How to Clean Your Solar Panels for Peak Performance
While solar panels are easy-to-install, efficient, and simple to maintain, their power production may diminish over time if they are not properly cleaned. While nature may do most of the work for you, if dust, dirt, bird droppings, leaves, or other debris builds up on your solar panels, it can reduce their effectiveness.
In a 2018 study by the Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics (CSP) in Germany, experts determined that the accumulation of dust and debris on solar panels contributes to a global power loss of 3-4% annually. In this time where every contribution to conservation counts, regularly cleaning your solar panels can be a great way to play your part in America's green revolution and pave the way toward sustainability for years.
Thankfully, solar panels are simple to clean with the right equipment and expertise. And, once your panels are clean and clear of debris, they'll return to their normal performance, saving you more money on your energy bills.
In this article, we'll explain why keeping your solar panels in top condition is essential, sharing some of our top tips for maintaining your solar panels, shedding light on solar system cleaning, and explaining why hiring an expert is the best and safest way to keep your panels performing at their best.
Why is it important to keep your solar panels clean?
From cost savings to environmental benefits, there are several reasons to keep your solar panels debris-free all year round.
Improved energy production
De-griming your solar panels can improve their overall efficiency. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) outlines that the U.S. loses up to 7% of its power through “soiled” or dirty solar panels each year. Maintaining your solar panels allows them to harness more sunlight, generate more solar energy, and save you more money. When your panels are performing at their maximum efficiency, more energy is produced by them.
Cleaning your solar panels gives you the chance to inspect them for potential problems. Assessing the condition of your solar panels is a great way to ensure everything is working as intended and address concerns before they become a problem.
How often should I clean my solar panels?
How often you choose to clean your solar panels will depend on several factors, such as:
The location of the panels
The amount of debris the panel is exposed to
Weather conditions in your area
Depending on the location of your home, you may need to maintain your solar panels more regularly. Studies show that pollution can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by up to 25%. To mitigate this, it’s important to clean your solar panels often if you live in a heavily polluted urban area. You may also need to clean more frequently if:
Your solar panels are near trees
Your home is exposed to a lot of dust
You’ve recently experienced an extreme weather event
A good rule of thumb is to clean your solar panels once or twice a year. The best way to know whether your solar panels require cleaning is by inspecting them. Is there any obvious dirt or grime on the panels? Are leaves accumulating on the surface? Have birds been leaving their mark? If it looks like your solar panels could use a cleaning, it may be time to break out the sponge.
It's also key to track how well your solar panels are performing. A drop in energy output can be an indication that your solar panels could use a cleaning. The mySunPower® app gives you complete control over your SunPower solar power system, allowing you to track and monitor your energy production in real-time. With SunPower, you'll always know exactly how well your panels are performing.
What should I use to clean my solar panels?
After reading all the proven benefits of a clean solar panel, you may be ready to get to work. But ensuring you're using the right tools for the job is essential.
In most cases, clean water and a non-abrasive cleaning tool should be enough to remove dirt and debris. Opt for a soft sponge or soft cloth and avoid using harsh brushes or scrubbers, as these could harm the surface coat of your solar panels, reducing their effectiveness.
A gentle solution made with dish soap and water is an excellent way to remove stubborn stains and grime without harming the panels. Do not use laundry detergents or solutions containing harsh chemicals.
If you prefer, there are cleaning solutions made especially for solar panels that can help give them a good-as-new clean. There are many different variations on the market, so be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of solar panels you have.
It's always best to consult the solar panel manufacturer or an expert solar installer before cleaning your solar energy system. A professional can provide valuable tips about the best products for your make and model as well as advice on what safety precautions you should follow.
What are the different ways to clean solar panels at home?
There are many different methods to clean solar panels at home. The best choice for the job depends on the types and amount of dirt and debris that have accumulated on your panels.
Clean with water: A water hose or a bucket filled with clean, cold water is typically enough to wash away most dust and debris.
Soft-brushes or Cloths: Soft brushes and microfiber cloths are an excellent way to wipe away water and remove excess dirt.
Soapy water: A mild soap can work to remove stubborn stains and marks. Just be sure to rinse the panels with water afterward.
Specialty solutions: A solar panel-specific cleaning solution can help you tackle almost any dirt or debris.
Pressure wash: Low-pressure washers can tackle deep-rooted grime when other methods don’t cut it. Avoid high pressure washers, which can cause damage to your solar panels.
