Solar panels are one of the best ways to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle at home. Because this is a major installation that comes with a hefty initial cost, any homeowners who opt for solar panels after weighing the pros and cons will want to take care of the system in the best ways possible. Solar panels are known for being fairly hassle-free, but you should still take steps to care for and maintain your solar panel system to keep it running smoothly for as many years as possible.
A maintained solar panel system is an effective one! So, read on for tips on how to keep your solar panels in tip-top shape.
Do Solar Panels Need to be Maintained and Cleaned?
Solar panel systems are a great investment that provides homeowners with fully renewable energy for 25 years or more. Because of this lifespan, keeping your system in peak condition is essential to its functioning and well-being. Though solar panels typically require little maintenance to work, they still need some caring for, just like any other part of your home or mechanical equipment.
In most cases, you don’t need to clean your solar panels very often—dirt and debris will likely be washed off with rainstorms. But some occasional cleaning might be required, with the correct products and safety considerations. You can hire a professional cleaning company for an annual deep-clean to ensure your panel’s function and perform at its ideal capacity.
Maintaining Solar Panel Types: Ground vs. Roof
Choosing between two main types of solar panels will significantly depend on your situation, roof pitch, sun exposure, and more. If your home enjoys a lot of direct sun exposure directly overhead, with a compatible roof pitch, a roof panel system might be for you. But if you have roofing constraints and less optimal overhead exposure, installing panels in your yard or garden can be a good option. However, when it comes to the maintenance considerations for each type, they are somewhat similar.
The only real difference between ground and roof panels is the ease of accessibility and accumulation of natural debris. Roof panels will naturally be more difficult to access for any maintenance, cleaning, or routine checks. But you also might not get as much natural debris on ground panels as they tend to be more protected from the elements by houses, trees, etc. Otherwise, the panels themselves require much of the same maintenance steps.
Tips for Maintaining and Caring for Your Solar Panels
If you want to ensure your solar panel system will run as effectively as possible, some basic cleaning and maintenance are essential. Following these tips makes solar panel upkeep easy and hassle-free!
You can purchase a nano-coating to apply to your solar panels. This coating acts like car polish, with hydrophobic properties that repel water and dirt when it comes into contact with the solar panels.
Check Your Panels after Severe Weather Conditions
A nasty storm, including tornados or hurricanes, can cause broken panels. This will obviously have a negative impact on the performance of the entire system. Diagnose damaged panels by checking their cosmetic appearance or by watching the system’s performance via online monitoring. Thankfully, homeowner’s insurance typically covers panel damage caused by severe weather conditions, so you don’t have to worry about that!
Clean Solar Panels with the Proper Products and Procedures
If you need to clean your solar panels yourself, make sure to exercise caution for personal safety and use the correct tools. Use soft, lukewarm water and a non-abrasive sponge for cleaning the panels—applying cold water can result in thermal shock and damage, and hard water might leave white residue behind that could affect performance. If the grime is a little more stubborn, you can use a mild soap, such as laundry detergent. For roof panels, use a telescopic pole so you don’t have to climb onto the roof.
When cleaning your panels, make sure to shut down the entire solar system and wait for the panels to cool. If you have roof panels, disconnect or block off any gutters or rainwater collections to ensure no run-off or dirty water flows into your tank. Choose a mild day to prevent your panels from cracking when applying the cool water to the hot glass. Early morning is typically the best time of day for cleaning solar panels, as well as a cool evening or overcast day.
Don’t Use a Pressure Washer or Abrasive Products
Any highly pressured water will do more harm than good. Pressure washers can crack or scuff your panels, leading to lowered effectiveness. Additionally, certain products can damage the panels and should be avoided, including abrasive sponges and solvents or heavy detergents.
Keep an Eye on Dirt and Debris Build-Up
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your panels for residual dirt, pollen, and leaves. They can lower the effectiveness of your solar panel system and can be fixed with a light rinse from your garden hose. If there is any serious buildup on your roof solar panels, try investing in a roof rake, as they are designed to help clean off panels in any condition. During the winter, you might need to clear off your panels after heavy snowfall.
Look Out for Rack Issues and Roof Penetrations
The racking equipment ensures that your solar panels are secured to the roof. The bolts hold the weight of your solar panels, maintain structural soundness, and are rigorously tested by the manufacturer to ensure durability and craftsmanship. So, if you note any leaks or bends, don’t try to fix them yourself—call your installer to get them repaired.
Maintain the Inverter
Solar inverters are essential to your solar panel system, working to convert the direct current output into an alternating current used within the home. Luckily, maintaining an inverter is simple and hassle-free—once a year, clean out the air inlets so the inverter can cool down properly. The indicator lights and displays should also be checked, as well as the connector housings. Solar inverters have an estimated service life of about ten years, so you will likely have to replace that device long before you need to replace your solar panels.
Monitor the Health of Your Solar Panels
You can monitor your solar panels and the system’s condition by integrating a solar panel monitoring system into your setup. This can also track how much energy your panels produce, their efficiency, and how various external factors affect the panels. A monitoring system will alert you if a panel breaks or malfunctions, so you know to repair or replacement.
Use A Cleaning Company
Especially when it comes to roof panels, hiring a solar panel cleaning company is a good idea for at least an annual deep-clean. They will use the appropriate products and equipment to clean up your panels and get them back to 100% effectiveness. A yearly professional clean is recommended. If your home location means that your panels are exposed to large amounts of agricultural dust, sand, or pollution, you will likely need more frequent cleaning.
Watch Out for Bird Droppings
If you have many trees nearby, particularly of the deciduous type, you risk more leaves and bird droppings falling onto your solar panels. Perching birds will leave droppings that will impact your solar panel system’s effectiveness, especially if your array includes string inverters or microinverters.
When to Call the Professionals
If your solar panels need to be repaired or replaced, it is best to hire a professional. It’s time to pick up the phone if you notice your panels losing efficiency—if they are still under a performance or power output warranty, you can call your solar company directly. They’ll send out a professional to assess the panels’ condition and handle the problem through repair or replacement.
But if your panels have suffered physical damage, it’s a bit different. If your panels are covered under a separate equipment warranty or covered under your homeowner’s insurance, you can inquire about claims and repair services through your provider. Make sure you do not try installing solar panels or making repairs yourself—it can be a slippery slope, literally.
Should You Get a Warranty for Your Solar Panel Systems?
The short answer is yes, absolutely. Because solar panel systems are such a large investment and improvement to your home and property, it’s crucial to ensure they are covered against damage. Solar panel installations can cost between $11,000 and $15,000, so any small premium incurred by adding a warranty for solar energy systems will be worth it in the long run.
Luckily, solar panel insurance coverage is included in most basic homeowner’s insurance policies. They are considered permanent fixtures to your property, so solar panels are usually insured as such, much like a patio or in-home security system. One consideration to keep in mind: you may need to raise your premium or coverage limit to account for the new system’s added value.