Solar Panel Cleaning is Required for Optimum Performance
Solar panel cleaning is not that different from cleaning your windshield. You can do it yourself, or have other people do it for you.
A solar panel typically consists of solar cells covered by a protective glass coating, and just like your car windshield – the longer it's outside – the more likely it will get dirty and need to be cleaned.
How much Electricity do Dirty Solar Panels Lose?
Pollution, traffic dust, leaves and even bird droppings contribute to preventing sunlight from reaching the solar cells in your solar panels.
The more dirt – the lower amount of electricity they will produce. While many factors affect how much electricity your solar panels will produce – dirty solar panels can be one of the biggest, and easiest to fix.
Experts agree that dirty solar panels don't produce as much power as clean panels. That loss may range as high as 25% in some areas according to the National Renewable Energy laboratory. Individual dealers have reported losses as high as 30% for some customers who failed to ever clean their panels.
What Should You do?
Two Ways To Check Your Panels
There are two ways you can check to see if your panels need to be cleaned:
1. Physical Inspection: Inspect the solar panels on a periodic basis (frequency depends on location or the manufacturer's specifications) to remove any debris and dirt and ensure all connections are tight. Generally, speaking dusty areas typically require more frequent inspection.
2. Use a Monitoring Service: Another way to make sure you’re getting the most solar potential out of your PV system is through a monitoring systems and service. For a monthly fee or a flat up front cost, you can monitor how your system is performing.
Your system is expected to produce a certain amount of power during each month. A solar monitoring system can tell you if your system is off line or if it’s not performing as expected and run diagnostic programs.
Solar monitoring systems can also be educational, showing you how much power you’ve saved, how much CO2 you’ve saved, and how much money you’ve saved.
Depending on the monitoring systems, you can access your information from the web, from a wall mounted-device, or even from your iPhone or other mobile device.
Monitoring systems are usually an extra expense, whether as a monthly service or purchased up front. While not essential, they do make troubleshooting and system performance easier to see.
So if it turns out your panels are dirty – what are your options?
Option 1: Solar Panel Cleaning Yourself
If you can clean your windows – you can certainly clean your solar panels.
The hard part (especially for roof mounted solar panels is reaching them). Assuming you can reach your solar planels - clean the surface of a solar panel much like you would clean your car -- with warm water and dishwashing soap to remove any accumulation of dirt and grime.
Back from this page on the importance of Solar Panel Cleaning to our lead page on Solar Panels
Option 2 – Use a Solar Panel Cleaning Service
Some people like to clean their own cars – and others like to take their cars to be cleaned for them. Same with solar panels – except that the solar panel cleaning company obviously has to come see you.
Depending on where you live, ask your installer to recommend a solar panel cleaning service and find out how often the cleaning is recommended – and what it costs. Be sure they are insured – in case there are accidents.
If they don't have a cleaning service in your area – consider starting a solar panel cleaning service yourself as there is a growing need for such services.
Option 3 – Use a Nano-Cleaning Product
Basically a nano-cleaning product – such as NOC on Solar can reduce the need for frequent solar panel cleaning – and if you live in an area where it rains often – using a nano-cleaning product lets the rain to most of the cleaning work for you.
In a drier area – your panels can be cleaned using an air-hose (if there is water rationing) or a garden hose (if water is easily available).
Note: This product can also be used to keep your windshields clean, your showers, clean, help prevent graffiti, etc. It's really an amazing product.
Option 4 – Use a Cleaning Robot
Just like they make swimming pool cleaning robots – they also make robots that are good at cleaning solar panels.
If you use Sharp, Mitsubishi, Kyocera, Suntech, Sanyo and other leading brands – you might want to consider looking into Heliotex Automated Solar Cleaning Systems
Option 5 – Automated Self-Cleaning Technology
For large commercial or public utility sites, especially those in remote and dry locations you might want to consider self-cleaning panels
Don't Use Solar Panels – Use Solar Roof Tiles Instead
If you just don't want to ever bother with cleaning your solar panels - one solution that is becoming more popular, especially as a result of new thin-film solar cell technologies – is the production of what is known as BIPV (Building Integrated PV).
Basically, these are solar panels that both protect your roof and produce electricity. For new homes … or people needing new roofs – this can definitely worth looking into.