What do I need to know about solar panels?
The working part of a solar panel is made of silicon. However, the outer layer of the solar cell is made of tempered glass. The glass protects the silicon while allowing light to penetrate the semiconductor material, which is what converts sunlight into usable electricity. If the transparency is affected due to any unwanted material covering the surface, then its efficiency will also be affected. Damaging the surface will also severely affect the output, hence why the panel’s surface needs to be periodically inspected, cleaned, and maintained for optimum efficiency.
When do solar panels need cleaning?
Solar panels are exposed to the elements. They invite dirt, snow, and debris of all types. Birds might also be frequent visitors. It takes time for buildup to significantly affect efficiency. An occasional inspection or quarterly cleaning is more than enough.
If constant buildup is a problem, then monthly cleanings become a necessity. Some environments are especially dusty or dirty and call for extra attention. As a rough guide, expect a 15% reduction in efficiency per year in areas with a heavy elemental effect.
Where dust and dirt are your enemies, you’ll find a friend in the rain. The rain will clean off your solar panel if it comes at the right time, and your panels are pitched at a tilted angle (at least +5 degrees). Be aware that the rain won’t wash off anything sticky. That will require a squeegee, or some other specialised solar panel cleaning tool.
Researchers in Spain observed that after a year of dust buildup, the average loss in performance was only 4.4%. Most solar panel owners would likely be content with it. However, the study discovered that daily energy losses might be as high as 20% when there is a long period without rain. As a result of the lack of rain, dust accumulates, which may worsen as the dry spell continues.
Allowing rain to clean your solar panels is a good idea if you live in an area where:
⦁ Dust makes up the majority of the accumulation that develops on solar panels.
⦁ The dust is made up of fine particles that are easily washed away by rain.
⦁ It rains frequently enough to prevent dust from reducing the energy production of solar panels.
In short, the time between cleanings depends on local conditions. You can also seek advice from your solar panel company. Dust and dirt take some time to have a noticeable drag on performance, but it’s wise not to underestimate the effect. You should regularly check the solar panels for leaves, debris, bird droppings, pollen, etc. Your power generation index and cleaning may be performed quarterly for affected areas, especially if rain does not help.
How do I clean my solar panels?
When planning to clean your solar panels, the two choices you have are DIY (do it yourself) or GID (get it done). While there are still GID services available – often through the same solar installation company you hired to put up your array in the first place – technological advancements are paving the way for simplified upkeep. These are some of them:
⦁ Glass with special coatings that repel dust and decrease soiling.
⦁ Robotic cleaners employ gentle brushes and air blowers to eliminate debris at night without using water.
⦁ A commercial gadget invented by Kipp & Zonen to assess dirt levels.
Remember, safety first for YOU and your solar panels!
No amount of money is worth the risk of a slip and fall from the roof, or getting shocked by the wiring from your solar panels. There’s also the possibility of damaging your panels if you walk directly on top of them or trip over the wiring.
However, you may do it yourself if the panels are safely accessible and if they need a simple watering or sponging. If that’s the case, professional help may not be worth the cost. Also, you should have a basic understanding of drills and DO’s and DON’Ts involved in solar panel cleaning.
I want to do it myself but how can I do it?
Here is your simple checklist of Do’s and Don’ts:
- Choose a clear sunny day to clean the solar panels.
- System shut down is required.
- Wear gloves and a hat as well as suitable clothing and footwear for moving around.
- First, use a simple hose (or bucket) and clean water to wash the panels and clear dust and lose debris if your panels are easily accessible. If they are roof mounted, then we recommend you use one of the solar panel cleaning tools developed specifically for this purpose. Do not use high-pressure water pipes.
⦁ If there is nothing sticky on the panels, no further effort is required. But to clean bird droppings or similar debris, you should use soapy water and a soft sponge to clean the surface. Rinse with water afterward. Do not use chemical cleaners, strong detergents, or abrasive cleaning materials.
⦁ Use long handle attachments and easy-to-use tools for doing the job. Do not improvise, as you might injure yourself or damage the panels.
⦁ Further action is not recommended. If there is something abnormal on your panels or the power index is still down, then it’s best to seek professional guidance.