Automated cleaning: Many large-scale solar panel operations use robotic devices to clean their solar systems automatically. This method is best suited to solar farms or businesses with many solar panels in one place.
Remember, it’s always best to consult a professional before cleaning your solar panels. An expert can advise you on the best cleaning methods for your make and model.
What are the do’s and don’ts of solar panel cleaning?
When done correctly, solar panel cleaning is a simple, effective method for improving energy output, saving more money, and reducing your carbon footprint. That said, there are some vital dos and don'ts to keep in mind.
Check your solar system and panel warranty to see if there are any rules or requirements related to cleaning.
Consult with your manufacturer or installer to get recommendations for your panel type.
Clean your solar panels thoroughly and regularly (once or twice a year is usually sufficient).
Use clean, cool water, mild cleaning solutions like soapy water, or special solar panel cleaners.
Stick to soft, non-abrasive cleaning tools such as microfiber cloths, soft brushes or even just the garden hose.
Rinse solar panels thoroughly after cleaning.
Work carefully and follow safety precautions when cleaning. If panels are too high to reach safely, it’s best to hire a professional.
Avoid abrasive cleaning tools, like hard-bristled brushes and scrubbers that can damage your panels’ protective coating.
Never use hot or dirty water.
Don’t use detergents or cleaning solutions made with harsh chemicals.
Avoid using high-pressure power washers (with pressure greater than 1,500 psi), and you shouldn’t use pressure washers at all if you’re unfamiliar with how they work.
Don’t clean solar panels when they are hot, such as on hot days or in bright sun.
Never attempt to clean your solar panels without proper safety equipment, especially when they’re mounted on your roof.
Should you clean solar panels by yourself?
Cleaning your solar panels at home is okay as long as you have the proper equipment, skills, and knowledge. Before you begin, ensure you've followed all necessary safety procedures, including:
Always start by turning off your solar system to protect yourself from electrocution. If you have a SunPower Equinox® system, you can follow these instructions for shutting down your solar panels.
Ensure you have an appropriately-sized, stable ladder at a safe angle if you’ll be climbing on the roof.
Use a safety harness when cleaning rooftop solar panels to prevent falls.
Never clean solar panels without your feet firmly planted on a stable surface.
While cleaning, it's crucial to avoid damaging any electrical components, as this could make the solar panels less effective or disrupt their operation altogether.
Always weigh the safety risks and benefits before cleaning your solar panels. If you're missing any necessary equipment, lack experience working on roofs, or are concerned about your ability to safely do the job, it's best to call a professional.
Solar panel cleaning: your ticket to efficient energy
From maximizing efficiency and saving money to increasing lifespan and reducing your carbon footprint, the benefits of regularly cleaning your solar panels are clear.
Just beginning to explore going solar? Adding renewable energy sources to your home is a great way to do your part for the environment while saving some extra cash. Choose SunPower, the top-rated solar company in the U.S.,*Based on public solar providers in the U.S. Includes average of BBB, Yelp, ConsumerAffairs, BestCompany, Google, Solar Reviews and Energy Sage review scores as of 10/22/23. as your partner in your quest for net zero.
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FAQs - How to clean your solar panels
Can dirty solar panels cause a fire?
Though not impossible, fires from solar panels are incredibly rare. Most occur due to low-quality installations. Choosing reputable solar companies to complete your installation, like SunPower and its nationwide network of certified dealers and installers, is the easiest way to have peace of mind that your system is set up and functioning as it should be.
How often should solar panels be cleaned?
While there a number of factors that can affect how often your panels need cleaning, a good rule of thumb is to clean your solar panels once or twice a year. In rainier locations, mother nature might do some of the work for you, but more frequent cleanings can be necessary if you live in an area with higher levels of pollution, lots of trees, or where your panels are exposed to extreme weather.
Should I turn off my solar panels before cleaning?
Yes, we recommend that you turn off your solar panels before cleaning. This eliminates the possibility of contacting live wires, which could lead to injury. Check with your solar provider for instructions on how to power down your system.
Can rain clean my solar panels?
Rainfall can do some cleaning of your solar panels for you, but shouldn't be relied on by itself. In fact, rain can sometimes make matters worse by rinsing dirt into the panels’ corners. Once the rainwater evaporates, dust and debris gets left behind, creating areas the sun’s rays can’t penetrate, reducing your system’s efficiency.