Solar Panel Maintenance and Aftercare
- What solar panel maintenance looks like
- Average solar panel cleaning cost
- Options for solar panel repair
Has solar panel maintenance ever crossed your mind? Fortunately, they are designed to be relatively maintenance free, but there are ways of making sure they last for many years and perform at their best, even past their warranty of 25 years. A clean solar panel is a happy one, and maintaining them is much less effort and cost than solar panel repair.
Aftercare is an important part of any purchase, especially with technology. This article will guide you through the important points of solar panel maintenance and how to make sure they are generating the most amount of electricity. You will also see costs you can expect to pay for professional cleaning. Find out how to properly take care of your solar panels.
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Do Solar Panels Clean Themselves?
Yes and no. Usually, rainfall does all the hard work for you in keeping solar cells clean. Irrespective of the solar panel price, they are finished with a hydrophobic coating that repels water. The angle they are also installed at allows for rain to keep them clean, while the water-repellent coating stops raindrops from sticking to the surface.
Any dirt that builds up tends to be collected by rainfall and dragged off the panel, but sometimes rainfall isn’t enough. It’s the same logic that applies to your car. You wouldn’t solely rely on rainwater to wash off pollen and caked on dirt. The benefit of solar panel maintenance makes sure that your panels are not only clean, but in perfect working order too. With no moving parts, keeping them clean is a simple job.
Why Do Dirty Solar Panels Matter?
During long periods of dry weather, excessive dirt can build up on photovoltaic (PV) systems. This can also be the case if you live in a particularly sandy or dusty area, or one that sees excess pollen. Wind can settle dirt on the surface of your solar panels, which will then require cleaning. Solar panel maintenance is an ongoing task.
In other situations, bird droppings can block your solar panels and reduce their efficiency. Up to 85% of a solar panel’s performance can be lost with an excessive build-up of external materials. This is one of the reasons why solar panel maintenance is essential. Lower efficiencies mean less energy production, and a lower saving for your electricity bills or exporting rates.
To put this into perspective, you can see how power output of heavily soiled solar panels is reduced against their yearly potential in the interactive graph below.
Further Scientific Research
To highlight how important solar panel maintenance is, there has also been research into the damage airborne pollution is capable of. This can reduce efficiencies in solar panels by up to 25%. If left for a few weeks, a build-up of pollution can noticeably reduce how much energy is produced. The study found that about 8% of the dirt on solar panels was produced by human pollution, which was even more effective at blocking sunlight.
“We always knew these pollutants were bad for human health and climate change, but now we’ve shown how bad they are for solar energy as well. It’s yet another reason for policymakers worldwide to adopt emissions controls.”
Michael Bergin - Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University
Of course, the dirt cleaned during solar panel maintenance in this study is an extreme example. The key takeaway is that the environment in which you live has a great impact on how dirty your solar panels can get.
Solar Panel Maintenance
Maintenance for solar panels is split into a few categories, and aftercare is one of them. Carrying out regular visual inspections of your system is a good habit to get into as it can determine if they need attention. You can also monitor your generation meter to see if you notice a dip in energy production. Failing that, an annual service from a professional could be ideal, but it won’t be a substitute for ongoing solar panel maintenance.
You should check the readings of your solar panel system frequently to make sure they are producing as much electricity as you expect. The most amount of solar power is produced in the summer months, when optimal conditions are met. Before resorting to solar panel maintenance and cleaning, check your MCS certificate for the estimated figure for energy generation. An issue could be present if your actual readings aren’t close to what’s expected.
As well as checking the certificate, you should visually inspect the panels for any dirt. Sometimes lichen and moss can grow around the edges, which reduces their efficiency.
You should also check for any damage, such as cracks or splits, and whether any birds might be nesting underneath them. Solar panel maintenance kicks in if anything is wrong. This can involve installing wire mesh or bird spikes.
How often you need to clean your solar panels really depends on where you live and how frequently they get dirty. Regular solar panel maintenance can cut down on the amount of times you need to perform a deep clean. You may be able to simply hose them down to remove any new dirt and debris instead. Periods of heavy rainfall could effectively do this for you.
You may be tempted to clean your solar panels yourself to save money, but there are dangers to this. Working at height, especially on a roof, requires the correct equipment and knowledge to be safe. Roof tiles can become slippery during the process of cleaning, so proper care should be taken. Solar panel maintenance undertaken by yourself should avoid abrasive cleaning materials as this can damage the surface, irreversibly damaging their efficiency.
Professional solar panel maintenance can save a lot of headache, as industry experts have the correct tools for the job. They also have the knowledge about how to clean solar panels efficiently and properly. You can ensure your solar panels last for many years to come with regular solar panel maintenance, whether you inspect them weekly or monthly
Professional Solar Panel Cleaning Cost
Accurate figures for professional solar panel maintenance depend on where in the UK you live, as well as how big your solar array is. If your panels are easy to get to, such as on the ground floor, the costs will be lower. Any installations above one storey will be more expensive, as scaffolding will need to be fitted.
As an average, you can expect a single panel to cost between £4 and £15 to clean. On the cheaper end of the scale, 40 panels at ground floor height will be around £80, while anything above one storey can be around £225. You can see typical prices for solar panel maintenance, according to Checkatrade, in the graph below.
For an accurate estimate, you should get in touch with a professional in your area. They will inform you how much it would cost to get your solar panels serviced.
How Frequently Should Panels Be Professionally Cleaned?
Some companies will recommend that solar panel maintenance in the way of cleaning is done every six months or so, but it really depends on how dirty your panels get. Areas prone to heavy dust and dirt should be cleaned more frequently, while other areas can get away with a deep clean once a year.
Since solar panels produce the most amount of electricity during the summer months, it makes sense to clean off heavy soiling in the spring. The summer can present its own problems, as plants shed pollen that may build up thickly on the surface. This should be cleaned off regularly.
If you keep on top of solar panel maintenance, you should be able to rinse clean your panels at intervals between any professional cleaning job. This way, you can ensure the efficiency of your system is as good as it can be. Alternatively, telescopic brushes can be used from the ground.
Solar Panel Repair and Replacement
If you notice a damaged panel during any routine solar panel maintenance, they can be repaired or replaced. PV systems have been designed to be repaired with relative ease, without having to completely replace the whole installation. You will have to check your documentation before you send a panel off to be repaired as third parties could void any warranty.
Panels that need to be replaced or repaired will be highlighted during any routine inspection. A professional undergoing checks during solar panel maintenance can advise on your best options, depending on what the issue is with the system.
Solar Panel Inverter
The inverter is perhaps the most temperamental component to any solar panel system. More often than not, an inverter will be the cause of any issues you might have. As the inverter is constantly changing direct current (DC) from the solar panels into useable alternating current (AC), it wears down quickly. This means they only last around 10 years, so will need to be replaced several times over the course of the lifetime of your solar system.
In terms of solar panel maintenance, an inverter can suffer from overheating or various faults. Sometimes, if an inverter is not responding or restarting, a technician will need to be called out to resolve the issue. Most inverter issues cannot be sorted yourself, so downtime needs to be minimised to reduce the energy production lost from your solar PV system.
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Now that you know all about solar panel maintenance and how to look after your system, why not use the button below to see how much you’d pay for going solar? You’ll be put in touch with local MCS accredited installers who will give you competitive quotes.