Solar Panel Cleaning: Is it Necessary?

Written by Rachel Vergara

You’ve just installed your brand new solar system and are curious if it is even necessary to clean your solar panels. 

In this article, we will go over:

  • How efficiency is affected by the cleanliness of your panels
  • What causes dirty panels
  • How to clean your solar panels

Cleaning Increases Efficiency

The benefits of regularly cleaning your solar panels is that it will not only maintain the maximum efficiency and power output on new solar installations but increase the energy output on older energy systems. According to some studies, residential homes can see an increase of 21% in the efficiency of their panels whereas commercial solar systems can see upwards of 60% increase in their efficiency. It’s important to keep your panels well maintained to get the most out of your solar system.

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So what causes dirty solar panels?

Dust, leaves, and water/mud buildup will cause issues with efficiency in solar panels. Small amounts of dust and dirt will not cause too many efficiency problems as sunlight can still pass through. However, this dust and dirt can pile up and efficiency loss overtime. Dustier areas, such as on busy main roads, farmland, or areas with construction, need more attention when it comes to clearing the roof of debris.

Leaves are usually washed away when it rains but in drier climates or during the fall, leaves will have to be manually removed as they tend to pile up at a faster rate. Removal of leaves is easy with a hose with a long handle that can rinse away the leaves while being safely on the ground.

Bird droppings on the other hand will cause more loss in efficiency than a light layer of dust will. Droppings obstruct any possible light that would otherwise pass through a thin film of dust. Homes in areas with a lot of trees will not only have more leaves obstructing solar panels but will attract more birds which will cause more bird droppings on the solar panels. Rain cannot simply remove bird droppings and will need to be done so with soapy water and a nonabrasive sponge. The Asheville area has dense areas with trees, so bird droppings may need to be regularly removed. 

It’s important to do preventative maintenance for your solar system to help increase the lifespan of your solar panels. Although small amounts of dirt and soot won’t affect the efficiency drastically, overtime that buildup will become significant and cause issues.

Will Rain be enough?

In drier climate, rain doesn’t wash away the small amounts of dirt, leaves and dust that build up overtime which can lead to energy loss. In certain areas, like in Asheville, rain will take care of a lot of the cleaning, but if you live in an area with a lot of pollen, bird droppings, ash or smog that can leave a thin film of debris then rain may not be enough to wash it all away. Frequent cleaning will be required. 

How often should you clean solar panels?

Solar panels need to be cleaned regularly in order to extend the lifespan of the system. This should be done at least every six months to a year, depending on the area that you live in as well as the level of debris. For drier climates that don’t allow rain to wash away regular dirt and dust, the system may need to be cleaned two to three times a year. This also goes for more wooded areas where bird droppings, leaves, and branches may cause issues. If cleaning is done every six months, it’s recommended to do so at the end of winter and summer. Regularly clearing the panels from snow and leaves will allow for higher efficiency all throughout the year.

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Solar Array on a Rooftop

Cleaning Your Solar Panels

Safety & Considerations before cleaning solar panels yourself.

  • Contact a professional before doing any DIY cleaning
  • If possible, always stay on ground level and use a telescopic hose to clean the panels
  • Always use caution when roof access is necessary
  • Use the correct safety harness and equipment
  • Choose a cool, mild time of day

Tools needed when cleaning panels:

  • Safety Equipment
  • Garden Hose with a long telescopic handle
  • Light Dish Soap
  • Bucket
  • Non Abrasive sponge or soft cloth
  • Mild Detergent if more help is needed

How to Clean

Always consider hiring a professional before getting on the roof and cleaning solar panels. If deciding to clean them yourself, choose early morning while the panels are still cool. Follow all safety precautions and use the proper safety equipment. Use soapy water, or a mild detergent, on the panels taking special care for areas that are especially dirty and stained. Make sure to rinse the panels thoroughly. Soap residue can cause dust and dirt to build up faster. Do not use a pressure washer as this could damage the panels.

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