The Best Way To Clean Solar Panels

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Man Cleaning Solar Panels

While solar panels don’t require constant maintenance, they do require semi-regular cleaning if you want them to be as efficient as possible. However, solar panels can be picky when it comes to cleaning, so knowing the best way to clean your panel before you do so is the best idea. And what is the best way to clean solar panels?

It depends.

In this article we’ll go over some of the main ways that you can clean your panels, when it’s best to use them, and how much they cost. 

Do Solar Panels Need To Be Cleaned?

As mentioned above: yes. But why? A quick explanation of the basics of solar panels is necessary to answer this question. Solar panels work by having open electrons. When these electrons are struck by the photons in the UV rays coming from the sun, they interact and generate an electric current. This current is then filtered through your inverter to become usable electricity in your home. 

To help our customers learn more about how solar panels work, we’ve written a guide on the topic.

Why Clean Solar Panels Matter for Generating Electricity

The key factor in generating electricity from solar is ensuring that your panels get the most sunlight possible. This is why panels are south facing, as south facing objects will receive the most sunlight over the course of the year. East and west facing objects can also work, though north facing objects will not.

Cleaning your panels is another way to ensure that you get the most sunlight possible. Dirt, bird droppings, snow, and other materials can collect on your panels and block the sun’s rays. If the rays from the sun cannot reach the silicon PV wafers in the panel itself, they can’t generate electricity. 

Think of the sun’s rays as wind, and the solar panel as a wind turbine. Without wind to turn the fan, which rotates the turbine, you won’t be getting any wind power. In the same way, without the light of the sun hitting the important parts of your solar panels, you won’t be getting any solar power. With a clean glass covering on your solar panels, however, you’ll be getting the maximum amount of sunlight.

How Often Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?

Solar panels need to be cleaned. But how often? Luckily, in most regions of America, solar panels don’t need to be constantly cleaned. There’s no need to go out every day and spray down your panels. Most panels won’t collect much dirt or dust, and natural rainfall can clean them off. Most panels should be cleaned every six months. 

However, if you get dirty rain, or live in an area without much rainfall, you should be sure to keep up on your cleaning duties. You may need to clean your panels more often if you live in an area where they constantly get dirty, or don’t get natural rain to clean them off.

How Do You Clean Solar Panels?

Now that we’ve covered why you should clean your solar panels, and how often, it’s time to take a look at how you can actually go about said cleaning. Some of the usual methods of household cleaning aren’t going to be appropriate for solar PV panels. On the other hand, some very simple cleaning tools and methods can be employed to keep your panels just-like-new.

Tools Used for Solar Panel Cleaning

Most of the common tools used for cleaning solar panels can be found around a typical home. Few specialized tools will be needed, though one or two may need to be purchased from your local hardware store. These tools are all inexpensive, with one major exception, and can be used in other ways around the house as well.

Using a Roof Rake for Cleaning Rooftop Solar Panels

Perhaps the most expensive of the common options (though still quite affordable for the average homeowner), a roof rake is a device used to clear snow off of your solar installation. A roof rake consists of a long, telescopic pole with either prongs at the end, or a flat, rectangular edge, which are used to scrape snow off of a roof. 

Roof rakes allow you to clear off snow or other things like leaves,  from your roof without having to climb a ladder and get on the roof itself, which can be very dangerous in the winter months. However, because a roof rake does have a hard edge — whether rectangular or from multiple prongs — it is best to attach a rag to the end of the roof rake before use. This ensures that you don’t scratch the protective coverings of your panels, which can lower their efficiency.

Using Rags, Sponges and Related Items for Cleaning Solar Panels

As mentioned above, rags are a key component of roof rakes. There are other ways to use them, though. During the summer months, or in other parts of the year when it’s safe to go up on your roof, it’s possible to climb onto your roof and clean your panels directly. 

A rag, sponge or squeegee all serve the same purpose. Each of them is a soft cleaning tool which won’t scratch your solar panels or damage them. Scrub or scratch sponges are not suitable for cleaning solar panels, nor are such tools as steel wool.

Cleaning Solutions for Solar Panels

Most cleaning solutions will work for the average residential solar installation. Since most panels are covered with glass, special cleaning solutions aren’t necessary. That said, there are some cleaning fluids to avoid, as they often leave streaks while cleaning. These streaks, like the dirt you’re cleaning off, will also inhibit the panel’s production. To ensure that you’re getting the most mileage out of cleaning your panels, be sure to purchase non-streak cleaning sprays before cleaning your panels.

Other Solar Panel Cleaning Tools

The objects listed above are the most common tools used by homeowners to clean their solar panels. However, there are other options available. 

Panel cleaning robots can be purchased and placed on your roof. These robots will automatically clean your panels, much like a robotic vacuum will move around your home and automatically clean your carpets. The downside to panel cleaning robots is that they might miss sections of the installation and they are much more expensive than any of the options previously listed.

Water fed brushes are attachments to your hose, which use the hose’s water to help scrub down things like windows. They spray the water onto the surface, then keep a continual stream going while you scrub. These can be useful for simultaneously cleaning and rinsing your solar panels.

Are Professional Solar Panel Cleaning Services Worth It?

The other option, if you don’t wish to clean your panels yourself, is to hire a professional to do it. This can be the best choice for panels which are particularly dirty, or if you have a roof which may be too dangerous to walk on. More importantly, a professional cleaning job is the easiest way to ensure that the job is done thoroughly and well, without any costly mistakes.

Why Professional Cleaning Is the Best Choice for Your Panels

The simplest answer is the correct one: because they’ll do the best job. There are several factors that go into getting you the most energy possible out of your panels, ranging from cleanliness to your inverter. Maximizing each of the factors is the best way to become energy efficient. 

To learn more about solar panel efficiency, check out our glossary.

Professional Cleaners Will Have the Best Materials

Because professional solar panel cleaning companies specialize in this field, they will have the best supplies. The choice of cleaning solution can make a big difference in your panels’ production. They will also have a range of tools which are vetted, and so you don’t have to worry about them damaging your panels.

Professional Cleaners Will Have More Experience

Everyone has at least some experience cleaning, but rarely do we need to clean something as valuable as solar panels. Homeowners may make mistakes while cleaning that can end up costing them down the road. The best way to avoid these mistakes is to leave the job in the hands of professionals. This ensures that the job will be done thoroughly and with the proper care that it requires.

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