onto the wet solar panels.

Cleaning know-how and the necessary materials

To keep your panels clean, you should begin by removing any loose matter on the solar panels before sprinkling water on the surface. This will make the cleaning easier and effortless.

In addition, it is good to use clean water, a soft brush, or a sponge covered with a coarse cloth for scrubbing the solar panels. These products should be able to remove the stains on the surfaces of your solar panels due to the type of material used to make the solar panels.

It is also crucial to squeegee the solar panel surfaces after you are done cleaning and rinsing with clean water. You should give this more attention where hard water is used. This is because hard water leaves behind residue on the glass surface upon drying.

It is best to use environmentally friendly soaps and soap solutions since they are harmless. Using strong detergents can be harmful to your solar panels due to the chemical substances they contain. These chemicals will have a corrosive effect on the solar panel units, thus damaging them.

Dealing with oily stains

Although it is rare, oil stains may occur on the surfaces of your solar panels. These can be caused by oil spillage during installation. Similarly, if you live near industrial areas, garages, below a flight path, or along the road where large oil trucks pass, there are high chances that the wind may blow some oil stains onto your solar panels.

It is wrong to forcefully scrub oil stains from the surface of your solar panels as you may end up causing scratches or even damaging the solar panels. In case of oily stains on the surface of your solar panels, it is best to use isopropyl alcohol for spot cleaning.

Save as much as you can

You don't want to regret cleaning your solar panels. Always conduct thorough research to know when and whether you should clean your solar panels. For small residential units with angled solar panels, the necessity to clean solar panels regularly is not so demanding, and you could forgo the exercise to save on your funds.

What To Avoid During Solar Panel Cleaning

While cleaning your solar panels, you want to be very cautious, like someone cleaning glass. You do not want to scratch or break your solar panels. Therefore, you mustn't do the following during your solar panels cleaning.

  • Do not use rough cleaning equipment such as abrasive cloths, strong brooms, or hard sponges. Such materials can scratch the surfaces of your solar panels.
  • Do not use strong soap solutions or detergents. Such substances contain chemicals that will cause a corrosive effect on your solar panels and damage them.
  • Do not stand or step on your solar panels while cleaning them. This is because solar panels are made of fragile material that could easily break when subjected to significant weight or pressure.
  • Do not forgo inspecting your solar panels regularly after cleaning. A follow-up inspection is necessary a few days after cleaning to ensure that there is no more dirt on your solar panels.

When To Call An Expert For Solar Cleaning

Cleaning solar panels is not the most difficult of tasks, and you can probably handle it on your own if you are extremely careful. All you need is enough time and the necessary cleaning materials. After all, if solar panels are installed at an angle, rainwater will do much of the cleaning for you.

However, there may be a need to call in professionals to help with cleaning your solar panels. To begin with, if you are elderly or unwell and living alone, you will surely need professional help.

Similarly, if you live in a highly industrialised area experiencing high pollution levels, or if you live along coastal areas (known for high rates of marine layer deposition), you might want to call in solar professionals to help with solar panel cleaning.

If you notice tough stains on your solar panels, you do not want to risk damaging your solar panels because of a lack of necessary equipment to remove tough stains. Above all, if you are not confident you can clean them on your own, there is no harm in getting someone who can do it for you.