Leaves, dust, traffic pollutants, bird nests, and animal droppings contribute to the grime that can build up over time and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar cells in your solar panels. In fact, there is not a bigger threat to the production of electricity than a dirty solar panel; however, it is also the easiest to fix. But don’t take just my word on it, the National Renewable Energy Lab states that dirty solar panels can lose as much as 25% of their electricity producing potential if left uncleaned. So if you can clean your windows – have no fear – you can clean your solar panels, too. And now that we have answered the question of whether or not solar panels need to be cleaned, let’s go on to the next topic of “how”……
Solar panels can be easily cleaned with water just like you would clean your outdoor furniture. However, your system produces electricity and so govern yourself accordingly. It is not the time to grab the inverter with one hand while you hold the water hose in the other hand. In general, you’ll need to clean your solar panels up to three times a year depending on how much grime accumulates. Furthermore, you may not have to actually go up on your roof to clean them because it is usually sufficient just using a hose from the ground. Please make sure that your water pressure is not so strong that it knocks your connections apart.
For a one story home, cleaning your solar panels by hand works just as well as any other method; however, two story homes may need self-cleaning panels that have an automatic system which is permanently attached to the panel frames. In this manner you can schedule cleaning your panels at your discretion.
Keeping your panels clean also mean giving them a routine periodic physical inspection so that you can confirm that you system is maintaining its structural integrity and the connections remain tight and waterproof. In this manner you will know when to replace parts such as the inverter or a faulty panel.
You may also want to make sure that you are getting the most solar potential out of your PV system through the use of a monitoring system and service. This kind of service charges a monthly fee and can also tell how much power is produced each month by running a series of diagnostic programs. You may as well know how much bang you are getting for your buck and a solar services agreement that incorporates diagnostics can show you how much electricity you have generated for yourself, as well as how much money you’ve saved and how much harmful gases you have stopped from being delivered into our atmosphere. You can access your information from a remote location using the web, your iPhone, or some other mobile device. Please keep in mind that a solar services agreement can be expensive so shop around. This type of service will allow you to see your system performance at a glance and will make trouble-shooting very simple.
See You Next Time! Dr. Stripling