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Maintenance Of Solar Panels

Essential Tips on Maintaining Solar Panels

The cost of energy to heat residential homes and commercial buildings is continuously rising due to a variety of factors. Simultaneously, the Earth's supply of fossil fuels is becoming increasingly depleted. For this reason, solar panels are an ideal source of alternative energy for property owners everywhere, and many consumers choose solar energy systems with which to heat their homes and power household appliances. However, solar panel maintenance is essential, as solar output decreases approximately 15 percent if the panels are subjected to a build up of dust, dirt or other elements that result in surface film.

Why Buildup Occurs

Solar Panels are continuously exposed to environmental elements such as rain, wind, sunlight and dust. Because they are very similar to traditional windows–although they lie relatively flat–they pick up dirt and debris at a fast pace. Additional factors that cause such panels to become dirty and less efficient include the build up of pollen, bird droppings and dead insects. The dirty film that is created because of the presence of such elements is commonly referred to as “solar clouding” by manufacturers of such systems. Fortunately, regular cleaning will keep such units functioning at optimum capacity.

The Importance of Solar Power Maintenance

It is primarily the thick glass exterior of the panels that require the most maintenance. The panels' electrical components are located deep within this glass and generally remain well protected unless severe damage occurs from an unusual event. The United States Department of Energy recommends that consumers devote approximately 16 to 20 hours a year to the maintenance of their solar panel systems. Experts suggest that such cleaning be completed four times each year, such as every three months. However, it is important to understand that structures that are located in dusty areas or surrounded by a high number of trees should be cleaned more often than average, since such an environment can cause build up to occur at a faster than normal rate.

Cleaning Tips

In most cases, solar panels can be maintained by using the same products and equipment used to wash traditional windows. However, it is essential to realize that if cleaning is not completed on a regular basis, this task will be more difficult in the long run. This is because dirt and debris can be challenging to remove if such items are allowed to settle on the surface of the panels for a lengthy amount of time.

Solar Panel Cleaning Kits

The first step one should take is to purchase a solar panel cleaning kit. Such kits typically include liquid soap that is specially designed for solar panels, a small brush, a wiper, and an additional brush that features a longer than basic handle. Most homeowners will quickly discover that such items are similar to those used to wash an automobile.

It is always essential to follow the instructions on the product container when using liquid soap to clean solar panels. The specific amount mentioned should be mixed in a bucket of water and agitated slightly to ensure that the formula will be spread evenly over the surface of the panels during cleaning.

The solar panels should be saturated with the cleaning mixture and washed with the brushes provided in the kit. It is never wise to allow the soap to dry on the panels, as this will result in solar clouding and decreased energy efficiency. Therefore, the panels should be washed as soon as the formula is in place. The short or long wiper brush can be selected, depending on which part of the panel is being cleaned. Only plain water should be used to rinse the panels, as this will avoid the aforementioned dry soap build up.

When to Hire a Professional

Homeowners should be aware that certain areas of the panels may require professional cleaning. This may be the case with panels that are located in hard-to-reach areas or units that have been subjected to a substantial build up of dirt or other debris. It is a much wiser course of action to hire a professional under such circumstances than it is to inadvertently damage the panels, as repairs for units of this type can quickly become expensive.

Automatic Cleaning Tools

Another alternative for homeowners whose panels are located in difficult to reach areas is the option of investing in automatic cleaning tools. Equipment of this kind attaches permanently to the solar energy panels. Such tools are operated through motorized, mechanical arms and spray hoses that are somewhat similar to the windshield wipers seen on motor vehicles that are used to clear away rain, debris and dirt at regular intervals when turned to the on position. Equipment of this type can add to the cost of a solar energy system; however, it is an ideal choice for consumers who live in arid or dusty environments, as well as for those whose homes are surrounded by heavy foliage.

Solar Panel Monitoring Systems

In order to carefully watch the performance level of solar panels, one may wish to consider installing a monitoring system. If the performance becomes less efficient, the property owner will know that it is time to complete maintenance and cleaning or troubleshoot for other problems. The majority of such systems can be purchased for a reasonable monthly fee. They must be installed by solar energy system professionals who will also explain the details of how they work to the homeowner. Such systems help consumers monitor how much energy the solar panels have produced over a specific length of time. In addition, they provide detailed information about environmental benefits, such as how much the panels decreased CO2 emissions over a certain time period compared to alternative power systems. In some cases, depending on where one lives, this information may help the property owner to receive income tax credits.

Diagnostic Help

Monitoring system can also assist homeowners to diagnose problems with solar energy panels. This information is typically displayed on a wall-mounted device when one is in his or her dwelling. If the person is away from home, the information can usually be accessed online.

As additional research is conducted and further developments are made, it is likely that alternative energy such as solar power will eventually replace traditional fuel sources and the harmful side effects associated with their production. Therefore, anyone who has invested in such a system has made a wise decision. For this reason, solar panel maintenance should not be overlooked, as it is the best way to ensure that one receives the maximum return on his or her investment in solar energy.