Once you have solar installed, it is easy to keep your solar panels in tiptop shape. Serious cleaning usually isn’t necessary because most of the time normal weather patterns take care of any dust buildup that might reduce solar energy output. But, as all of us know, in some years the normal weather patterns turn out to be anything but normal. On rare occasions, truly unseasonable weather patterns can result in an efficiency-sapping layer of grime that needs to be properly cleaned off.
Most of the time though, owning a rooftop solar array takes almost no effort at all. And to keep it that way, here are some very routine maintenance and inspection tips to follow that will help ensure your panels’ optimal performance.
1. Monitor Solar Power Output
Probably the easiest and best way to keep tabs on how your system is functioning is to monitor power output using the mobile app that connects to your power inverter. The great thing about the mobile app is that it will show you a real-time update on your solar array power output from the couch, the coffee shop, or the office.
Many solar panels are rated for a maximum efficiency of 320 watts per hour. But this is not indicative of average efficiency, since a number of factors like daily sun, weather, and rooftop angles all play a part in how useful any one solar panel is. If you want to see how we can help you get the most out of your solar system, you can contact us to get a free solar quote. We can estimate the average solar power output a panel may have when considering your location and rooftops. On average, we try to aim for a solar power output per panel of 250 watts per hour at peak sunlight efficiency.
2. Rinse Them with Water
Solar panels are sturdy, but the solid glass layers that allow the sun’s rays in may get dirty on occasion. Rinsing is usually enough, and if your location gets frequent rain, this shouldn’t be a big problem. If your location does not get much rain, a simple rinse of warm water should do the trick.
Since panels are located on rooftops and there is the risk of falling off, it is especially important that you do not walk on the solar panels. The glass surface can easily become slippery, and you run the risk of damaging your system or voiding warranties, but most importantly you run the risk of hurting yourself.
If you find fogged or discolored glazing, it may be caused by a buildup of smoke, pollen, or industrial pollution that water alone may not remove. Here are a few handy steps for a deeper cleaning:
- Fill your bucket with clean water and add a small amount of soap.
- Rinse solar panels with clean water to clear away loose dirt.
- Use soft scrubber and soapy water from the bucket—or mixing sprayer—to gently wash the surface of the panels.
- Rinse solar panels with clean water from the hose a second time.
- Squeegee panels dry.
- Follow the same process, changing your position as needed, until all panels are clean.***
***Pro tip: Be careful to avoid touching the sides or underside. Also, avoid contact with any wiring harnesses and/or cables.
We recommend a very soft sponge or squeegee to avoid any scratching. Scratches or scuffs on a panel’s glass will lower solar intake by a certain amount depending on the damage.
3. Remove Snow and Ice Carefully
When a snowstorm starts, the panels are most likely warm enough from the sunlight they’ve caught so far that a light snow should melt away with no fuss. But if the snow continues, it might bury your panels. Don’t worry, solar panels are sturdy enough to survive the weight of a bad snowdrift, but you will need to clear away the snow and ice buildup in order for them to continue working once the sun comes back out.
Be careful when pushing large masses of ice or snow off your roof, as they can easily hurt people or damage equipment when they fall. On those rare occasions when conditions make climbing onto the roof to access the solar panels unsafe, it may be best to leave ice and snow alone and let it melt down and fall away on its own.
4. Visually Inspect the Hardware
Performing an occasional visual maintenance check on the nuts, bolts, and mounting racks holding your solar array in place will keep you informed about how everything is holding up to time and weather. You shouldn’t find any problems. If you do, the systems we install come with a 25-year warranty. Plus, the individual components all include their own manufacturer’s warranty too. In the unlikely event that you do notice a problem with your solar array, we take care of our own warranty claims plus we’ll facilitate a manufacturer’s warranty claim on behalf of our customers as well.
Here are a few things to look for when inspecting your panels:
Rusted Mounting Bolts
It’s not that a little rust will make bolts come apart. A little rust is fine. But if it looks like bolts have come loose or are rusting to the point that they could become unserviceable in the future, it might be a good idea to just replace them.
The condition of the mounting racks should also be noted. Any weakness in the mounting racks makes solar panels a potential falling hazard should they break. At the very least, if a mounting rack bends or changes the angle of a panel in any way, it could negatively affect the panel’s efficiency.
Solar Panel Defects
If you notice a decline in your solar energy output, it’s a good idea to check for surface defects or a buildup of dirt. If you find cracks, chips, or delamination, it may be a manufacturer’s defect that would call for a warranty claim. While many panels are rated to withstand the heavy impact of hailstones, there’s always the possibility of something larger or heavier sailing onto your rooftop.
Check the junction boxes to see if the wires have been chewed by any rodents or insects. That sort of thing is rare, but if you do find it, call either a local licensed electrician or your solar installation company to get the problem repaired ASAP.
WHAT IF YOU’RE LEASING?
There are plenty of purchasing options for solar systems. One option is leasing, where you do not own your system you simply lease a system from a company that takes on the installation costs. Other arrangements like Power Purchase Agreements have a similar deal where, instead of paying for the installation, you pay for power from the solar company rather than the utility company.
In both these situations, you might hope that there would be some sort of advantage like a yearly cleaning or regular maintenance checks. But many leasing and PPA contracts put the responsibility of all that on you instead. So even though they own the equipment or are selling you the power, you’re still expected to clean, maintain, and even repair the solar system unless you want to pay someone else for it.
Why bother with a lease at all then? We’ve asked the same question many times.
With Blue Raven Solar, you pay to own. That way when you clean or repair your solar system, it’s your solar system you’re repairing. The investment you make in regular upkeep goes toward maintaining a piece of equity on your house—instead of making sure you’re keeping someone else’s equipment in good condition for the pleasure of using it.
Solar Panel Maintenance Is Really Easy
One of the many great things about going solar is how easy the maintenance is. It simply doesn’t take much to keep your system functioning well. The occasional inspection and routine cleaning are all it should take to keep everything working perfectly for decades. And with Blue Raven Solar, you can always call us with any questions if you’re not sure about the proper way to maintain your solar panels in a strange situation.
If you’re still debating whether a solar system is the right fit for your home, contact us to get a free solar quote to see what kind of savings and benefits you could have. Our experts look at your location, your home, and your average electricity bill to determine the most efficient way for you to save money with green solar power. At Blue Raven Solar, we want the installation process to be as easy as the maintenance.