So, you’ve taken the plunge and invested your hard-earned money into some solar panels? Now your focus should be on how to maintain them and ensure that you get the best return on your investment.
While some people believe that you don’t have to clean solar panels, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In particular, if you live in a dusty, windy area or nearby highways or factories, regular cleaning becomes crucial to your panels’ performance.
A recent study found that solar panels in these areas can experience efficiency declines between 17-25%. Half of these efficiency declines were caused by dirt deposits on the solar panels themselves—an easily fixable problem.
On top of performance improvements, regular cleaning and maintenance may be a condition of your solar panel warranty. In fact, if solar panels are left dirty for too long, they may begin experiencing corrosion issues, so make sure that you’re aware of your warranty conditions.
Now that you know how important it is to keep your solar panels clean in Canberra, let’s dive into your eight-step plan for solar panel maintenance.
Regular solar panel inspections are important for keeping your panels in tip-top shape. Your solar panel installer will check for any cracks or panel discolouration and ensure that everything is working as it should. After all, if there are any defects within your panels, no amount of cleaning will improve your efficiency.
However, they’re especially important if you’re planning to clean your panels. If there are any defects within your panels, you risk making the problems worse by adding soap and water into the mix. That’s why you should schedule an appointment with your local Canberra solar panel installer before any cleaning is done.
Now that you have the go-ahead from your Canberra solar panel installer it’s time to get all your equipment in order.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ladder: If you can’t clean your panels from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. Make sure it’s big enough to reach all your panels and stable enough for you to work from.
- Hose: You’ll need a hose that’s long enough to reach every nook and cranny of your panels.
- Mild soap: Avoid using harsh chemicals on your panels as this may cause wear and tear.
- Sponge/squeegee: Make sure your sponge or squeegee is made from non-abrasive material and is free from dirt that can potentially scratch your panels.
- Extendable rod: You may need an extendable rod or stick if your sponge or squeegee isn’t long enough to reach your panels.
- Soft-bristle brush: You’ll use this brush to remove dust and leaves before cleaning your panels. You can also use it to remove any extra stubborn dirt.
Pro tip: While using a pressure hose may seem like a good idea, it’s best to avoid them as the strength of the water may damage your solar panels.
It’s no secret that glass and metal can get scorching hot once they’ve been baking in the sun for a few hours.
Scheduling your maintenance for mornings, winter or a cloudy day will not only save you from getting sunburnt, but it’ll also keep your panels free of cracks. Subjecting hot glass to cool water drastically increases the chances that your solar panels will crack due to heat conduction.
Plus, doing your maintenance during a cool part of the day will ensure that the water doesn’t evaporate as soon as it hits the panel. If you’ve ever tried to wash your car on a scorching day in Australia, you’ll know the pain of dirty, soapy water drying before you have a chance to clean it.
Even if your panels are in working order, you should always turn your system off before you clean it. Taking this precaution can save both you and your panels from potential harm and a trip to the hospital.
To turn your system off you need to:
- Turn off your solar supply main switch on your switchboard.
- Find your inverter and turn off the solar AC isolator switch—if you have one.
- Turn off the PV Array and DC Isolator (there could be two switches.)
- Finally, turn off your Inverter Isolator switch—you’re free to skip this one if you don’t have one.
The worst thing that could happen while you’re cleaning your solar panels is giving yourself more work to do after. To avoid this, you’ll want to make sure your gutters are clean before you begin cleaning your panels. After all, overflowing gutters can cause quite the mess—especially if they feed into a water tank.
It’s a good idea to disconnect your rainwater tank during this process as it can get quite messy.
Make sure to set up your cleaning equipment in a way that’s conducive to your workflow. Ensure your hose can’t get caught on any obstacles, especially not your ladder as this can lead to potential injury.
Besides your hose, make sure all the necessary equipment is ready so you avoid having to stop and start your cleaning operation.
Finally, it’s time to start cleaning your solar panels.
Here are some general guidelines for cleaning success:
- Roofs can become slippery when they’re wet, so only clean your panels from your roof if you have the necessary safety equipment. Instead, clean your solar panels from the ground or a sturdy ladder.
- Brush off as much dirt as you can before you begin using water.
- Once you’ve brushed your panels, begin hosing them down for a few minutes to remove and soften any dirt. Make sure to only hose the top of your solar panels as all the wiring and connections are underneath.
- If there are stubborn stains like bird droppings, create a soap solution and apply it to your panels with a squeegee, cloth or soft brush.
Make sure to dry your solar panels after you clean them so you minimise the chances of stains. You’ll want to use a clean squeegee or cloth—preferably one that you haven’t used for cleaning. Avoid sun-drying your panels as this can lead to soap or mineral stains on your panels which can decrease their efficiency.
Once your panels are dry, you’re free to start harnessing the sun’s energy again. However, when you turn your system on again you’ll need to do it in reverse order.
As a reminder, here’s what you should do:
- Switch your Inverter Isolator back on.
- Locate your PV Array and DC Isolator and switch them on.
- Flick your AC Isolator switch back on
- Finally, you can turn your solar supply main switch on and your panels will be back to generating electricity.
Cleaning your solar panels in Canberra can be a tricky job. However, with these tips, your panels will be back to their shiny, efficient selves in no time. And remember, give Select Electrical—your local Canberra solar panel installers—a call to inspect your panels before you get started.