Solar Panel Cleaning: Why should you do it regularly?

Introduction 

The amount of sunlight that reaches the earth’s surface in an hour and a half produces the energy to handle the entire world’s power consumption!  

Isn’t it great? Since solar energy is a renewable source of energy, more and more people are now installing solar power systems to harness electricity from solar energy. Especially in these times of global warming and frequent climate changes, and when carbon emissions are at an all-time high. 

The solar power system comprises Solar Panels also known as solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, which convert solar energy or sunlight into electricity. This conversion process is done using semiconducting materials that generate a photovoltaic effect. Solar power systems can be installed in residences and industries. The number of solar panels required to be installed to generate electricity, depends upon the consumption requirement of a residence or an industry. Moreover, Solar panels are beneficial for the environment and society: 

  • The energy generated from solar panels is renewable. Hence, it is safe for the environment and a key to a clean energy future. 
  • It is an advantage for those locations which are not serviced by the main electric utility grid. 
  • Solar panels have no moving parts. It requires little maintenance. 
  • The solar energy system requires only installation costs. And if maintained properly, it can work for around 15-20 years. 
  • Since the electricity is generated from sunlight (solar energy is converted into electricity), it results in reduced carbon emissions and air pollution.  

Solar panels are a one time investment that results in the working of a solar energy system for around two decades. However, if they are not taken care of, they may work but lose their efficiency as it was before. As they are installed on the rooftop, they are mostly exposed to the exterior environments such as dirt, dust, rain, hailstorm, and snow, etc. 

Just like we clean our house to keep it away from dirt and germs, you need to pay attention to the solar panel cleaning as well. 

How can solar panels become dirty? 

The solar panels perform best with completely unobstructed access to the sunrays. However, they are in direct contact with the outside environment. Hence, they will become dirty by pollen, dust, sea, and pollution if not cleaned for the long run. 

One of the common factors is the dust that can make the solar panels look filthy. The buildings and properties which are near construction sites and main roads can attract more dirt. Hence, the frequent requirement for solar panel cleaning.  

However, if the area receives good amounts of rainfall all over the year, then one may not require cleaning the solar panels regularly. It is because the rainfall can clean up the dirt from the solar panels. Although, if you are living in Australia, it won’t be possible as they are prone to droughts in the long run.  

Flat solar panels tend to retain water and mud on them as compared to the panels with an angle. This results in a muddy residue on the flat solar panels once the water evaporates.  

The leaves that fall on the solar panels can also block the light from entering. Also, when you are living in an area where there are trees around, they will attract the birds which result in their droppings on the solar panel system. 

Especially when you are having a string or micro-inverter (Those who have strings attached to the one part), Bird droppings could have a detrimental effect on them. It is because when the system is covered with droppings, it will stop showing the current flow.  

When the solar installation is done in an area with farmlands, it could accumulate dirt in form of fertilisers and nitrogen-rich particles which gradually corrode the solar components.  

Regions where pollution levels are high also have a major impact on solar panels. A few of them are carbon monoxide and dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide that can cause massive damage to the solar panels. So when the solar panels are not cleaned frequently, the mud and residue on the panels will affect its functioning and reduce its efficiency. 

But there are a few spots and obstructions as well, that can have a greater impact that is disproportionate to their size. The anthropic particles are smaller and stickier compared to other dust particles. Because of this, it becomes difficult to get removed from the solar panels hence, posing a risk for their proper functioning. 

Solar panels can also develop cracks because of hailstorms, or heavy snowfall. Thus, regular cleaning, and repairs & maintenance of solar panels is advisable. The solar power system aims to convert sunlight into electrical energy. But, if it is not properly maintained, the exterior factors can block the sunlight resulting in reduced efficiency and energy generation. Thus, resulting in increased usage of electricity from the power-grid and raising your electricity bills.   

Why clean your solar panels regularly?

Because dirty solar panels cause loss of production. Also, various other reasons contribute to making solar panels grimy. It may go unnoticed most of the time but it will affect the solar panels negatively resulting in loss of production. 

Below are the two factors that result in frequent cleaning of the solar energy system

  • Location: The locality which is near a factory, tourist area, farm, industrial location, main road is more prone to dirt and human pollutants. Hence, the solar panels here require frequent cleaning or this will cause a loss of efficiency.  

According to the study, certain seasons such as windy and fewer habitat ecosystems including desert are also a reason behind filthy solar panels. 

  • Existing Pollutants: It might be a possibility as well that the solar energy system might be clean, however the air between the sun and the panels are not. The pollutants that are already present around your area reduce the solar energy resulting in negative outcomes. They not only create tremendous damage to the integrating installation of solar panels but can be costly for you in the long run. 

Anything that comes in between the solar panels and the sun can affect the amount of electricity the system produces. The research shows that uncleaned solar panels can cause a 25% loss in their efficiency while generating electricity.  

