How to clean solar panels

How to clean solar panels

Do you know how to clean solar panels correctly to ensure your energy system is as efficient as possible?

Yes, this is very important! Solar panels require regular cleaning to keep them in top working order.

Let’s find out more about how to keep your solar panels clean in any weather or conditions.

Why should you clean solar panels?

Dirt, debris, snow, sand, insects, smoke, pollen and bird droppings can build up on the surface of your solar panels and block sunlight from entering the different layers of the cells. This reduces the efficiency of the solar panels over time.

Many areas of the country have been hit by fires and this results in a lot of smoke messing up solar panels. As a result, people are looking for ways to clean their solar panels – either themselves or through a good solar panel cleaning company.

You’ve spent a lot of money buying and installing solar panels – you should make sure your panels are working as efficiently as possible!

How do you know when it is time to clean your solar panels?

You will know when it’s time to clean your panels when you start to notice they produce less power and the efficiency of your system starts to drop.

You will also notice dirt, bird droppings and other pollutants by visual inspection. A large snow storm will also obscure your panels which means it is time for a clean.

If you live in an area where you get cold, dry winters you will probably have to clean more often then because cold air causes pollution to come closer to the ground than in the hot summer months.

There are special sensors available to monitor when it is time to clean your panels but you don’t have to go high tech if you don’t want to – you will know simply by looking at them and monitoring their efficiency.

The angle of your solar panels

It is easier for dirt, leaves and other debris to naturally glide off your panels when you have solar panels installed at higher angles.

Panels that are installed nearly flat will collect water, snow, dead insects, bird droppings and anything else you can think of over time. This means flat-installed panels will require more cleaning and maintenance.

What happens if you don’t clean your solar panels?

You are definitely going to lose efficiency if you don’t clean your panels. According to EnergyMatters.com, this can result in the following energy less over time:

  • 3 months: 5% energy loss
  • 6 months: 10% energy loss
  • 9 months: 15% energy loss
  • 12 months: 20% energy loss
  • 15 months: 25% energy loss
  • 18 months: 30% energy loss
  • 21 months: 35% energy loss
  • 24 months: 35% energy loss

What a massive waste of energy and money! Make sure your panels are kept clean.

DIY Solar Panel Cleaning

Yes, you can clean solar panels yourself but there are a number of things you must be aware of.

Safety is key! When you’re cleaning solar panels you are usually up on a roof in slippery conditions and this can be extremely dangerous. Please remember not to try any DIY solar panel cleaning without the necessary safety precautions. You could fall off the roof or damage your solar panels and this website doesn’t take any responsibility if this happens – it is at your own risk. We always recommend a professional doing the job instead.

There are certain types of roofs that are just too dangerous to try any type of DIY panel cleaning. The angle of the roof might be very steep or the roof doesn’t allow for firm foothold, gripping or safety gear. Avoid!

Flatter roofs are easier and safer for DIY panel cleaning.

You must always remember ladder safety. This means choosing the right type of ladder for your roof. Do not use A-frame ladders for climbing up since these are too dangerous, but rather use an extension ladder with a ladder stabilizer that goes at least 3 feet over the gutter.

What do you need for DIY solar panel cleaning?

The basics we recommend are:

  • Extension ladder with ladder stabilizer
  • Gloves
  • Extension poles
  • Soft bristle broom or brush with an extension broom handle
  • Garden hose with a spray nozzle
  • A plastic scraper
  • A small, handheld leaf blower

You should NOT use detergent or soap to clean your solar panels.

What about oily stains or stubborn spots? Check with the manufacturer first, but you may be able to use isopropyl alcohol for spot-cleaning oily spots.

Remember that you should give yourself enough time to clean the solar panels. Start early on a day with good weather and don’t try and rush the job.

Step-by-step DIY solar panel cleaning

Once you are securely on the roof, follow these steps:

  1. Use the hose with the spray nozzle to rinse off the solar panels and soften any dirt (do this in the morning or evening before the panels are too hot since cold water can cause hot panels to crack!)
  2. Use the soft bristled broom or brush with the extension handle to scrub off each panel (when you get to the bottom edges you can move the broom horizontally to get rid of dirt)
  3. Once the panels have been rinsed and brushed you can use the plastic scraper to gently clean the solar panels by hand (where you can reach easily and safely)
  4. Give the panels a final rinse with the hose to get rid of any remaining dirt
  5. Move slowly and methodically section by section until all the panels are clean

When you get down from the roof, take extreme caution because the area will be wet and slippery!

Watch this video from Allterra Solar for the exact process:

Using a professional solar panel cleaning company

This is our preferred method of keeping your solar panels clean because doing it yourself can be very dangerous.

Your investment in solar energy should include maintenance and cleaning of the panels to ensure you get maximum benefit in the long run.

Professional solar panel cleaning companies will use all the necessary safety gear required for any roof conditions and will only use deionized water without detergents to prevent any streaks or damage to your panels.

The cleaning company may use specialized cleaning equipment where a soft brush is integrated with a hose on a long extension pole.

The company will do a pre-cleaning inspection to check on the solar panels to make sure there is no broken glass or equipment that needs to be repaired. They will check underneath the panels for any birds, animals, loose wiring, insects or other debris or objects.

Birds and squirrels love the warm spaces underneath the panels and can cause havoc – sometimes even chewing through the wiring.

When the actual cleaning takes place the process is very gentle to prevent any damage to the panels. Deionized water is used because this attracts dirt!

Watch to see how a professional cleaning company (South Bay Solar Cleaning) does a fine job:

How often should I clean my solar panels?

Solar panels need cleaning at least once a year. This might differ depending on the weather and atmospheric conditions such as fires. You might even have an unexpected visit from a flock of birds messing up your panels!

Keep a regular eye on your panels, monitor their efficiency and make sure you take care of them so that they take care of your energy needs!

New ways of cleaning solar panels

In the future we may get to the point where solar panels are completely self-cleaning. Right now researchers are working on nano technology where panels are coated to prevent direct from attaching to the surface.

Special vibrating panels are being developed which shake the dust loose by using a small motor attached to the panel.

There are even robots that clean solar panels. These are attached to cranes that position the cleaner bots above your roof and the bots then get to work using automated systems. This type of work is for large-scale industrial solar and not really suitable for your average home-owner.

Researchers at MIT are studying electro-static repulsion to keep dust from collecting on solar panels.

Solar panels will always require cleaning and since renewable energy is part of our future the world has taken notice and smart solutions are being developed all the time. Watch this space!

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