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Clean solar panels in 2024 - Why, how, and when?

Solar panels are a clean and renewable source of energy but they are not self-cleaning devices. They still require maintenance to remain clean to function properly. How to clean solar panels? Why should we clean them and is it required? Should we consult an expert for the process?

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Why should one maintain or clean solar panels?

Solar panels require very minimal maintenance or no maintenance at all! However, it is necessary to make sure they are working efficiently. Some factors can impair the proper functioning and efficiency of the solar panel system when there is an absence of clean solar panels.

  • Dust, pollen, leaves and other debris can accumulate on the panels and interfere with their ability to absorb sunlight. 
  • In some cases, the build-up can be so severe that it reduces the power output of the panels by up to 30%. 
  • While rainwater can help keep the panels clean naturally, it is not always enough. 
  • Australians experience long periods of drought, which can result in dust build-up and bird droppings. Besides, there is also pollution accumulating on your solar panels over time.

By keeping your solar panels clean and in good repair, you can ensure that they will continue to provide clean, renewable energy for years to come.

How to clean solar panels?

Rainwater is a natural cleanser for your PV system. Here is what you can do to clean solar panels:

  • If you clean them often, then washing with plain water is sufficient every couple of months.
  • Routine cleaning with soap and water is necessary to remove stubborn dirt and grime at least once every 5-6 months. 
  • You could use a non-abrasive scrub or sponge for the process. You can also just use soapy water instead.
  • In addition, panel manufacturers generally advise that panels should be scrubbed at least once a year by experienced personnel. 

Since PV systems are placed on your rooftops, they are not easily accessible and thus can go neglected. To prevent this, you can schedule a simple cleaning routine as a fun activity for your home. Say, you can dedicate once every 2-3 months or twice every year to clean solar panels.

Warning! Do not overdo it!

With the zeal to get it all clean, do not overdo the process. Since the exteriors are made of glass, it is best to leave the thorough cleaning to the professionals.

  • Overdoing could jeopardise the working of the solar system as a whole. 
  • Some locations might require more attention and cleaning other premises.
  • There could be nitrogen build-up on panels located on a farm, excess dust when placed near a construction site, etc.
  • Areas near the coastal region may require special care.

Drop in Efficiency and effect of climatic conditions:

  • Solar panel cleaning is essential for maintaining the efficiency of the panels and ensuring that they continue to provide clean renewable energy.
  • Furthermore, it is imperative to check the panels periodically for damage. Cracks or breaks in the cells can also decrease power production.
  • With severe climatic changes seen in Australia, it is best advised to clean them as often as possible.
  • A small improvement could boost efficiency by 5-10%. But, poor maintenance could lead to a decrease in efficiency.

Step-by-step cleaning of solar PV system:

Safety first! If the panels are placed in regions that are not easily accessible and do not have space for you to move around, do not step in! Use a safety harness or necessary precautions. If not, let the experts handle them for you!

If you follow all the precautions, then,

  1. Use plain water to wash off dirt and dust.
  2. Use mild detergent or soapy water and do gentle scrubbing.
  3. You can skip the soap and not leave any residue behind, or opt for a mild soap.
  4. Make sure not to scratch the panels. 
  5. Utilise sponges or gentle scrubbers.
  6. Run some water on the panels once more.
  7. The last step of drying the panels is also crucial to prevent water droplets from remaining.
  8. It is best to use a squeegee or a chamois cloth to dry panels after the process.

It can cause watermarks and unnecessary masking and shading

Utilise the climate to your benefit and do the cleaning when it isn’t that sunny. You will be able to experience better cleaning on a cool day. Long, strenuous work could become more challenging with the sun shining brightly over you.

When should the experts interfere?

Ideally, it is advised to get the help of experts every year.

Make sure to inspect the panels and their efficiency through a monitoring device. Give the experts a call if,

  • Efficiency has deteriorated over time.
  • The rooftop is too steep for you to access, or you are not confident you can get it done.
  • You live in coastal areas, near farms or in heavily polluted areas.
  • You are entitled to regular shade from trees or leaves.

You could call them up to clear your tiny doubts, and they are always here for you. They will guide and help you overcome all your solar relation problems and queries in a jiffy!

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