Over a year ago, we wrote a blog post covering the ins and outs of solar panel cleaning. Since then, solar has become even more popular, and solar cleaning companies are popping up across the nation and becoming more reasonably priced. Originally, homeowners had to buy expensive equipment to safely clean their panels or hire a window washing company who didn’t quite know what they were doing. Now there are hundreds of small solar cleaning companies to choose from solely dedicated to making your panels look spic and span. So, is it worth it to even clean your solar panels? And should you pay someone to get the job done for you?
Why Should I Clean My Solar Panels?
Solar panels rely 100% on the light generated by the sun. Each panel has dozens of solar cells which absorb the sun’s light and transform it into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. With that being said, anything that builds up on the top layer of the panel will cause a slight decrease in their efficiency and ability to generate power for your home. Some materials that cause this buildup include dirt, dust, pollen, leaves, ash, bird droppings, smog, or a combination of all these light blocking objects. The majority of buildup can be washed away by consistent rainfall. However, some states across the U.S. don’t receive a steady amount of rain, meaning that homeowners can’t depend on the weather exclusively for solar panel cleaning.
So, if the rain can’t clean my panels is it really worth taking the time and effort to wash them myself? In most cases, keeping your panels clean is a smart decision. By washing your panels, their output will increase by 5-10%, which can save you a couple hundred dollars in power bill savings a year. While this might not be life changing money, if you add those savings up over the course of the panel’s 25-year life span, those simple washings will have saved you thousands of dollars. Not to mention that a simple yearly wash will keep your panels looking clean and increase their overall life span!
How Can I Clean My Solar Panels Myself?
There are a variety of methods you can use to clean your solar panels, but you should always make safety your top priority. It is highly recommended that you wash and clean your panels from ground level. If this is not possible, make sure that you have all necessary equipment (ladder, harness, rope) to be safe and avoid any possible accidents.
As far as cleaning goes, you might be surprised to learn that you should avoid putting any cleaning materials or soap on your panels. Although these substances might get your panels looking clean, they create a thin layer of residue that have the same effect as dust or dirt, causing a decrease in overall efficiency. To make matters worse, this layer of residue is in most cases sticky and causes your panels to get dirtier in less time. Because of this, most solar cleaning specialists recommend just using deionized water, but if you don’t have that, a bucket of regular water will do the trick. With that in mind, here are some simple steps that any homeowner can take to make their panels a whole lot cleaner:
- Grab a hose to fill a bucket with clean water.
- Rinse the solar panels with clean water to clear away any loose dirt, dust, bird droppings or pollen.
- Use a soft scrubber or a sponge to gently wash the surface of the panels.
- Rinse solar panels with clean water from the hose a second time.
- Squeegee the panels dry.
- Follow the same process, changing your position as needed, until all panels are clean.
As you can see, cleaning your panels shouldn’t take a lot of time or effort. After one hour of cleaning, you should be able to have all of your panels producing electricity at maximum capacity!
Two things to note before giving your solar system a wash:
1. Your panels are made to get rather hot during the afternoon and sunny hours, so it is best to clean them in the morning or evening.
2. It is important to avoid touching the sides or undersides of the panels as well as any wiring harnesses or cables.
How Much Does It Cost to Pay the Pros to Clean My Solar Panels?
With tens of thousands of residential solar installations happening every day, hiring professional solar cleaners has become cheaper than ever. Cleaning companies often charge on a per panel basis ranging anywhere from $3 to $10 or a simple flat rate ranging from $150 to $350. Pricing greatly depends on where you live and that location’s cost of living. All in all, a simple $150 investment can save you $300 over the course of a year, which means that in most cases cleaning your panels is worth it.
Now that you know the overall price of getting your system cleaned by the pros, in what situations would it be best to hire them out?
When Should I Pay Someone to Clean My Solar Panels?
Paying a solar cleaning company or a window washing company might be your best option in several situations. For some homeowners, their roof may be difficult to access or be built at a steep angle. In these cases, it’s better to avoid the injury and accident risks and pay the small fee to get a professional crew who has all the equipment necessary to safely clean your panels. Another reason to pay someone else to clean your panels is because you simply don’t have the time. Although it doesn’t take more than a couple hours, some homeowners simply don’t have the desire to take the time to clean their solar panels. In those cases, professionals are great because they are low hassle and will come in and get the job done with little questions asked. Lastly, there are lots of skeptics who don’t believe that a routine solar cleaning makes a difference to the panel’s overall production. By hiring out a professional who will carry out the best job possible, these skeptics can determine whether the wash was worth it, and if it was, they can clean their panels in the future and avoid paying a fee to the pros.
In the end, Blue Raven Solar recommends that homeowners monitor their systems production and make sure to take care of their panels, whether that means rainfall is enough or if they need to wash them on their own or pay a solar cleaner to get the job done!