Clean solar panels improve efficiency

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Should I clean my roof-mounted solar panels?

The usual recommendation for clean solar panels is once a year. Cleaning roof-mounted solar panels might vary for conditions. Most installers agree that clean solar panels are more efficient. Some areas are especially dusty, or there are many trees and birds. The situation might demand cleaning the panels more regularly than annually. A regular visual check from the ground will usually be sufficient to see if the glass needs cleaning.

One place where litter tends to get trapped is under the top solar panel edge. The top space between the roof and the top side mountings can capture twigs and leaves. That work is roof cleaning rather than panel cleaning. Leaf debris can blow onto the roof can get caught under or on the mounting brackets. Leaves caught between the panels and the roof can become a roof maintenance problem. Some leaf debris may become attached to the glass of the panel and start to decay. Birds can make a mess of the glass. Dried bird poop will be difficult to remove unless it rains soon after the targeted drop.

How to clean my roof-mounted panels?

Use warm soapy water, a toothbrush and a micro-fibre cloth to remove bird deposits. The same method can be used for leaf litter that has stuck to the glass. There may be a build-up of dirt along the bottom edge of the panels. It’s best to clean the glass surface of the solar panels in the morning. The glass surfaces of the solar panel are cooler from the lower night temperatures in the early morning.

Rapidly cooling the hot glass surface of a solar panel by cleaning it risks glass cracking. Another time for cooler roof access is the early evening after the sun is low. Take care that you are not doing this cleaning work on slopes after sunset. There is greater risk of slipping and falling when working on the roof in the dark. Try using slightly warm temperate water with soap, a soft cloth and a soft brush that won’t scratch the glass.

The roof slope and solar panels maintenance

Cleaning solar panels set on a roof pitched at a steep angle is a dangerous task. It’s not going to be easy to do the cleaning manually. Use a proper restraint and anchoring system to ensure you don’t fall from the roof. Maybe consider using a pressure washer with soapy water to clean the panels. The water pressure from a cleaner doesn’t affect glass sprayed on a car at a close distance. Activate the pressure washer from the safety of a scaffold built to the height of the roof. The solar panels are robust. Cleaning with a pressure cleaner and soapy water will not affect them. A pressure washer probably isn’t going to do the cleaning job as well as a close contact wash. Washing with warm soapy water, a sponge or cloth and a small brush is very effective.

The safety aspect of inspecting and cleaning

A flat roof with tilted mountings won’t have those safety hazards. It will be no problem to inspect and clean solar panels from a flat roof. Remember that the panels are live while the sun is shining. On a flat roof or a ground-mounted system, you can safely access the glass on panels to clean them. The job of cleaning is still safe if you work on them after sunset. For much of the year, solar panels will be cleaned by wind and rain.

The annual clean provides you with an opportunity to inspect the panels and wiring attachments. The job of cleaning, inspecting the glass and the checking wiring check could be done by a contractor. Some consider job the risky, complex and needing personal safety equipment. The Contractor will clean the panels and check the panels. They will look for cracks, burnt spots, chewed insulation on wiring and loose mounting brackets during their inspection.

Monitoring output of solar panels

The panel orientation and location affect the clean condition of the exposed glass surface. The location of the array relative to sun, rain and prevailing wind will affect efficiency. The cleanliness of any glass surface exposed to the environment will vary over time. During inclement weather the rain will help clean solar panels. In dry areas pollen or dust from agriculture or mining may be temporary. Regular rain or hosing could be enough for cleaning them. A system with MPPT inverters and smart metering will permit you to know if the output is changing over time. Another way to check efficiency is to regularly look at the energy output. Compare that figure observed with the panel output at commissioning.

Sometimes you won’t see any change in the energy production after cleaning. A likely explanation is that the atmospheric dirt on the glass was not significant. The upshot of that news is good. You can increase the times between panel cleaning.

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