Solar Panel Maintenance Guide


If you’re considering purchasing solar panels — or you already have — it’s a good idea to understand what maintenance they need and how much it costs. 

Fortunately, maintaining photovoltaic (PV) modules is easy. You may opt to do it yourself, particularly if you have portable or rigid panels that are easy to access. If you have a rooftop solar installation, you may want to hire professionals with the necessary safety gear.

Either way, this solar panel cleaning and maintenance guide tells you everything you need to know.

What Maintenance Do Solar Panels Need?

Solar panels have no moving parts and require very little maintenance. 

However, performing routine cleaning and inspection helps ensure maximum electricity production and address potential hazards. 

Cleaning your panels to remove any dust, bird droppings, tree sap, or other debris that collects on the surface is essential to getting the maximum lifespan and performance from your PV array.

For optimal performance, the photovoltaic area of a solar panel must be free of obstruction from sunlight. Dirt and debris create a barrier between the panel’s tempered glass or other protective surface and the solar cells underneath, preventing maximum sunlight capture. 

When debris builds up, it reduces efficiency and may create hot spots that result in micro-cracks that could necessitate solar panel repair or even complete replacement. 

Routine inspections are also strongly recommended to look for damage caused by pests and subsequent extreme weather events. 

How Often Do Solar Panels Need Maintenance?

It is recommended to clean and inspect your PV modules every six months, particularly if you have a flat roof installation where debris builds up faster than on a steep gradient. 

If you see a dip in your array’s performance — for example, using the EcoFlow app — it could signal the need for maintenance. 

The other main factor affecting frequency is the climate at your location. 

If your modules are on a steep gradient and you live in an area with high rainfall, you may not need to clean them as often. However, cleaning may be required two to four times yearly in arid climates or places with extended droughts where there isn’t enough rain to clean them naturally. 

How Do You Maintain Solar Panels?

First, it’s a good idea to power off your solar power system before cleaning them for safety purposes.

You can opt for a do-it-yourself approach and wash your modules with lukewarm water from a hose. However, don’t use hard tap water since it leaves residues on your PVs, reducing efficiency. Using soap or other cleaning agents will also leave residues that reduce efficiency and could damage your PVs. Clean, lukewarm water is all that’s usually needed. 

For stubborn deposits, you can use a non-abrasive microfiber cloth. Never use a pressure washer; the extra force may damage your PVs. 

Lukewarm water or a specially designed snow rake can deal with stubborn snow and ice build-up that doesn’t slide off on its own. Never use hot water since the extreme temperature difference may damage your modules. For the same reason, you should never use cold water on hot PV modules. 

Birds, rodents, or other pests sometimes build nests under or around the modules. Their nest materials, urine, and other debris can cause corrosion or heat build-up and potentially damage your PVs. To deal with pests, inspect your modules while cleaning them, destroy any nests, and remove all debris. If the animals return, consider installing wire guards to keep them from going underneath the array.

Finally, routinely inspect the wiring to ensure none of your connections have loosened from extreme weather or pests. Rodents will sometimes chew through wires, causing electrical outages. If you find any electrical damage, hire a professional to fix your wiring immediately. 

How Easy Is it to Maintain Your Solar Panels

Portable solar panels are the easiest to clean because they can be moved close to a safe water source and are easier to reach with microfiber cloth. Ground installations are equally as easy. 

However, cleaning can be more challenging when you have rigid solar panels or flexible panels on a steep roof. Be sure to use a safety harness to prevent serious injuries. If you use a ladder, have someone with you to ensure your ladder remains stable. You can also invest in a telescopic pole with a microfiber cloth attached to make it safer and more accessible. 

Otherwise, you can hire professional crews to clean your array. This is the typically best option for steep roof installations since professionals can handle the job quickly and safely. 

Does Extreme Weather Play a Role in Solar Panel Maintenance?

While high-quality solar panels are designed to withstand extreme weather events, damage can occur, and your PV array may require maintenance sooner than expected. 

Unfortunately, extreme weather is increasing in magnitude and frequency, so it’s crucial to understand the potential threats. 

Severe winds may loosen mounting brackets and cable connections, leading to damage or impacting performance. Storms can also deposit large debris, leaves, and branches on your array, which should be removed immediately.

While most snow and ice will melt and slide off, blizzards may cause build-up, requiring manual removal using a specially designed snow rake. If you experience frequent snowfalls, consider installing your PVs on more of a tilt so the snow slides off more easily. Installing panel heaters or snow guards can also help prevent snow build-up in cold climates.

Image by Jan Van Bizar from Pixabay

While quality modules are designed to withstand hailstorms, if you live in an area with frequent extreme hail, consider installing mesh screens to provide an additional layer of defense.

Extreme heat reduces efficiency but can also create microcracks, damaging your modules. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the effects of temperature. Options include installations that maximize efficiency while minimizing heat build-up, regular maintenance, and the use of cooling systems. 

If you experience an extreme weather event, you should inspect your modules for issues and address them immediately. 

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain Solar Panels Properly?

The cost of professionally maintaining your array depends on how many panels you have and how often they need maintenance. The cleaning cost also varies with the type of installation. Some installers offer maintenance packages, so be sure to ask them. 

The average cost of cleaning and maintaining PVs is typically $8 – 25(USD) per panel or from about $150 – $1000 (USD) in total, with the national average costing around $400. 

Even if you opt for the do-it-yourself approach, having a professional maintenance crew come in once yearly to inspect the array for signs of damage is a good idea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Solar Panels Hard To Maintain?

No, solar panels are not difficult to maintain. Simple cleaning with soft water and a microfiber cloth, combined with a routine inspection to look for damage from pests or extreme weather, is all that’s required. 

Final Thoughts

Many owners of residential solar power systems perform maintenance on the photovoltaic array themselves. 

Depending on the installation, you may want or need to hire professional crews. 

How often maintenance and cleaning depends primarily on your climate, local conditions, and the type of installation. 

The good news is that purchasing high-quality solar panels and performing routine maintenance will guarantee abundant clean energy for decades. 

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

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