How to Clean a Solar Panel the Right Way
September 14, 2022
Solar panels are a fantastic investment for many home and business owners.
However, routine maintenance and cleaning is recommended if you want them to function optimally.
If you want to get the most out of your investment, make sure you know how to clean solar panels the right way. It’ll help both your wallet and the environment. Here’s our step-by-step guide for keeping solar panels clean, including how to clean solar panels on a roof.
[Related: How Going Solar Benefits the Environment and Public Health]
Importance of Regular Cleaning
Regularly cleaning your panels is a key part of solar panel maintenance. Although it can be a bit of a chore, keeping your home solar panel system clean provides many benefits in the long run.
Cleaning solar panels on a routine basis prevents dirt and debris from building up, and ensures they stay in optimal condition to work as efficiently as possible. Plus, piles of debris may result in scratches that could potentially permanently damage your panels.
Cleaning your panels regularly also reduces the likelihood of needing to replace them. All in all, keeping your solar panels clean allows them to produce more energy, and in turn, save you more money by offsetting your energy bill.
[Related: Solar Energy 101]
When to Clean Solar Panels
Knowing when and how often to clean your solar panels is important. Depending on the specific system you own and your location, the timing can vary. Here are some important factors to consider to determine how often to clean solar panels:
- Weather conditions
- Environmental conditions
- Time of year
For example, rain helps wash away dirt and debris. So, if you live in a dry climate, the lack of rain will result in needing to wash your panels more frequently.
On average, solar panel owners can expect to clean panels about once or twice every year.
If you live in a climate that experiences a rainy season, we recommend waiting until after the rain season ends to schedule a panel cleaning. This ensures that any dirt or debris brought in from storms are thoroughly removed.
[Related: Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?]
How Much Does It Cost to Clean Solar Panels?
The cost of getting your solar panel system professionally cleaned varies from system to system. Some solar providers charge a flat rate, but most others charge per panel.
Your final pay out depends on several factors. Some of these include:
- How many solar panels that need to be cleaned
- Size of the panels (commercial panels are larger than residential panels)
- Amount of dirt and debris build up
- Type of surface the solar panels are installed on (ground, wall, or roof)
- Type and slant of your roof
Make sure you get a quote from your solar provider to get a better idea of how much professional cleaning will cost you.
[Related: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?]
Solar Panel Cleaning Materials
It’s always safer to hire a solar professional who specializes in cleaning. There are increased risks involved when mounting a roof. If you’re opting to DIY clean solar panels on a roof, please use basic safety equipment. We recommend a sturdy ladder, pair of safety glasses and helmet. And if you can, use a safety harness.
Using the appropriate tools and materials will help you wash panels more thoroughly so they stay cleaner for longer.
You will need water (a regular water hose or buckets of water), a soft cloth or sponge, a soft brush or leaf blower, and a squeegee.
You should only ever clean panels when the weather is above freezing, to reduce the likelihood of ice forming on your panels.
And of course, always utilize a fall protection system.
Additional Safety Measures to Consider
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has various requirements for fall protection. These apply to service professionals who are installing or performing maintenance on solar panels, including cleaning them. However, they’re equally essential for non-service professionals to consider.
If a fall hazard is 4 feet or more, OSHA requires a standard railing. Or, if your solar panels are a minimum of 6 feet above the ground, OSHA requires the following fall protection methods:
You can learn more about OSHA’s suggested safety measures and enforced requirements for solar on their Green Job Hazards website page.
How to Clean a Solar Panel: Step by Step
Learning how to clean a solar panel properly is essential if you want your system to function at its best. Plus, regular cleaning helps you avoid unnecessary damage to your panels and keeps them in prime condition for years.
Below, we’ve listed the most important steps to take when cleaning your panels.
1. Check the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Start by checking the manufacturer’s instructions. They list specific steps to follow for cleaning your particular solar panel brand. Following those instructions can also help you avoid unnecessary damage to the panels.
Additionally, make sure to turn off your solar panel system before cleaning it. The manufacturer’s instructions should tell you how to switch off your system.
2. Remove Loose Dirt and Debris
Next, remove any loose dirt and debris from the panels. Dirt and debris can accumulate quickly and cause your panels to be less effective at producing energy. Use a leaf blower or soft cloth to remove most of the buildup before cleaning the panels.
In the winter, you may need to learn how to clean snow off solar panels. Learning how to clear snow from solar panels makes it easier for you to thoroughly clean them, and also allows more sunlight to reach them.
Additionally, when and if you are getting on top of your roof, always make sure to protect yourself. This means wearing proper work clothing, non-slip footwear, and most importantly, using a fall protection system.
This is a straight-forward (and required) preventative method to avoid serious accidents.
[Related: How Solar Power Works]
3. Spray With Water
Next, spray the panels with water to remove more dirt, dust and debris.
However, don’t use high-pressure water sprayers or water jets for this step. The powerful water spray can damage the panels. The force behind a high-pressure water sprayer can also make it easier for you to lose your balance. Use a light-pressure hose or buckets of water.
When you’re learning how to clean roof solar panels, you may be able to clean them more thoroughly by getting on the roof. But be careful — water can make the roof slippery. Make sure to put on safety gear when cleaning panels on a roof.
Learning how to clean ground-mounted or wall-mounted solar panels is easier than panels on a roof. You can lightly spray or hose them with water, but again, don’t use high-pressure water from a water sprayer or jet.
[Related: Where to Install Solar Panels]
4. Use a Squeegee
Once you’ve cleaned the panels with water, use a squeegee to remove any excess water. This step is especially important if you have hard water (that is, mineral-heavy water) because it prevents mineral buildup.
If you have one, use a squeegee with an extension handle. That way, you can remove water from hard-to-reach areas whether your panels are mounted on a roof, wall, or ground.
5. Avoid Abrasive Products
Finally, avoid working with abrasive products. Harsh chemicals or scratchy sponges can damage your panels and make them less effective. Even some detergents can harm your panels.
To keep solar panels effective, use only water, soft sponges and soft cloths when cleaning them.
[Related: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?]
Call Freedom Solar for Professional Solar Panel Cleaning Help
If you want your solar panel system to produce the most energy, then the panels have to be as clean as you can safely keep them.
These steps should help you keep your panels squeaky clean and functioning great, but you also have another option: calling in the professionals.
Freedom Solar Power offers solar panel cleaning as part of our maintenance and repair services in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. We pride ourselves on not only providing top-quality solar panel installations, but on keeping your panels running efficiently for decades to come.
Give us a call at (800) 504-2337 or fill out our contact form to learn more or schedule a cleaning!
Featured image via Pexels