In Australia, where it’s hot and sunny on most days, solar panels can gather dust, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris that can reduce your solar panels’ performance rather quickly. So, how do you clean solar panels? How often should you do it? And how much power are you losing if you don’t?
We’ll talk about all that today! So, before you grab your cleaning kit, read this first!
How do you clean your solar panels?
1. Hire professionals
I know you probably came here to do your own solar panel cleaning but hear me out:
Hiring solar panel cleaning services might have you reach deeper into your pockets but it’s both safer and more convenient for you to hire people who already know what they’re doing.
For one, you won’t have to climb your roof to remove stubborn stains. This means you also don’t need safety equipment because you have no risk of falling.
But, another reason is that hiring experienced cleaners can also mean that you get clean solar panels faster and with little chance of damage.
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2. Use soapy water and a hose
Solar panel cleaning is much like washing a car in the sense that you have to be gentle. But, while scratches only affect your car’s aesthetics, it can affect the performance of your panels.
That being said, use your hose to wash of loose debris from your solar panels then apply soapy water using a clean microfiber cloth or a cloth-covered sponge. Use your hose again to wash off the suds.
To dry your solar panels, use a clean chamois or squeegee to prevent marks and residue.
Make sure to only use mild soap such as the ones you use to wash your dishes. If you can get ones that are environmentally friendly and chemical free, do opt for those, too.
3. Use your hose and your hose only
As opposed to climbing your roof to clean your solar panels, you could just point your hose up from the ground.
This might sound like the laziest cleaning method in the world but it works just as rain water should. And, most of the time, that’s really all you need for solar panel maintenance.
Plus, it’s safer this way. Nasty bird droppings might be tougher to remove – and you might not even take them off completely – but at least you don’t risk falling off the roof.
4. Wait for the rain.
Speaking of lazy solar panel cleaning, sometimes all you have to do is wait for the rain to pour. Rainwater does an excellent job of washing away the debris that’s blocking your panels, so it’s actually efficient.
This doesn’t apply to everywhere in Australia, though.
For example, someone living in Cairns will experience more rain which, in turn, cuts out a bit of the need for self-cleaning. If you live in Adelaide or other cities where there’s significantly less rain, however, waiting for nature to wash your solar panels isn’t the best idea.
What NOT to do when cleaning solar panels
Don’t use harsh soap and chemicals
Harsh soap and chemicals seem like a good idea for easily cleaning stubborn bird poop. However, they’re more likely to leave streaks and residues, if not damage the surface of your solar panels.
Examples of harsh soaps and chemicals commonly seen in most households include laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners.
Instead, use dish soap (or another mild soap), a non-abrasive brush or cloth, and some elbow grease.
Don’t use a high pressure washer
High pressure washers can damage the surface of your solar panels, reducing their capacity to generate useable electricity from solar energy.
Most dirt and debris wash off easily with water anyway, so keep it simple.
Don’t use steel scrapers or putty knives to remove stubborn grime
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen solar panels with scratches because homeowners used steel putty knives to scrape off bird droppings and other nasty grime.
You likely won’t notice the difference with just 1 or 2 scratches. But, over the years as the physical damage to your solar panels also multiplies, the lifespan of your solar panels would have been cut shorter than normal.
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How often do you clean your solar panels?
It’s recommended that you clean your solar panels at least 2-3 times per year, every 6 months or so.
However, considering the varying weathers in different Australian cities, you may have to do more frequent solar panel cleaning.
That being said, it really shouldn’t be all that often because rain is enough to clean solar panels efficiently most of the time.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to clean your solar panels when you notice their efficiency start to dwindle. You can monitor your solar energy output by using a monitor or keeping a keen eye on your energy bills.
How much does cleaning solar panels improve efficiency?
Research shows that regularly cleaning your system can improve its solar production efficiency by 9-26%. (1)
Exactly how much depends on many factors, including the size of your installed solar system, how much dust they’re exposed to, the size of the dust particles, and how much rain you’re getting.
How do you clean solar panels on your roof?
There are many ways to clean solar panels on your roof. The safest option would be to hire professional cleaners. But, if you want to do it yourself, you can use mild soapy water applied with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge and then rinsing it all off with water from a non-pressurized hose.
Can you use vinegar and water to clean solar panels?
Yes, you can use vinegar for cleaning solar panels but you need to dilute it with water and mild soap. This simple mixture can help remove stubborn stains more readily.
Do I need to turn off solar panels to clean?
Yes, you absolutely need to turn off your installed solar system before cleaning them. Remember that these systems are generating electricity, so you need to be cautious with water around them.
In summary, clean solar panels are efficient solar panels. An efficient solar panel reduces your energy bill. To keep your system clean, all you generally need is rain or a garden hose.
But, if water isn’t enough to keep your solar panels spotless, you can use mild soapy water to loosen up grime then rub it off with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge.