A Residential & Commercial Solar Installation Company Solar Repair & Maintenance

As the owner (or soon-to-be owner) of a solar system, you're a proud investor in a highly efficient and low-maintenance technology. 

That's low maintenance, not zero maintenance! 

Because solar panels are constantly exposed to the elements, they gradually develop a layer of dirt, grime, and debris. Cleaning this off of them twice yearly keeps them functioning efficiently and effectively. 

One of our most common customer questions is what kind of solution to use with the water, if any. In this blog post, we'll give you the dirt on why and when to clean your panels and what to use to keep them running smoothly. 

 

Why you need to clean your solar panels

Washing your solar panels isn't just about aesthetic purposes. Regular solar panel maintenance ensures your system works efficiently by removing pollutants that interfere with light absorption. With zero maintenance, debris will collect, and you will notice a decrease in the efficiency of your solar panels. 

Regular cleaning reduces shading loss (or electricity output) due to obstructions blocking PV modules from receiving direct sunlight. Consider that shade on one module will reduce the electricity generation from an entire string of modules!

Dirt, dust, and debris, such as wet leaves and bird droppings, are the usual suspects of shading loss. Fortunately, these are all relatively easy to clean with a hose.

Can I use soap to wash my solar system?

Now if you're only cleaning every six months, debris can get pretty sticky. Should you add anything to the water? 

Nearly all soaps contain surfactants (surface active agents), ingredients that pull up dirt and grime and make them easier to remove. If used excessively, soap can leave a sticky residue or even attract additional debris after cleaning. 

Final result: We're stuck again with the shading loss we were trying to avoid in the first place!

If you use soap on your solar panels, pre-mix a mild dish soap with water and clean off your solar panels with a soft sponge. Make sure you go through again and clean off the soapy solution with water only. 

Remember that our goal is to remove debris without leaving new residue. 

 

What kind of cleaners can I use on my solar panels?

Mild dish soap and water with a soft brush are all you will need to conduct regular maintenance on your panels. If a tough spot isn't coming off using the dish soap and water solution, you can do spot cleaning using some substances we will discuss next. 

Alternatives to using soap for cleaning a solar system

So what if you can't clean a collection of wet leaves or bird droppings with water and dish soap? 

You can use white vinegar with warm water or a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda. You can also use rubbing alcohol. 

The key is to hose off the panels with water whenever you complete the job to avoid leaving any residue. 

Tips on how to prepare your solar panels before starting the cleaning process

First and foremost, always unplug the system before cleaning. 

 

  • Turn off the system. Solar panels are hearty waterproof units designed to handle the elements. However, the only way to ensure your safety while spraying water on them is to deactivate the current running through them until you finish working. 
  • Clear any debris that has accumulated at the base of your panels. 
  • Pre-mix your solution if you are using soap to avoid excess residue on the panels.
  • Use cleaning tools such as extendable sprayers or scrubber brushes if your panels are in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Check both the surface of your panels and your junction box for signs of dirt or damage, like dust buildup or discolorations. Contact a professional and check your homeowner's policy if your panels are damaged.

 

The bright idea

Solar system maintenance is a relatively easy job that keeps panels running efficiently and extends their lifespan. If you use a soap solution, pre-mix it and use a mild dishwashing solution. If you need to use another solution to spot-treat your panels, be selective with what you use, and hose it off when you finish the job. 

 

Whatever cleaning solution you choose, always prepare by following the tips above for a safe and efficient cleaning process. 

Do you have any other questions about solar system maintenance, or are you curious about any of our products? 

Our sales team is available 24/7, and we'd be happy to assist! Contact us now!


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