The following four tips are all you need to know about solar panel care and cleaning.
One of the big advantages of solar energy systems is the fact that they require so little care or maintenance. With no moving parts, solar installations undergo very little degradation over time. Engineering.com reports that the life expectancy of solar panels has increased in recent years as the manufacturing process and technology have become more sophisticated. The old rule of thumb used to be that panels would lose 1 percent of their effectiveness with each passing year, but that figure has now substantially decreased to half a percent. Now that solar panels are being made with monocrystalline silicon, they will maintain 92 percent of their efficiency after 20 years.
Inspect Your Solar Panels Regularly
For the most part, solar panels are placed in locations where they are not vulnerable to ground-level damage. However, it’s a good practice to give your panels a close-up inspection from time to time, in order to make sure you’re not losing power due to a buildup of pollen or tree material. The same type of dirt that accumulates on your windows will eventually find its way to your solar panels, so it makes sense to check their cleanliness now and then. Also, in rare instances, solar panels have been known to suffer damage due to extreme hail storms.
Clean and Care for Your Solar Panels
In most cases, rain and weather will take care of keeping your panels clean. This is especially true when solar panels are installed at a steeper tilt, because dust and pollen will typically be washed off with every rainfall. If your panels do happen to acquire an unusually heavy coating of dust or pollen, however, you can easily clean them with plain water and a little mild dish soap or you can just direct the hose spray up to their panels and shower them off, imitating the action of rain.
The main thing to watch out for is any danger of scratching the glass because this can reduce the light that gets to the solar cells. For this reason, when you choose solar panel cleaning products, it’s important to avoid any type of abrasive cleanser. Detergent cleansers can also be problematic because they can leave streaks and smudges that may be hard for you to see. These can also decrease the light that passes through. Rubbing alcohol dissolved in water can take care of any oily residue or other dirt that may have found its way onto the glass. If you’re going to wipe down your panels, you should generally use a soft cloth or squeegee. Since solar panels are made of glass, you don’t need to shop for specialized solar panel care or cleaning tools.
Sun and Shade Monitoring
To maintain maximum effectiveness, your solar panels have to be in the sun for as many hours as possible. When they are installed, they will be placed in a location that gets maximum sun exposure. However, trees can grow over the years and the patterns of sun and shade can change. New construction on adjacent lots may also have an effect on how much sun your installation gets. Because of this, during the lifetime of your panels, it’s important to make sure that they are still located with the best possible sunlight orientation.
Checking Energy Usage
You may not feel that you need to check your own energy usage, since your net metering arrangement with the local utility company will show you how much energy you’re selling back to the grid. The downfall of relying solely on their numbers, however, is that you’re not directly measuring the energy output of your panels. Installing an energy monitor is your most direct way to make sure your entire system is performing correctly.
All of our solar systems allow you to monitor your energy usage. Inverters show your immediate power output as well as some daily and cumulative data.
If you love apps, rest assured that many monitoring devices would provide you with remote data, so you can pick up your phone and check on how your panels are doing at any moment. Various information-gathering and analytic operations can be performed by dedicated data-logging hardware that can be connected to your inverter. These devices may perform the operations internally, or they may send the information to your computer and use its software to provide you with useful charts and logs. The more complex levels of data tracking are certainly not a requirement for maintaining your home solar installation, but many new solar panel owners are fascinated by observing the performance of their systems.