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How To Keep Your Solar Panels Clean

30 min read | By admin

Solar energy output changes almost every month due to the change in weather and the changing position of the sun overhead. While such fluctuations are normal, if you experience more than expected inconsistencies, it might be time for some solar cleaning! Similar to your other home appliances and add-ons, your solar panels also need some care to remain in optimal shape.

Higher fluctuations in energy output are often a result of dirt and grime build-up that interfere with the peak efficiency level of solar panels. Cleaning your solar panels ensures that you have long-lasting panels which function at their peak efficiency levels in all seasons. But before you begin, it is important to understand how to clean solar panels correctly in India. We need to factor in our weather conditions, climatic changes and more. 

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    Why Should You Have a Solar Panel Cleaning Routine?

    Solar panels, whether mounted on rooftops or placed on-ground, experience a significant build-up of dust, dirt, pollen and debris. This reduces your solar panels’ efficiency by roughly 5%. In addition, depending on your region, there can be other specific challenges that would warrant more frequent solar panel cleanings. 5% might not seem daunting enough, but depending on the size of your solar power system, you can lose significant energy that can be easily saved otherwise. 

    Solar panel cleaning becomes more crucial in regions that receive less rainfall or are particularly dusty. In such regions, frequent standard manual cleaning is recommended so that your solar panels’ efficiency isn’t compromised due to the accumulation of dirt and other substances. 

    Even in areas that receive regular rainfall, manual cleaning is required as the solar panels are tilted. Without manual input, your panels will keep collecting debris.

    It cannot be stressed enough that solar panel cleaning is important for the long-term optimal performance and efficiency of solar panels. However, not many homeowners do it diligently. Many leave this job to rains and winds. This is not a recommended practice, especially if you want your solar panels to generate power for the next couple of decades. 

    Instead of considering cleaning solar panels as a chore, consider it an investment you are making for your home. Whether you got your system involved a few years ago or have opted for modern home solar systems that are hailed for their low-maintenance structures, some efforts on your end are necessary. 

    Once you know how to clean solar panels manually, you will understand how easy the process is. Additionally, unlike your house and other fittings, solar panels do not need to be cleaned daily.

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      When to Clean Solar Panels?

      If you see a decline in solar energy production for no apparent cause, it’s often due to dirt build-up, which is your cue for cleaning solar panels.

      Modern home solar plants come with intelligent monitoring devices that allow you to keep track of your daily solar energy production, compares panel-level outputs and monitors the condition of your system. Its analytical abilities remove the guesswork and offer actionable insight. Moreover, since you will already know the standard solar energy generation in different scenarios, it becomes easy to spot less-than-expected energy production.

      Typically, solar panel cleaning can be done once a year. Although it is enough for most locations, your solar panel installation company might be able to advise you on the right frequency, depending on your region and its weather conditions. Top solar companies in India also cover such cleaning and inspection needs through AMC maintenance packages.

      It is suggested to clean your solar panels when they are cool, preferably early in the morning, when there is light, but no sunshine and your rooftop solar panels are not heated up. Avoid cleaning hot solar panels or splashing water over them when hot, as this can cause micro-cracks or make the dirt stick firmly to them.

      How to Clean Solar Panels in India — Top 5 Ways

      It is important to understand how to clean rooftop solar panels properly to avoid any damage. Unfortunately, many homeowners believe that solar panel cleaning is a difficult task and always requires expert intervention when, in fact, you can easily put it on your DIY list. In most cases, the only tricky part of solar panel cleaning is accessing the entire surface of the solar panels. Once you have figured that out, the rest of the task can be taken care of easily. Here are the top 5 ways to carry out the job right.

      1. Use water for a simple clean-up

      Water is the easiest and safest way to keep your solar panels clean. If you have a few solar panels mounted low enough, you can splash some water when they are cool and then use a non-abrasive wiper to wipe off the surface. This is recommended for regions where your solar panels hardly get any build-up, and there is a low pollutant level in the atmosphere. Remember not to use car wax, rock salt, or other such products for solar panel cleaning in any season, as these will undermine the efficiency of solar panels in harvesting sunshine.

      2. Use solar panel cleaning kits

      Solar panel cleaning kits come in handy to sort and simplify the task of keeping your solar panels in their best condition. The kit offers you a biodegradable soap, a wiper and a non-abrasive brush (often with a long handle). Simply get a bucket of water and add the biodegradable soap and follow the instructions provided. Dip the brush in the water and sweep your solar panels. Then use plain water to wash off the grime and dirt that had stuck onto the surface of the solar panels.

      3. Use a hose for minimal build-up

      If your panels get a minimal amount of dust and dirt build-up, then a simple annual cleaning routine involving a hose will do the job for you. You can get your garden hose to tidy the panels and let the sunshine dry them off. However, if your garden hose can’t reach all areas of your panels, then invest in a suitable hose you can find. Remember not to use high-pressure jets or pressure washers as this might cause scratches or damage to the panels, thus creating a dent in their efficiency level.

      4. Use a soft scrubber to break through the extensive mess

      High dust and pollutant levels in your region and sticky substances like bird droppings and plant substances can make your solar panels super messy. However, a good scrubbing done as frequently as needed can help you keep your solar panels clean and tidy. Make sure you select a soft scrubber, brush, or squeegee that won’t put scratches on the surface of solar panels. Make the solar cleaning more effective by using a very mild soap, free of any chemicals that can degrade the performance of solar panels.

