Dust, grime, and dust reduce solar panels’ efficiency by 60%, blocking sunlight from penetrating the panels.
So, if you want your solar panel system to operate optimally, you should regularly clean them. But how should you clean them?
So, do you need to turn off solar panels to clean? It is crucial to turn off solar panels to clean them as it is among the most important safety precautions for cleaning and maintaining solar panels. Solar panels are a system that produces and stores electricity, which means you should be cautious of being wet around them.
What will you learn from this guide?
- A step-by-step guide on cleaning solar panels
- How often should you clean the panels?
- Benefits of cleaning your solar panels regularly.
- A summary of solar panel cleaning equipment
Let’s get into it.
You might also love reading: Can You Charge a Power Bank With a Solar Panel?
How To Shut Down Solar Panels For Cleaning?
Let’s go through the instructions on shutting down solar panels before cleaning.
- Locate the solar panels’ main switch at the switchboard and switch it off.
- If your solar inverter is located away (more than 3 meters) from the switchboard, locate the solar AC isolator switch next to the inverter and turn it off. Disregard this step if the switchboard and the inverter are close to each other (within 3 meters).
- If the inverter and switchboard are close to each other, go to the inverter and identify a DC isolator and PV array switch and turn them off.
- If the inverter has an inverter isolator switch, turn it off. Otherwise, disregard this process if it does not have this switch. After completing the above step, you will notice the solar panel system is completely switched off. Wait for five minutes before you can begin cleaning.
- After the solar panels are dry, begin with step 4 backward to turn on the solar panels (turn on the DC isolator, turn on the AC isolator, and then turn on the main switch).
Practical Tips On Cleaning Solar Panels
So, you have invested a fortune in your solar panel system and are ready to reduce your electricity bill. But how do you care for this investment?
One way is to clean them regularly.
Here are useful tips on how to care for your solar panels.
- Tip 1: Shut down the panel before you begin cleaning.
- Tip 2: Disconnect any rainwater collections
- You probably have a guttering system to collect rainwater. But as you clean the panels, the dust and dirt could enter the tank, thus polluting your water.
- The solution? Disconnect the gutter from the tank to prevent dirty run-off water from entering your tank.
- Tip 3: Clean your solar panels in the morning or late in the evening when they are cool.
- Tip 4: Use soft cleaning materials to avoid scratching and damaging the solar panels’ surface.
Why Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?
Solar panels play a role in converting light into electricity. However, dirt on the surface of the solar panel can decrease how much light is absorbed by that spot, lowering efficiency. Cleaning solar panels improve efficiency and eliminate debris, dust, and other contaminants, including leaves and bugs.
Consider why you should go to great lengths to clean your solar system regularly. Below are the reasons why you should clean your solar panels.
1- Improved Efficiency
When dust, leaves, and debris settle on the solar panels, they prevent sunlight from adequately penetrating the photovoltaic cells. You may realize dirt buildup on the panels when the energy production dwindles with increased sunlight intensity.
The study I mentioned at the outset of this article shows that cleaning commercial sector solar systems regularly can improve their efficiency by up to 60%. That is a huge loss, but you can correct the situation by scheduling solar panel cleaning.
2- Cleaning Your Solar Panels Ensures Durability
Accumulating dust, grime, small debris, and stones can scratch delicate solar panel surfaces and reduce their durability. The little damage to the photovoltaic cells can accumulate and lead to system collapse.
You can avoid early solar panel replacements by cleaning them and removing debris before it is too late. Solar panels should last between 25 and 30 years to generate a positive return on investment; otherwise, an early replacement could be a loss.
3- Cleaning Your Solar Panels Enhances Its Aesthetic Appeal
Who does not love a good-looking roof for their home? A dirty panel roof does not appeal to you and onlookers. This may not provide financial benefits, but neighbors may describe your house with adjectives like “dirty roof.”
Solar panels have reflective surfaces that will increase the aesthetic appeal of your home when cleaned.
4- Cleaning Your Solar Panels Validates Its Warranty
Solar panels have a warranty, but manufacturers and installation companies require that you fulfill specific conditions of use.
Some companies require proof of regular cleaning to help them decide in case of a fault.
A Summary Of Solar Cleaning Equipment
As we discuss why you should shut down solar panels to clean them, let’s briefly outline the important equipment you need.
- A soft brush to help remove loose dust without scratching the panels.
- A garden hose for spraying water to clean or rinse the panels.
- A ladder or harness to climb the roof during the cleaning.
- PPE and safety equipment to avoid unnecessary injuries.
- Solar panel cleaning robots for self-cleaning.
You can read more on solar panel equipment you should have before you start cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions On a Solar Panel Cleaning Procedure
Here are the most frequently asked questions about solar panel cleaning:
What Is The Best Time To Clean My Solar Panels?
Solar panels are best cleaned late in the evening, early in the morning, or during winter seasons. This is because, in the middle of a hot day, you can crack the panels by pouring cold water on them due to a sudden temperature change.
Furthermore, the hot sun shining on the panels can quickly evaporate the cleaning water, leaving dirty marks.
However, cool weather in the morning or during winter is an ideal time to clean the panels using less water and energy.
Is Rainwater Enough To Clean My Solar Panels?
Rain is a natural cleanser, but rainwater alone is not enough to remove all dirt from your panels.
Sometimes after a long drought, rainwater alone may not remove all the accumulated dust on the panels. You will need to climb on the roof and do the cleaning yourself.
However, ensure you have turned off the panel for safety before you do so. You could also use a voltmeter to ensure no current is running through the system when you are about to clean.
Can I Get Electrocuted When Cleaning Solar Panels?
Solar panels generate electricity which can electrocute you if it is not shut down when cleaning. Although there is a limited chance of this happening, there is still a likelihood. No one will love to experience electricity running through our nervous system on the roof!
Your body can act as “earth,” allowing electricity to flow through you. And because solar panel cells generate direct current, it can be dangerous that you think if it gets hold of you. You may not pull away from the shock, leading to a fatal accident. This is not to scare you; it encourages you to always shut the solar system down before cleaning.
What About The Inverter? Will It Not Kill This Electricity?
An inverter is among the most critical elements in a solar energy system. An inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity generated by a solar panel to alternating current (AC) electricity used by the electrical grid (Source: Office of Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy)
No, the inverter is a system that aids electricity storage, not production. Power from the panels can electrocute you before it is converted to AC.
How Often Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?
I would say it depends on where you have installed the solar panels. For instance, if you live near abundant vegetation and trees, you could clean the panels twice a year.
But if you live in a place with lots of dust or a construction area, you could clean the panels quarterly to remove dust and debris buildup. Allowing soil, grime, calcium, silica, and limestone to accumulate on the panels will significantly reduce their performance.
What to read next:
- How Many Solar Panels to Run a House Off-Grid? (This many!)
- How to Get Solar Panels from Government for Free?
- How to Use Solar Panels During Power Outage?
So, should you switch off solar panels before cleaning them? Yes. Shutting down the solar panels before cleaning enhances safety. The panels produce direct current, and electricity may electrocute you if you start washing without turning off the system.
And you know how direct current is dangerous, especially if the sun is intense and a lot of energy is produced. Follow the procedure outlined at the onset when shutting down your solar panel system, and you will be safe. Clean solar panels are more efficient and make your roof appealing.