How to clean solar panels

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The essential guide to cleaning solar panels in Australia

In Australia, as the adoption of solar systems gains momentum, the topic of solar panel maintenance, particularly cleaning, has become important. With the sun shining bright, it’s paramount for solar panels to function at their optimal efficiency. The cleanliness of these solar panels plays a pivotal role in this. However, there’s a divide among Aussies: some swear by the rain’s natural cleaning, while others advocate for regular manual cleaning.

The importance of cleaning solar panels

Solar panels are designed to convert sunlight into electricity. For them to achieve peak performance, it’s essential that they remain free from obstructions like leaves, bird droppings, branches, or accumulated dirt. Even a thin layer of dust can cause a drop in your solar panel’s output, and why this might be only a few per cent – it all adds up. While rain can wash away some of these impurities, a little rain is rarely enough. This means manual cleaning can enhance electricity production. The person cleaning the solar panels can also see if there is an issue. Such as loose clamps or any solar panel burn marks, the cleaning process also doubles up as a quick general maintenance check-up.

For a more detailed check up we recommend a professional regular scheduled check up.

solar panels being cleaned
Dust, dirt, and other debris can accumulate on the surface of the solar panels over time, reducing their efficiency

DIY vs Professional

A significant portion of Australians choose the DIY cleaning route, primarily to save on costs. But this comes with its challenges. Firstly, climbing onto rooftops, especially if they’re steep, poses a risk. A single misstep could lead to injuries. The high costs of the hospital bill, or permanent damage to one’s health pale in comparison to the small savings for a clean solar panel.

Secondly, without a professional’s trained eye, you could overlook potential system issues that a seasoned cleaner might spot during a routine cleaning session. Professionals don’t just clean; they perform some system checks, ensuring all components are in good condition.

Notably, many established solar installation companies in Australia now bundle cleaning services. It’s worth checking out their websites or directly reaching out to explore these options. Some even roll out attractive after-sales service plans, inclusive of cleaning services, offering homeowners peace of mind regarding the system’s longevity and efficiency.

However, if you’re committed to DIY cleaning because your roof is single-storey and flat for example, consider these steps:

  1. Use clean water if possible, not water with impurities from a rainwater tank for example. This prevents residue build-up which can be caused by deposits in rain water.
  2. Clean your solar panels with gentle tools. For example, use a soft sponge. High-pressure hoses or abrasive materials like steel wool can damage the solar panels, and should always be avoided.
  3. Say no to chemicals.  Stick to mild detergents or glass cleaners and avoid strong chemicals or soapy soaps.
  4. Safety is your number one priority. If you’re going up, wear non-slip shoes, use a sturdy ladder, and always have someone on standby. Therefore do not do this job if you are the only one at home. make sure any ladder is properly tied up – BEFORE  you use it.

Our recommendation for optimal solar panel maintenance? A blend of DIY and professional cleaning. Regularly wash the solar panels yourself, and every 12 months, and book a professional cleaning session that also includes a system check-up every 2 years.

Never use a pressure washer on your solar panels, even if they are very dirty. The strong water jet has the potential to open up seals, cause microcracks in cells and water ingress over time into the panel.

When to choose professional solar panel cleaning?

In certain situations, you must seek professional cleaning rather than just considering it as a recommendation. For instance:

  • Solar panels located on steep or complex rooftops;
  • Solar panels that haven’t been maintained for an extended period and/or have lichen growth;
  • Homes in regions with very dusty conditions and which are not easy to get access to the roof.

Professionals come equipped with the right tools and possess the expertise to restore your solar panels to prime efficiency. They also conduct thorough system checks, ensuring everything is functioning perfectly.

In some regions, solar installation companies offer a cleaning and maintenance service and in other population-heavy regions, specialist solar services have sprung up.

solar panel cleaning
To prevent scratching the surface of the solar panels, avoid using abrasive materials, harsh chemicals, or abrasive brushes

Wrapping up

Cleaning your solar panels is an important aspect of maintaining their efficiency and prolonging their life. By following the steps outlined above, you can easily clean your solar panels yourself, or hire a professional if necessary. Regular maintenance can help ensure that your solar panel is operating at its best, picking up any potential issues early, and maximising the amount of renewable energy that it generates.

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