It seems obvious: solar panels need sunlight to produce energy, so dirty solar panels must have a drastically reduced rate of production, right? Based on a study carried out by the University of San Diego, the answer turns out to be “not really.” For the most part, regular dirt and dust on your solar panels barely impacts their ability to function. If this is the case, the drawbacks of attempting to clean them yourself or paying for a professional to do it far outweigh the benefits. There are some exceptions, so read on to learn when cleaning your solar panels might be necessary.
Risks of Cleaning Your Solar Panels
The number one risk of cleaning your solar panels is damaging them. Scratching or damaging the glass in any way will cut down on energy production more than dust and dirt will. Solar panels also have a coating that can be easily damaged by corrosive chemicals. Even gentle soaps can leave a film or residue that blocks sunlight and encourages dirt to build up. Not to mention, the panels are often very hot, and pouring cold water on hot glass can stress the glass and cause it to crack.
Damage that you cause to your solar panels by cleaning them will most likely not be covered under your warranty and may invalidate the warranty altogether. Not to mention, most solar panels are on roofs, and you can be injured if you fall.
Why You Probably Don’t Need to Clean Your Solar Panels
For the most part, solar panels are low-maintenance systems. Most panels are pitched, meaning that they are inclined slightly. This means that they can be cleaned off fairly well by rain – the rain hits the panels, dislodges dust and dirt, and carries it away due to the slope. If your panels have even a 5-degree incline, the rain should clean them well enough that you don’t have to take further action. In a study at the University of San Diego, it was determined that less than 0.05% of solar panels’ production was lost due to standard dirt and dust. By cleaning the solar panels on a standard house, you would most likely gain less than $8 in energy production per month. That doesn’t really make up for the cost of hiring a professional cleaning service!
The information above applies to standard scenarios. However, there are a few exceptions that might make it necessary to clean your solar panels:
- Location: If you live in a big city with a lot of pollution, close to a factory or airport, by a farm, or in another location with significantly increased pollutants, your solar panels may accumulate more light-blocking particles than those in other locations.
- Substance: Regular dirt and dust might not have much of an impact, but certain materials can. Oil from airports and truck routes, bird droppings, sticky pollen, and snow can have a significant impact on energy production. Most of the time, snow will slide off of your solar panels as it begins to melt, but if your panels are flat or it’s extremely cold, you could have a problem.
How to Clean Your Solar Panels
If you notice a drastic difference in energy production and your solar panels are dirty, you can try cleaning them. We do recommend that you call a professional, but if you’re a hardwired DIYer, here’s how: wait until the panels are cool (the best time is right at or before sunrise). Then, use a hose to gently spray them with water. Do not use soap, chemicals, brushes, sponges, towels, or anything abrasive.
When to Call a Professional for Solar Panel Cleaning
If you try the method above and don’t see a difference in energy production, call a professional. In all likelihood, your reduced energy production is not due to dirty panels. Call Solar Liberty for solar energy diagnosis and repairs in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We can determine if there is a repair issue or if your panels need to be professionally cleaned. If they do, our trained technicians will use deionized water and special brushes designed for the job. Calling a professional can rule out any technical issues and ensure that your solar panels stay happy, healthy, and under warranty!
For solar panel maintenance & repair in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, & Vermont, count on Solar Liberty. Contact us today to learn how we can increase your energy production and save you money!