Solar panel cleaning kits
There are a variety of solar panel cleaning kits available. Multiple extension poles, carrying bags, brushes, towels, hose couplings, and other items are included in these packages. You’ll find all of the tools you’ll need to get the job done right. Two highly-rated cleaning kits are listed below:
⦁ Mr. Long Arm 1005 Solar Panel Cleaning Kit: Includes a long extension pole with a smooth-rotating tool handle and a curved slider tube to reach the difficult areas of your system. The kit comes with a squeegee, premium wash sleeve, canvas carrying box, and a soft flow-thru brush that can be hooked to a regular garden hose.
⦁ Mr. Long Arm 1009 Pro Curve Solar Panel Cleaning Kit: With its 5 to 12-foot ProCurve extension pole, the Mr. Long Arm 1009 cleaning kit aims to improve and expedite the solar panel cleaning process. With a single tool, the 4 to 8 foot Hydra Solar internal system directs water flow through a hose directly to the solar panel. The kit also supplies two ProCurve tool handles, as well as one 12 foot and one 18 foot Sorbo Channel with squeegee rubber.
Panel cleaning brushes
Brushes designed for solar modules are crucial cleaning tools. Solar panels are frequently placed in difficult-to-reach areas on the roof, making regular cleaning difficult. The extension poles on a solar panel cleaning brush allow you to clean the modules from a safe distance, either on the ground or on the roof, with soft brush bristles. Here are some top-rated solar panel cleaning brushes:
⦁ Z-GJRE Water Fed Pole Kit: The Z-GJRE cleaning brush has a gooseneck attachment that can be easily adjusted. A garden hose with a brass connection can be attached. These solar panel cleaning tools are composed of aluminum, making the brush light and sturdy.
⦁ EquipMaxx 24 ft Water Fed Solar Cleaning Pole with Brush and Squeegee: This solar panel cleaning tool from Aqua Spray Superlite has a twin gooseneck that allows you to use a brush and a squeegee with the same instrument. An adapter can be used to connect the brush to a garden hose. The solar panel cleaner is made of aluminum and only weighs 6 lbs.
Solar Panel Cleaning Spray Solutions
Water can be used to clean solar panels. In some cases, when dust and debris have adhered to the modules, water may not be enough. Delamination and damage to your modules may occur if you use normal detergents and soaps. A better idea is to use solar panel cleaning solutions. A few common solutions are listed below that are found to be beneficial for cleaning solar panels:
⦁ One-Shot 1S-Spchec Solar Panel Cleaner: The One-Shot 1S-SPCHEC Solar Panel Cleaner is the best panel cleaning solution on the market. The solution can be mixed with water. Ideally, it should be diluted at 1:25, according to the instructions. Polywater SPW-128 cleaning products are the best choice since they clean metal rails without abrasion.
⦁ Winsol Solar Brite Solar Panel Cleaning Soap: The Winsol Solar Brite cleaning solution is the ideal match for a solar panel cleaning brush. This is a biodegradable, pH-neutral, chlorine-free, and phenol-free cleaning solution for PV modules. Removes oil, grease, filth, and grime quickly.
Panel Cleaning Robots
Another option to clean your solar panels are robotic cleaners. Although, they’re only useful on an industrial level, as they’re costly and require maintenance. One of the best remote-controlled cleaning robots are manufactured by hyCLEANER®. The hyCLEANER® SOLAR facelift cleaning robot makes cleaning simple, quick, and cost-effective. Thanks to its high performance mechanics, great results can be achieved with low water consumption. The robot is operated through radio-remote control, allowing the user to activate cleaning without exerting any physical effort.
Things to Consider
⦁ To avoid climbing up on a ladder to inspect the system, install a CCTV camera pointed at the panels to check when they need cleaning.
⦁ Special coatings may help the glass to repel dust and reduce soiling.
⦁ Robotic cleaners and tools designed to measure dust and particle buildup may be considered if it’s worth the cost and effort.
⦁ For residential solar arrays, a monthly inspection is enough, especially if no visible problems or drop in power index is observed.
⦁ If your safety and the safety of the solar panels aren’t compromised, then a simple wash with soap and water every three months is enough.
⦁ If you encounter any problems in operation, loose wiring, cracks, or strange deposits your panels, then you should seek professional help.
⦁ Professional advice or periodic inspections recommended by the company should be followed to ensure proper maintenance and durability of the PV system.
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