Solar panel cleaning

by Dino Green on March 22, 2013

Solar panel maintenance is relatively easy and low cost considering that solar panels do not incorporate any mechanical moving parts. However, maintaining your solar panels in tip top condition is of significant importance for maintaining a high performance of the photovoltaic cell. Herein you will learn how to clean solar panels easily and effectively!

How to clean Solar panels

  1. Solar Panel installers: Before commencing on generic solar panel cleaning tips, it is highly advisable to consult with your solar panel installers or solar panel manufacturers. Different brands may have specific attributed requiring specific techniques or cleaning materials.
  2. Best time of the day: Plan your solar panel cleaning off solar panel production hours; this is highly important for two main reasons: firstly you need to keep production of your solar panels as much unaffected as possible and secondly, you should aim to avoid cleaning your solar panels during hot sunshine hours. Consequently, the best hours for cleaning your solar panels very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  3. Safety first: In continuation to no.#2 above, may we remind you that safety comes first! If you are dealing with residential solar panels (solar panels for home) chances are you have them on your roof. So if you will be climbing on your roof for cleaning your solar panels (especially if you have an inclined roof top) you might reconsider that the best time of the day for cleaning your solar panels will provide you with abundant light and allow for plenty of time before it gets dark. Weather conditions are also very important in securing your safety while cleaning your solar panels. In general, working above the ground requires extreme caution so as to avoid risk of injury. Thus it may be advisable to seek professional help for cleaning your solar panels.
  4. Easy water hose: If your solar panels are lightly dusted you may use a normal water hose with some pressurised jet. However, this may not be adequate in cases of accumulated filth or dust.
  5. Add soap: To get rid of heavier accumulated dust and stains on your solar panel glass, you may use warm soapy water with a sponge or soft cloth. What is important to clean is the glass surface of the solar panel as it is the solar panel part generating electricity from sunlight.

Why solar panel cleaning is necessary.

Solar panels generate electricity when exposed to sunlight. Solar panel efficiency, and generated electricity, is greatly influenced when exposure of solar cells to sunlight is reduced. Thus, dirt, accumulated dust, and other particles, such as bird droppings, can significantly reduce solar panel output. In general, accumulated dirt on the solar panel glass, acts as a coating that greatly reduces exposure to sunlight influencing negatively solar panel efficiency and operational lifetime. Empirical data suggests that performing effective solar panel cleaning can improve solar panel efficiency by 100%, while cleaning them every 8 months can yield an improvement of 30-40%. To illustrate this imagine a solar panel that has been operating without any cleaning for a whole year. Cleaning it after a year for the first time may double its output.

The cost of solar panel cleaning.

If you are trying to calculate the cost of cleaning your solar panels you must  consider the equivalent extra income in the case of cleaned solar panels. Considering that properly cleaned and maintained solar panels will produce approximately 15-25% more electricity than ‘dirty’ solar panels it is easy to understand the economics. You may consider that a solar panel cleaner that charges you the same amount you earn in addition by maintaining your solar panels clean, (e.g. say 15% more kwh x $ rate per kwh), strictly speaking, is a proposal you are indifferent to since it leaves you with no net additional income. Any charge less than that, is considered an economically preferred option! In general, if you are having a rough time cleaning your solar panels yourself, it is advisable to seek professional help provided you do the math and secure a positive extra income. Since solar panel cleaning can influence solar panel efficiency it is directly affecting the economic performance of your solar panel investment. To get a better understanding on this you may want to see how much solar panels cost.

Frequency of solar panel cleaning

Cleaning your solar panels requires common sense; as already illustrated, accumulated dirt and filth may form a dirt-coat on your solar panels influencing negatively your solar panels’ performance. In general you may consider cleaning your solar panels depending on the weather conditions and circumstances of your location. It is recommended to schedule cleaning your solar panels around twice a year aiming at a 5%-6% increased output compared to the case of leaving them uncleaned.  Of course this is subject to location specific circumstances such as pollution from factories or airports or from ‘dirty’ landscape.

In general, you should fine tune your solar panel cleaning by monitoring your solar panels’ performance before and after cleaning them. This way you will be able to establish the best time and season for cleaning your solar panels as well as how often you should clean them.

About the Author

Dino Green

Dino green is a Mechanical Engineer and a qualified accredited expert in certification of energy performance of buildings. He is a green technology fan and an advocate of environmental sustainability. Beyond his professional curriculum he is a main editor in www.RenewableGreenEnergyPower.com and a contributing Author in www.GreenEnergySavingTips.com You can connect with Dino @ Google+

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