Solar Panel Maintenance : Everything You Need to Know
How do you maintain your solar panels to ensure they keep producing at maximum efficiency?
This is a common question among homeowners.
Protecting and caring for your investment is essential to owning any item. Thankfully, rooftop solar panels are incredibly durable and have no moving parts, and are therefore very easy to maintain.
Even so, let’s explore so basic tips to keep your system as productive as possible.
Related reading: How To Choose Solar Panels for Your Home
Monitoring your solar system
The best thing you can do to maintain your solar system is to monitor its production so you can quickly identify and address issues, should they arise.
“You should check on your system about once a month to make sure there are no anomalies or panels underperforming — maybe a bit more if your system is charging your EV,” said Brian Lynch, a 15-year solar industry veteran with REC Group. “Of course, for the first 3-6 months you’ll be checking the app and showing it off all the time.”
Most modern solar systems are connected to a monitoring app, like the Enphase Enlighten app pictured below.
In addition to being a ton of fun to tinker with and show off, a mobile app makes it incredibly easy to monitor your system’s health and performance. For example, using the array view in the Enphase Enlighten app, you can see the production of each panel over time.
Slight differences in production are to be expected based on each panel’s location, angle, sun exposure, and shading. However, if one panel is producing substantially fewer kilowatt-hours than the others, it’s time to call your installer to address the issue.
Depending on the app, you may even get a notification if there is an anomaly in your system’s performance.
Typically, your installer also has monitoring access and can do some troubleshooting remotely before making a site visit to diagnose or fix the issue.
Do not attempt to perform solar system maintenance on your own! Not only is this a huge safety risk, it may void the warranties from your installer and/or manufacturer.
Cleaning Your Solar Panels
In many cases, cleaning your solar panels should be very hands-off.
“In environments with periodic rain, that rain going to wash away any dust, soiling, or bird droppings,” Lynch said.
In fact, even snow melting off your panels will clean your panels by removing dust and debris.
Of course, there are cases where panels need more frequent cleanings than rain can provide. For example, if you…
- Live in an environment that gets very infrequent rain
- Have panels mounted flat, instead of at an angle
- Experience a unique circumstance like nearby construction kicking up dust
… then you may want to clean your panels periodically to keep avoid losing production from “soiling losses.”
The do’s and don’ts of cleaning rooftop solar panels
If you feel your solar panels need to be cleaned, follow the do’s and don’t listed below for a successful and safe cleaning.
- Check installer or manufacturer recommendations for cleaning your panels
- Use deionized water— at least for the final rinse — to prevent minerals in hard water from building up
- Use a ladder to avoid going on up your roof and potentially damaging your panels
- Use a soft rag only on heavier soiling, like bird droppings
- Let snow melt off naturally, as you may damage your panels trying to remove it
As a rule of thumb, the less contact you make with your panels the better!
- Spray hot water on cold panels
- Scrape or scrub your panels with a hard brush or shovel
- Let hard water from your hose dry on the panels
- Use any chemicals like dish soap, Windex, or RainX
Hard water and chemicals can leave behind mineral and residue coatings that actually reduce your system’s performance. Less is more when it comes to cleaning your panels!
Solar panel maintenance is easy
The beauty of solar panels is their simplicity. In fact, photovoltaic solar is the only source of electricity that doesn’t involve spinning a turbine!
That’s part of what makes them the only viable and affordable alternative to paying for dirty electricity from the grid.
Brian Lynch is an investor in solar.com’s parent company, Electrum.