      5. Spot clean oily areas

      Areas of high pollution levels due to high proximity to factories, airports, or highways can leave your solar PV panels with atmospheric grime and oil build-up. If you notice oil stains on your panels, use isopropyl alcohol to spot-clean such areas. If you find numerous stains across panels, consider hiring professional cleaners.

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        How to Clean Solar Panels Safely

        An effective solar panel cleaning shouldn’t cost you your safety or cause damage to solar panels. It would be best to start by learning how to clean solar panels safely. Here are some tips to ensure that you complete this task safely.

        1. Remember to shut down your solar power system before starting the cleaning process to eliminate the risk of getting electrocuted. 
        2. If the solar panels are set up along the tilted areas of your roof, there is a high risk of slips and falls. Hence, use a sturdy safety harness to prevent injury or damage to solar panels. Also, avoid using solar panels as a way to set up your harness or secure your position on them when cleaning.
        3. Inspecting your solar panels for cracks, damaged cables and joints in a string is a must before starting any cleaning. As solar panels generate much electricity, wet solar modules with any of these flaws become extremely dangerous. The slightest encounter with sunshine will produce intense electricity. Hence, consider wearing proper protective gear when cleaning your solar panels.
        4. Always use a non-abrasive, mild, non-caustic detergent or soap for cleaning, as any harsh elements in the soap or water will gradually reduce your solar panels’ effective functioning.
        5. Never use harsh abrasive products or metal objects when removing grime/oil stains or any caked-on materials from a solar panel surface. Scratches on the glass over solar panels cast shadows on solar cells and impact their performance.

        When to Call Professional Cleaners for Cleaning Solar Panels

        In some cases, cleaning the solar panels yourself is impossible, especially if it can prove to be a risk to your solar system, the warranty of solar panels and your safety. 

        Calling professional solar panel cleaners is a safer bet if you are not confident about how to best clean solar panels on a roof. They have access to proper equipment, cleaning techniques and cleaning materials to ensure no damage is done to your panels.

        Also, if you notice major falls in solar energy production, the chances are that there could be a serious fault in your solar system. The solar panel setup doesn’t have any moving parts and typically functions efficiently for a long time with minimal maintenance. Hence, not always panels are the reason for lower solar energy output of your panel.

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          FAQs

          What are solar panels?

          Solar panels are clusters of several photovoltaic (PV) cells, made up of silicon material. As the sunshine falls on them, the cells work to convert them into electricity. The cells are wired together across all the panels in a home solar system. The covering of tempered glass protects the panels to help them withstand harsh weather.

          How long do solar panels last?

          Modern solar panels come with 25 years of warranty, but they often continue to generate power for nearly 30 years, in many cases at a reduced efficiency rating. Other components in your solar photovoltaic (PV) system, like solar inverters and batteries, have to be replaced in 10-15 years.

          Does it feel different when you run appliances on solar power than grid electricity?

          Electricity produced through solar panels is identical to the power drawn from the grid. So there are no significant signs that your house is sourcing energy from a home solar system. However, the difference shows in other ways, such as reduced electric bills, long-term savings on energy and reduced carbon emissions.

          Do maintaining and cleaning solar panels involve a lot of costs? 

          With AMC maintenance packages offered by top solar companies, you can trust the solar experts to timely visit and clean solar panels, inspect the entire solar system and do the necessary maintenance. They can also guide you on how to clean solar panels safely. However, DIY solar cleaning makes maintenance the least costly. Though it is advised to hire professionals for challenging and potentially risky solar cleaning jobs.

          How much power will my solar panels be producing?

          Your daily solar electricity output will depend on the location, weather conditions, sunshine hours and other factors. A solar evaluation by a professional solar installer will help you assess any shading or off-axis challenges that will influence your system’s effective performance. Accordingly, they can provide a more accurate solar output estimate for your situation.

          What happens to my solar panels if the grid is down?

          When there is a blackout in your neighbourhood, your grid-tied solar system will also shut down. This is necessary to prevent any transfer of solar electricity to the grid, which poses a safety risk for linemen and utility workers. However, using a battery backup can ensure an uninterrupted power supply in your home even when the grid is down.

          Can solar panels be recycled? 

          Yes. Once the solar panels are past their lifespan, they can be recycled and reused. In addition, you can ask your solar installer to replace your old or damaged solar panels. 

          How long does it take to install solar panels?

          The complete process from an initial roof inspection, material selection and installation work might take a few days or even a week. If you’re going for a customized solar system that is more beneficial than standard solar systems, it can take around two months to custom-build a perfect solar power system for your home. The actual installation of your rooftop solar panels can take a few hours to a day or two, depending on the size of your solar system and the choice of mounting structure.

          Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

          If your roof is free of shade and strong enough to bear the burden of solar panels for over 25 years, then you can get solar panels. Choose an elevated mounting structure that positions solar panels high above the ground to ensure that your solar cleaning job is easier. As a result, they don’t get soiled quickly.

          What if my roof isn’t suitable for solar panels?

          You can switch to a ground-mounted structure. If you have enough sunny areas outside of your home, a solar company can help you find innovative ways to securely mount solar panels, such as in the form of a pergola.

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