Anything in the air from dust, to dirt, pollen, sea salt or pollution, it will all eventually land on your solar panels. So by not cleaning your solar panels you could be potentially sacrificing efficiency if dirt and other substances are blocking direct sunlight. But how much efficiency will you be sacrificing?
A study done in the United States in Tucson, Arizona, revealed that by cleaning solar panels it only improved their output by around 1%. It’s also important to note that this location receives a little more than half as much rainfall as Adelaide, which is Australia’s driest capital.
For most homes in Australia, dirt often has little effect on solar panels as rainfall is enough to keep solar panels reasonably clean. Grime and dust can build up but eventually there will be sufficient rain to wash most of it off.
But this doesn’t reflect all households. There are also obvious times where cleaning your panels does make sense, like if your location was hit by a dust storm, or maybe you have lots of birds that like to take shelter on your roof. Plus if your area doesn’t receive much rainfall your panels can’t clean themselves. So here are some ways you can clean your solar panels:
Do you really need to worry about it?
Think about whether you really need to be concerned about such a minimal impact on performance.
Use a hose
If your solar panels are being blocked by a minimal amount of dust particles and dirt build-up then a simple hose-down should be all you need to get your panels back to squeaky clean. A regular garden hose should do the trick! Just spray your panels down completely and let them dry off in the sun.
Just make sure you don’t use any high-pressure jets or pressure washers on your panels. This could result in scratches or more severe damage to the panels themselves.
Scrub them down
If your solar panels are covered in more than just dust and dirt, and include substances like bird droppings or sticky plant materials, then your panels might need a good scrubbing.
Again it is important to be gentle with your panels, to ensure they don’t get damaged. Using a soft scrubber, squeegee, or brush that won’t leave behind scratches or damage the panels. Then utilising a mild soap that doesn’t include harsh chemicals or ingredients that could harm or degrade the panel materials is vital.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to wash them yourself:
1. Fill a bucket up with warm water and add a tiny amount of your mild soap.
2. Rinse your panels off with a hose or another low pressure sprayer.
3. Use the soapy water and scrubber and gently rub to remove any debris.
4. Rinse the panels thoroughly to remove any soapy water.
5. Allow them to dry in the sun.
Just remember to proceed with caution when attempting to clean your panels yourself. Follow safety procedures and utilise necessary safety equipment. Also remember that on very hot and sunny days your solar panels can become extremely hot after long, direct exposure to the sun.
Call a professional
Another option is to have your panels serviced by a professional. Many companies offer service plans upon purchasing the panel itself. It is a safer option, but it can be quite a costly procedure. By doing this you are cancelling out your own cost savings! As you are essentially spending money so that you can save on your electricity bill down the line.
Remember, you’re essentially comparing the cost of servicing the panels against the cost you’d save by generating more energy with cleaner panels. These costs will rarely be offset.
Most of the time cleaning your solar panels isn’t worth it. Because the average increase in output from cleaning your panels is relatively minute, whilst also taking into account the time and risk of injury of cleaning them yourself or if you pay for a service how costly that could be.
It makes more sense to have a slightly larger system installed to compensate for the minor loss that results from blockages. Or if your system is already installed, spending money on energy efficiency is far more cost effective than paying people to clean your panels.