If you’ve got solar panels installed at your home or business, you’ve probably considered the issues of maintenance. Do solar panels need cleaning? How often do solar panels need to be cleaned? Can you use a pressure washer to clean solar panels? What other special equipment might you need for this whole thing? How much does it cost to clean solar panels? 

Thankfully, the question doesn’t need a complicated or expensive answer. So, if you’re ready to learn what is the best way to clean solar panels, you’ll be relieved that it’s not a huge deal at all.

how to clean dirty solar panels

Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?

Before we dive in, it’s important to take a look at why you might even bother washing solar panels – and whether or not you need to.

Generally, residential solar energy panels are flat, tilted, and installed on your rooftop. Most of us never think about cleaning the panels unless we feel we’re not getting full output from them. Sometimes that’s because we think the rain will do the trick.

But there are reasons you might need to anyway. For one, if you have any trees anywhere around, you probably have bird droppings, leaves, and other things that have fallen onto the panels. Dirt and debris come from other sources as well.

Generally speaking, you don’t need to clean them very often, but you should a couple times each year. The cleaning removes the layer of debris, dirt, pollen, or other things that reduce the panel’s effectiveness. There’s not a significant impact on the energy lost – typically it will only equate $20 in the bill. However, when you don’t clean your panels, they may become damaged due to build up or unnoticed damage that worsens.

How Often Should They be Cleaned?

Solar panels typically don’t need to be cleaned more than once or twice a year. If you live in a severe weather zone, however, they will need to be checked and cleaned more frequently than low-wind regions.

What Happens if You Don’t Clean Solar Panels?

There are two specific things that may happen if you don’t clean your solar panels on a semi-frequent basis.

  1. A drop in productivity of the panels – less energy output over time.
  2. Minor damage may go unnoticed and compounded.
worker cleaning solar panels

How to Clean Solar Panels

There are two primary methods for how to clean solar panels. The first option is the easier but more expensive option: hiring a solar panel cleaning service. The second is more cost-efficient, which is cleaning them yourself. Depending on the placement of your panels, however, this may or may not be a great idea.

Solar Cleaning Service

The easiest way to clean your solar panels is hiring a service or using the service offered to you by your solar product provider. A lot of these companies offer the services for a fee or as a part of their regular installation/maintenance package. Before you make a decision, check your contract and see if it’s already included in what you’ve paid for.

You may especially want to consider this service if you have a rooftop solar system. Professionals are trained for dealing with these scenarios and have the proper safety equipment, which, chances are, you don’t. The cost will vary greatly, depending on your setup and package deals.

For ground maintenance, if you’re paying an extra fee for the cleaning service, you’re probably better off doing the work yourself unless you have a solar farm type situation or have mobility challenges.

DIY Cleaning

If you’re going to clean the panels yourself, this is how you should go about it. 

  1. Check your manual – are there are any special directives for caring for your solar panels? Any notes on what to clean solar panels with? The majority share the same instructions and basic techniques, but it’s always good to verify this before proceeding.
  2. If there’s nothing special needed for your particular setup, simply grab a hose and a bucket of soapy water, along with some clean, soft rags or a non-abrasive sponge or soft squeegee.
  3. Wipe down the panels with the soapy water, rinse gently with the hose, and voila – you’re all clean.
squeegee washing solar panels

Tips and Things to Keep in Mind as You Clean

  • Do not clean solar panels with pressure washer. A high-pressure water sprayer can damage your panels.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals. Simply use standard liquid dish soap and water. Anything else may damage the coating on your solar panels.
  • If you must scrub the panels to remove debris like bird droppings, use a firm but non-abrasive sponge or cloth. Do not use anything with bristles or scratching surface like a scouring pad. These can damage your solar panels.
  • Solar panels can get extremely hot in the sun, so choose to do your cleaning on a cooler, overcast day. This will protect both you and the solar panels and prevent residue from being left behind from quick evaporation in the hot sun.
  • If you have oily stains on your panels, spot clean with isopropyl alcohol and then rinse thoroughly with clean, fresh water.
  • How to clean solar panels on roof? Hire someone! Unless you’re exceptionally adept at working on the rooftop, it’s advisable that you hire someone who is. The same methods apply, however, if you opt to clean them yourself.
  • How to clean solar panels on garden lights? Same method as the larger panels. Avoid using soap, if possible, and simply clean with water and a soft cloth or sponge.

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