The benefits of modern residential solar energy systems extend beyond the obvious savings in energy costs and the reduction in carbon emissions. As household systems go (HVAC, plumbing), solar is one of the easiest to maintain—not quite hands-off, but close.
Also, when coupled with a solar battery, a home solar energy system provides backup power in the event of an outage with none of the noise and hassle of a gas-powered electric generator.
Here we explain the simple task of solar panel maintenance and how you can easily keep your panels in optimum condition.Get Home Solar Estimates
Given their angle and placement—the better to capture maximum sunlight—solar panels might collect leaves and debris over time. Seams and edges are engineered to minimize this, but as they say, nature finds a way. One sharp leaf could take hold and gather company.
Fortunately, the same winds that brought debris and leaves to the panels generally whisk them away too. Rainfall will rinse the panels of accumulated dust. This is how solar panels stay looking like new day in and day out. Now and then the panels might need a light sweeping.
Rinse With a Hose
In times of insufficient rain, or if you notice an accumulation of leaves or other debris on your solar panels, often all it takes to clean them is a blast with a garden hose. Solar panel maintenance, therefore, is one of the easiest housekeeping chores around.
Cleaning Solar Panels: Dos & Don’ts
DIY solar panel maintenance starts with having the right equipment. What’s safe for cleaning a home solar energy system:
- Plain or soapy water
- Homemade glass cleaner (1 oz. ammonia to 1 qt. water)
- Soft-bristled broom
- Clean rags
To avoid damaging the solar panels, avoid these:
- Scouring pads and scrubbing sponges
- Harsh chemicals
- Brooms with stiff bristles
Remove Heavy Snowfall
Do you think snow will get the better of your solar panels? It literally slides right off their back. Roofs are angled to shed snow, and solar panels mounted to them benefit from the same angle and gravity. After a blizzard or other heavy snow event, panels mounted at less of an angle might need accumulated snow pushed off.
Studies have shown that solar panels still generate electricity in snowy areas and other harsh environments. "Light snow has little impact on solar panels because it easily slides off," says Charlie Gay, author of Let It Snow: How Solar Panels Can Thrive in Winter Weather for Energy.gov. "Heavy snow can limit the amount of energy produced by solar panels, but light is still able to move through the snow and forward scattering brings more light to the solar cells than one might expect."
Solar Panels Can Be Washed As Easily As Windows
If the latest rains haven't been getting the job done, you can wash solar panels as easily as windows. Mix one tablespoon of ammonia for every one quart of tap water, or use a household cleaner like Windex. Ammonium hydroxide, commonly known as ammonia, counteracts the acidic composition of grease, pollen, bird droppings, and other biological debris that could land on your roof.
The best tools to use are for solar panel maintenance a clean rag, a soft sponge, or a mop. Avoid steel wool and all types of scrubbing sponges, even those marketed as "no scratch." If you don't have a mop, another method that would be friendly to your lower back is to cover the brush head of a broom with an old T-shirt or other soft, clean material.
A note about Windex.
Most solar panels are glass and can be safely cleaned with Windex and other glass cleaners, but a minority of panels have a plastic protective coating that could be harmed by Windex. Newer, flexible solar panels are also not glass. Ensure that the topmost layer of your solar panels is glass before using Windex.
If you don't feel like getting up on your roof, it's good to know that most window-washing services will tackle the task of cleaning solar panels as well.
Solar Panels Are Built Tough
During manufacture, panels are subjected to various stress tests in order to receive the Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) certification. Solar panels stand up to bad weather extremely well. The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory analyzed 50,000 solar panel systems over six years and found that only 0.1% reported trouble from damaged or underperforming modules. This speaks to the high quality of solar panels.
The laboratory wrote: "Despite hurricanes, hail, shading, vandalism, and hook-up delays, approximately 85% of all systems each year produced 90% or more of the electricity predicted, and the typical system produces more electricity than predicted. Year to year comparisons suggest that the degradation rate—the gradual loss of energy production—is in the historical range of 0.5%-1% per year."
“A small amount of gentle, nonabrasive soap mixed with one part vinegar and eight parts water is an excellent homemade solution for cleaning the glass on solar panels.”—BobVila.com
When it comes to home improvements, it's hard to beat the ROI (return on investment) and easy maintenance of a solar energy system. Unlike a swimming pool, an owned home solar energy system boosts the value of the property. Unlike landscaping, solar panels require very little maintenance. Plus: Solar panels will generally pay for themselves in seven or eight years. Now that you know how easy solar panel maintenance is, why not look into money-saving estimates for your home?Get Home Solar Estimates