Another reason the focus is on solar panel cleaning is that it takes only a couple of weeks for them to lose their efficiency and efficacy because of dust, dirt, and debris.  

If you are wondering how to estimate the loss of revenue from dirty solar panels, here is the formula: 

Cleaning value formula: (Monthly production in kWh) × (0.035) × (Electricity cost per kWh)  

How can you clean solar panels by yourself? 

Solar panel cleaning can cause a 50% increase in their efficiency. You can clean solar panels either by yourself or through professional help. 

If you are a DIY person, then you can find the materials at home that can help you clean your solar energy system. 

However, before proceeding with solar panel cleaning, here are three ways to determine if they need cleaning: 

  • Do the physical inspection of panels to check the dust, dirt, debris, pollutants on them. 
  • If you can’t find any during the inspection, then monitor the appearance of solar panels. If they appear to be dull and less shiny, then it’s time to clean them.  
  • Use the monitoring system to stay alert on how well the solar panels are functioning and performing. It could be related to mechanical, electrical as well as cleanliness. 

If you are beginning with the cleaning process, check the recommendation booklet by the solar energy company itself. Understand the do’s and Don’ts about solar panel cleaning and ensure to proceed with it.   

Although plain water works best in most cases. However, if the solar panel cleaning is quite dirty and needs a lot of maintenance and washing, then an effective way to clean solar panels is to use soapy water and a hose or non-abrasive sponge. When using a hose, the selection of an appropriate nozzle attachment is essential to keep up with the proper maintenance of the panels.  

The regular cleaning of solar panels wards off reduced output and efficiency. You can also go for deionised water and a rotating brush system to wash them. Never opt for pressure cleaning as the high pressure on the panels can cause damage to them. 

If you decide to use soap, use a mild detergent or anything around that you would clean up your dishes with. The laundry detergent or any other strong chemicals can harm them. Besides this, they also leave a film or residue that not only shades panels but also encourages dirt and debris to stick and build up faster. 

Precautions we take while cleaning solar panels  

Cleaning solar panels is an effective way to let them run without compromising their productivity and output. 

People may not realise the extent to which solar panels need to be cleaned. Hence, trained professionals can help you with it. Also, they can even check the other aspects too that can affect the performance and health of your solar energy system. A few of them are cracks, fire safety issues, hot spots, and nests of birds, rats, and possums. Here are few safety tips you can take when cleaning solar panels:

  • If the solar panels are installed on the ground, then you can use long-handled equipment to wash them. However, if they are on the roof (especially a tilted roof), then make sure you attach a rope to the safety harness to prevent you from falling to the ground. Also, ensure the use of safety gear including helmets, gloves, face shields, and hard shoes. Also, ensure if the roof is strong enough to bear your weight. 
  • Shut down the entire solar energy system before you begin with the cleanup procedure. Both the DC and AC systems need to be shut down before cleaning. 
  • Solar panels get extremely hot during the afternoons and in the summer season. So try cleaning them during the morning, evening, or on any cool and overcast days. It not only protects you from the heat but also slows the evaporation of the soapy water that can leave a residue on solar panels, resulting in reduced efficiency. 
  • You should also avoid cleaning on days when the weather is bad, which includes hail storms or heavy rain. 
  • Only use soft and hard bristle-free materials for solar panel cleaning. Also, don’t use any abrasive metal object to clean the solar power system. This can lead to minor scratches which will reduce the efficiency and affect its working. 
  • Many people use tap water for cleaning because it is high in mineral content. However, you should immediately wipe the panels dry after cleaning them to avoid mineral deposits. 
  • Ensure that the roof surface is dry and non-slippery after cleaning. Don’t work alone. Ask one of your family members to stay with you and assist you in cleaning the solar panels.

Please note that safety should be your topmost priority. Hence, if you cannot clean the panels by yourself, then you can always seek professional help. We’re always available for you. 

So, if you are living in Brisbane or nearby, then you contact us at Aussie Sun Solar for cleaning the solar panels. We are located in Brisbane and we specialise in providing high-quality solar panels. We also offer solar panel installation and solar panel cleaning services. You can also sign up for the Annual maintenance contract for cleaning solar panels, thus ensuring that your systems are working efficiently and with no glitches.  

Final Note 

Owning and installing solar panels or solar power systems is a one-time investment, and cleaning and maintenance are essential for the long-term benefits. It is to be noted that the solar panels have a warranty period. Hence, you should carry out its repairs and maintenance periodically to avoid any malfunctions.Periodical repairs and maintenance may seem hectic and costly, but it is not. All you have to do is to get the solar panels cleaned for which we are always available for service at your doorstep. To know more about us, you can contact us at 1800 789 470 or you can visit our website: https://aussiesunsolar.com.au/.

Author: Harsh Patel

Date: August 13, 2021

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