A Complete Guide to Solar Panel Maintenance
Do solar PV panels need cleaning? The answer is… yes and no. Here is why.
Luckily, the UK weather provides suitable conditions for solar PV panels to be kept with only minimal maintenance needed.
However, solar PV panels can be a big investment so keeping them in top condition and properly maintained is crucial in sustaining their long lifespan.
Fortunately, here at Warmaway we’ve developed a full guide on how to keep your Solar PV panels in optimal condition.
1. How to clean solar panels
One of the key tips for maintaining your solar panels is ensuring that they stay clean to optimise their efficiency in absorbing the optimum amount of sunlight.
In the UK, due to our weather conditions, solar panels do not collect much dust unless they are in shaded areas e.g., under trees where dirt can be collected. However, if your solar PV panels do collect dust or debris, it is essential to know to clean them in the correct way:
Step 1 – Stay safe
Cleaning solar panels requires going onto the roof. Ensuring you have the appropriate safety equipment is vital. Here is a checklist of what you would need:
- Ladder or long brush if on ground (suitable for bungalows)
Step 2 – Brush off any large debris
With a soft brush, sweep off any large pieces of debris – this will make it easier to clean.
Step 3 – Clean the debris using water
To remove the dirt, debris, and any faecal droppings, use warm or mildly soapy water to ease removal. Ideally, it is recommended by solar panel manufacturers to use de-ionised water. This is a pure water to prevent any potential residue on the panels post cleaning – doing so will help prevent your solar panels from drawing in dirt.
Alternatively, if you are cleaning your solar panels often, it may be best to use a non-abrasive method such as washing using water from a hosepipe – without using any additional cleaning agents or solutions etc.
By doing so, it will reduce any damage to your solar panels and keep them clean especially during the summer.
Step 4 – Wipe with a soft microfibre cloth
To prevent water marks and the panels from getting scratched, using a soft microfibre cloth.
The technology in microfibre cloths allow for dirt to be picked up and trapped in the cloth to prevent any residue being left on the solar panels.
Things to avoid
Do not use harsh chemicals, or abrasive sponges to try and remove the dirt – doing so will damage and scratch your solar panels. When the solar PV cells are scratched, it hinders the panel’s energy output thus making your solar panels perform at a lower efficiency. Not only this, it reduces the return on your investment and can lead to higher costs if you need to repair the solar PV cell.
When should I clean my solar PV panels?
Clean during Springtime
Cleaning during the springtime is usually recommended – this is due to dirt and pollution (especially if you live near factories, the motorway, busy roads or in the city centres) being more prevalent during winter due to cold air trapping pollutants closer to the ground.
Clean after rainfall
When the rain falls onto your solar panels, it rehydrates and therefore softens the dirt accumulated on the panels. As a result, it becomes easier to remove dirt without needing to use more harsh methods of cleaning. This therefore avoids any damages to the solar panels through the cleaning process.
How often to clean solar panels
Depending on where you live, areas where there are more dry/sunny weather conditions or shaded/tree saturated areas (e.g., woodlands), require more frequent cleaning. For those living in areas where there is a lot of rainfall, this helps wash away dust and grime, meaning less frequent cleaning is required.
Now we know how to clean solar panels, what about the rest of the maintenance work?
Here are some more tips on how to maintain your solar panels and keep them working efficiently:
1. Keep them away from shade
Due to solar panels sourcing their energy from the Sun, keeping the panels in the shade lowers their efficiency. For more information on how solar PV panels work, have a read of our Solar Power guide.
2. Keep your solar PV panels protected from animals
Generally, the reflection and conditions of solar panels can attract birds, inviting them to create unwanted nests. With this, it impacts not only the efficiency of your solar panels but can also damage the solar PV cells as well as the cables underneath.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to prevent them from nesting and damaging the solar panels such as:
- Solar panel bird spikes (vertical rods alongside the edges of the solar panels)
- Installing mesh around the edges of the solar panels
Installing these preventative measures can stop birds nesting and burrowing underneath the solar panels, preventing damage and the potential repair costs. In the long run, this saves you money and maintains the health of your solar panels.
3. Monitor your energy consumption
Monitoring energy consumption is a key way in telling whether your solar panels are working efficiently. To help keep a track of this, monitor your energy output levels in a logbook. Doing so will not only help you, but will also help if a specialist inspection is required.
If energy output begins to drop, this is the time it would be recommended to either check if your solar panels need a good clean, or if not that, further inspection is required – bringing us to our next tip.
4. Professional annual inspection
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when your solar panels have an issue. This is why it is important to get them checked and serviced by your providers or a professional annually. Inspections can identify potential issues before they become costly to fix.
Find out more
For more helpful guides and tips, visit our blog where you can find plenty more useful content.