One of the most asked questions on the maintenance of solar panels is how to clean solar panels!
When dirt and debris start accumulating on the module, the sun rays start blocking out, and they don’t reach the PV cells; finally, the energy output of a solar panel decreases. To keep the energy efficiency of the PV cell healthy, you need to keep your solar panel clean.
So, how do I clean my solar panel? You can find many different ways to clean up the solar panels, but the best and easy way is to use a soft brush, distilled water, and dish shop.
Soiling on solar panels can cause a loss of almost 30% per year, and therefore, we need to remove the accumulated dust, debris, and bird droppings regularly.
If you fail to remove the accumulated dust from the solar panels, gradually it starts accumulation on solar cells (PV) which can lead to 2-3% of loss annually.
Therefore, you need to understand why and when to clean your solar panels. In this article, we will provide you with various tips that would make your cleaning processes easy.
But before getting into the cleaning processes, I would like to introduce some things you need to do before!
Things To Do Before Cleaning
There are certain things you need to keep in mind before you start playing with your cleaning tools. The use of water and soap might harm your solar panel if not done correctly.
Stop the Power of Solar Panel / Turn it Off.
Stopping the flow of DC (Direct Current) is the first thing you need to do before you start your cleaning process. You can find the Turn OFF switch in the combiner box.
Before thinking of how you can damage your solar panel, think of how could you keep yourself safe while cleaning?
Make sure that your junction box is not filled with water or there is any naked wire while the DC is flowing through your solar panel as it can damage your solar panel.
According to the NEC 2017, every house in the United States must have a rapid shutdown system installed inside the house. This rapid shutdown system slowly cuts down the current flowing through the PV system.
So, if you have a rapid shutdown system installed in your home press the “RED” button, it automatically stops the voltage flow.
Clean with Sponge or Soft brush
Using the right cleaning equipment is one of the fundamental ways to keep the performance of the solar panel up to the mark. However, every solar panel is equipped with hard tempered glass to keep the solar cells protected but using an abrasive material can generate scratches on the glass and slowly the performance and efficiency will go down.
Do you want this to happen with your solar panel?
Use a soft brush or sponge to clean your solar panel when it is placed on the ground when it is installed on the roof use a soft brush with a long extension to clean easily from the ground.
Use distilled water
Distilled water doesn’t contain any minerals, so the chances of mineral deposits on the module are eliminated.
Using mineral-rich water is recommended by the module manufacturers as they don’t go hand in hand with the tempered glass used on the solar plates.
So, use a hose to filter the minerals from the water if you don’t have access to distilled water or de-ionized water.
Use of Abrasive material for solar panel cleaning
Most of the time when we talk about mild soap, homeowners figure out that they can use detergents too, but that’s not right!
It would be best if you had dishwashing soap and water to clean the panel. The laundry detergents are made for many different purposes which can lead to delamination of the solar cells and would damage the panel permanently.
Use water with different temperatures.
Leave solar panel manufacturers’ recommendations, anyone who knows a little science won’t recommend you to use water with different temperatures to clean your solar panels. The changes in water temperature can crack the tempered glass that protects the silicon cells.
So, use the water with ambient temperature and clean in the morning time as solar panels module temperature would be lower.
High-pressure water cleaning
High-pressure water cleaning is undoubtedly amazing for other cleaning purposes, but it is not for solar panels.
Cleaning through high-pressure water might let water enter the junction box or water may get into detachable cables that can cause damage to the whole system.
It is recommended to use a hose and keep the pressure below 40 bar if using high-pressure cleaning.
Never walk on Modules.
Yes, there is no doubt that solar panels are made secure, and they can withstand sands, storms, snow, and many other elements. But at the same time, you should not check how strong they are by walking over them.
If you walk on the modules, your weight and pressure can cause damage to the solar cells on the micro-level and finally decline the performance.
Apart from all this, walking on solar panels can also be slippery as the above surface is made of glass and is very smooth, we also use water and soap mix to clean which increases the chances of falling.
So, be careful if you don’t want a solar panel to be dangerous for you.
Read instructions provided by the Manufacturer.
Each manufacturer designs and manufactures the panels in their way, and therefore, they understand their product better.
The manuals come with the product, or you can get them online on the internet. Use the instructions provided on them as they are always the best person to give instructions for their products.
Simple, easy steps to clean solar panels
Always start the cleaning process in the morning.
The first you need to do is to stop DC from going to the modules by pushing the rapid shutdown button. You can also disconnect the DC connector from the combiner box.
Take some distilled water and mild soap and create a mix.
Grab a soft brush and start your cleaning processes.
Once water and soap mix is applied to the panels, wash them by using a low-pressure hose.
Now, let the modules dry (40-45 minutes).
Once the modules get dry, turn On the DC supply.
There are some cleaning products (Polywater) available in the market that are specially made for solar panel cleaning. You can also find solar panel cleaning kits made and designed in such a way that you can clean them from a safe distance.
Polywater is designed in such a way that its water pressure causes no harm to the solar panel.
What You Should Never Do….
Never use acidic or alcoholic solution that can corrode the modules.
Clean it with a sponge or soft cloth but never submerge the panel into the water.
Multiple electrical cleaners can guarantee the solar panel cleaning but never use those electrical ones as they can cause more bad than good.
When the modules are dry, please don’t scrub the dirt.
Rotating brushes can cause micro-level damage, so avoid them.
Cleaning of the solar panels is a straightforward process that enhances the performance of solar panels with high efficiency when done regularly.
Always make sure that you are not doing this alone as many things need to be taken care of like stopping the DC, checking the wires and cables, delamination, or burns.
The manufacturers never recommend climbing the roof to clean the solar panels nor do I. Use moveable stairs or use a long extension to clean it from the ground only.