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Within solar energy circles, cleaning solar panels is a hot topic of debate: should you or shouldn’t you? While some suggest that regularly washing panels is necessary to get the maximum solar conversion possible. Others feel that solar panels should only get a rinse-off once in a while if you see a notably low solar output. Following the solar panel manufacturer’s maintenance suggestions is always a good place to start, but if you’re still unsure, read on to learn how to maintain and clean your solar panels.
Do rigid solar panels need cleaning?
Whether or not you need to clean your solar panels depends on a few main factors: the angle of your panels and your geography.
- The position of your solar panels may affect the build-up of grime. If they’re lying flat, there’s a higher probability of muck sticking to the panels. On a gradient, dirt is more likely to roll down instead of staying in one place.
- Your location may also play a part in how much filth your solar panels collect. If you’re in a desert-like area, panels are more likely to accumulate dust. Living near or in woods can cause a problematic build-up of pollen, leaves, and bird poop.
How often do they need cleaning?
While the situations mentioned above may affect how dirty your solar panels get, the best way to ‘clean’ your solar panels is by simply letting nature do its thing. A good rain shower will rinse dust and debris off the panels to keep them working at around 95% capacity. However, if where you live is extremely dry or experiencing a drought, you may need to hose them down, but this is only necessary if you notice a problem.
If you don’t have a clear view of your panels, setting up a camera that points towards them will allow you to monitor dirt build-up and other issues. For example, if there’s a steep decline in power and variables such as sun intensity and cloud cover are normal, then you may need to give your panels a clean.
You can check solar output in a few different ways depending on your system.
- For portable power stations or home backup batteries, check your screen or app to see the output.
- To check a solar panel’s output directly, use a multimeter to check the voltage.
How to clean solar panels
If you think it’s necessary to go beyond the hose pipe, there are several options you can choose from.
Solar cleaning services
Hiring a company may be the most straightforward and safe choice if you have a whole roof array. The average cost of cleaning solar panels is around $150, but some solar panel installers offer a free or reduced-price cleaning service.
Some solar panel manufacturers require you to clean your panels every six months to keep your warranty valid. Professional cleaning companies provide a washing service and check for any damage from birds and the environment.
Automated solar panel cleaners
Depending on the size of your solar panel array, position and location, you may wish to invest in a programmable sprinkler cleaning system to regularly rinse the panels. This is particularly handy if you live in a dry, hot location and don’t want the hassle of climbing a ladder to hose them down yourself.
Solar panel robot cleaners are also available for both flat and inclined arrays. These automated robots also get their power from solar energy and don’t use water. Some run on tracks or use smart mapping to clean solar panels using a spinning microfibre cloth.
How do you clean solar panels yourself?
If you do choose the do-it-yourself route, here are some things to be aware of:
- Before doing anything, check with the panel manufacturer to see if they provide specific maintenance and cleaning instructions. Using the wrong tools or cleaning products may cause irreparable damage that reduces solar output and voids your warranty.
- Shut down your system per the instruction manual, or unplug portable solar panels from a portable power station.
- Most manufacturers suggest only using water to clean off your panels. Many cleaning products leave a residue that can sometimes affect efficiency. Depending on your location, you might also consider using distilled water. Hard tap water, in particular, contains minerals that may get left behind.
- If stains are left after using water, using a tiny amount of dish soap with a non-abrasive sponge will do the trick. Try not to use other cleaners such as laundry detergents or chemicals as they can react badly with solar cells.
- Choose an overcast day or start early in the morning. Mid-morning heat causes the water to evaporate too quickly, leaving behind residue.
Solar panel cleaning tools
You won’t need any specialist equipment to clean your solar panels. A hose, a soft sponge, and a bucket should be enough to do the job. Pressure washers aren’t advisable, as they can easily damage the solar cells. Instead of using soap, spray your panels with diluted white vinegar and then wipe them down with a sponge. Use a squeegee or a soft cloth to remove excess moisture.
The ideal scenario is to clean from the ground using a long-handled brush or a squeegee with a plastic blade.
Cleaning solar panels on a roof
If your only option is to get up on the roof yourself, take safety precautions like wearing a hard hat and harness.
Cleaning portable solar panels on the ground
Since portable solar panels can fold away, they may need less maintenance than rigid PV panels. Wash or wipe a portable solar panel with water or a damp cloth, just like rigid panels. If you’ve been on a particularly muddy camping trip, or you’re using larger panels for home backup, you might need to give them a rinse. EcoFlow’s portable solar panels have an IP67 waterproof rating. Easily clean them with a slow stream of water when necessary.
Unlike rigid panels, portable solar panels offer you the flexibility of placement and use with the same, if not better solar charging capabilities.
While EcoFlow’s solar panel portability makes them perfect for camping, you can also use them like rooftop PV panel systems. In combination with portable power stations, solar panels can prepare your home for outages or power your entire house using solar energy. Not only that but with a home battery ecosystem, such as EcoFlow’s DELTA Pro’s you can manage and customise your home energy. Surplus energy is stored in portable power stations, so you’re always ready for an unexpected power cut, cloudy day, or even a camping trip. With the Smart Home Panel, you can use existing AC coupled solar panels with DELTA Pro and its ecosystem.
400W Portable Solar Panel
110W Portable Solar Panel
160W Portable Solar Panel
60W Portable Solar Panel
Whether you have a rigid rooftop array or a series of portable solar panels, it’s best to keep cleaning to a bare minimum. While rooftop panels should be fine after a downpour, call a cleaning service if in doubt. Keep it simple with water and a soft cloth for your portable panels.