5 things NOT to do when cleaning solar panels
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Are you a proud owner of a solar system? If so, you know the many benefits that come with owning them - energy freedom. You get the freedom of having a tiny electricity bill, a net zero carbon emission home, and protecting yourself from electricity price rises. Wouldn’t that be thrilling? Getting a solar system is one step. But what about when it comes to maintenance and upkeep?
To get the most out of your investment in a solar system, it's important to understand all there is to know about cleaning and caring for your solar panels. We’ll cover 5 key things that you shouldn’t do with your solar. So read on if you want to learn more about maximising the potential of owning a solar system.
1) Don’t wash your solar panels unnecessarily
Ahh, the thrill of a freshly installed solar system! The first thing many people want to do is grab the nearest bottle of soap and water and give those panels a good scrub down. But wait! Before you start sudsing up your solar panels, it's important to be careful and avoid damaging any of the delicate electronics and wiring inside.
While it can be fun to make your panels sparkle and shine, it's generally not necessary to clean them unless they are extremely dusty that it's affecting their performance, or if there are creepy crawlies hanging out on them. In most cases, a rain shower is enough to keep your panels clean and functioning at their best. We recommend checking out our article: Does cleaning your solar panels make a difference? for a definitive guide. So sit back, relax, and let mother nature do the work for you!
2) Do not use abrasives!
If you really think you need to wash your solar panels, it's crucial to exercise caution and avoid using any abrasive materials or methods. Sure, it may be tempting to break out the heavy-duty scrubbers and harsh cleaning solutions to tackle tough dirt and grime, but these can actually end up doing more harm than good.
Abrasives can scratch and damage the surface of your panels, reducing their efficiency and even causing permanent damage. Yikes! Know that solar panels are usually covered with silicone sealant to prevent water from seeping in and short-circuiting the system. This silicone is designed to repel water, but that doesn't mean that it'll repel anything else like oil, dirt or mud. If you clean your panels with abrasives like steel wool, you could damage the sealant and allow moisture in, which could lead to short circuits.
The rule of thumb here is: if it's not designed to clean solar panels, don't use it on your panels. Just make sure to steer clear of any abrasive materials, and you'll be well on your way to maintaining a happy and healthy solar panel system.
If you’ve used something like this and want to check if your solar system is working to its full potential, get Solar Analytics.
3) Leave the wax, you don’t need it!
Looking for ways to keep your panels running smoothly and at their maximum potential? We've got some important advice for you: skip the wax! While it may seem like a good idea to wax your solar panels in the same way you might wax your car or boat, this is actually a big no-no.
You see, wax is a slippery substance that can build up on the surface of your panels, reducing their ability to absorb sunlight and potentially decreasing their efficiency. Not only that, but it can be tough to remove and can leave behind a sticky residue that's a hassle to clean up.
How do you if your solar system is working at its full potential? Check our article on monitoring.
Wax doesn't actually do much for your panels, other than make them shiny and clean looking. It won't give them any extra protection from the elements, which is why an industry that relies on solar power makes sure their systems aren't waxed. Leave the wax on the shelves!
4) No bleach or harsh chemicals, please!
At some point, you might have an idea to reach for those powerful bleach and harsh chemical cleaners, think again! These cleaning agents can actually do more harm than good.
The thing is, bleach and harsh chemicals can strip away the protective coating on your panels, reducing their efficiency and even causing permanent damage. You can potentially damage the anti-reflective coatings, EVA coatings, tempered glass, and more¹ Not only that, but they can be tough on the environment, releasing harmful chemicals into the air and water. And if not used properly, they can also be potentially harmful to your health. Just make sure to skip the bleach and harsh chemicals, and your panels (and the planet) will thank you.
If you’re desperate to have your panels cleaned to the point you’re thinking of using bleach, check using Solar Analytics beforehand to see how badly your solar system’s performance is being affected. The results may not be what you think.
5) Stay away from high-pressure water jets!
Though it may seem like a quick and easy way to blast away dirt and debris, it can actually do more harm than good. You see, high-pressure water jets can damage the delicate surface of your panels, causing scratches and reducing their efficiency. Using high-pressure washers on solar panels can put stress on the photovoltaic cells embedded in the surface of the panel.
The cell is tough and durable, but it isn't designed for continuous exposure to water at high speeds—and in fact, flooding a cell with water at high speed is one of the main ways that manufacturers test their PV cells to see how well they'll hold up over time. You probably aren't trying to destroy your panels, but even if you aim for gentleness and patience, you can still end up damaging them. And let's be real, who wants reduced efficiency? Not us! In addition, these powerful streams of water can force water and debris underneath the panels, potentially causing damage to the wiring and electronics. Yikes!
If you’re looking to save with solar, check out ways to eliminate your power bill before cleaning your solar.
What should I do?
Here's a handy tip if you'd like to wash your solar panels but don't want to risk damaging them. You'll want to use a soft, clean cloth and a gentle detergent or soapy water—and that's it! Don't use any cleaning products other than soap and water if you’re cleaning yourself. Even though they're sturdy, they can still be damaged by abrasive cleaners or materials.
Otherwise call an expert - The best thing that you can do when washing your panels is hire an expert. Instead of risking damage from improper cleaning, contact someone who knows what they're doing and can make sure that nothing happens to your solar panels.
In the end, our advice is to just leave it alone. If you absolutely want to keep your panels clean, don't use anything other than your standard household cleaning supplies (and perhaps a low-pressure power washer). If you really feel the need to get that extra bit of dirt off, you can always call up a solar panel cleaning service that uses products and equipment that won't damage your equipment.
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- Before getting it cleaned, see if your performance is affected using Solar Analytics’s 30-day free trial.
- Unless your solar panels are extremely filthy to the point it affects performance adversely, it’s not worth cleaning your solar panels.
- If you do plan on cleaning yourself, use soapy water and a soft cloth. That’s it. Otherwise, call a professional cleaner.