How To Clean Your Solar Panels The Best Way

Bright blue solar panels

Solar panels are a great way to save money on your energy bill and do your part for the environment. But like any other home appliance, solar panels require some cleaning in order to function correctly.

Here’s how you can clean your solar panels so they stay functioning.

How To Clean Your Solar Panels The Best Way

Before You Start Cleaning Solar Panels

Safety First

  • Turn off your solar panel system before doing any cleaning. Solar panels are a home electrical system and it doesn’t mix well with water
  • The safest option is to clean solar panels from the ground using extension tools. Taller homes may require getting on the roof
  • Follow all ladder safety precautions if using one, and wear a harness and other safety gear, including gloves and goggles

Materials You’ll Need For Solar Panel Cleaning

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Harness (if necessary)
  • Ladder (if required)
  • Solar panel cleaning kit, which can include a water hose, a brush, and a squeegee
  • Water hose or garden hose
  • A soft brush or soft cloth 
  • Squeegee or sponge
  • Bucket

The Solar Panel Cleaning Process

Blue house with solar panels on the roof

1. Check The Output With A Multimeter

Once you’ve determined that it’s time for a cleaning, the next step is to measure the output of your system before you start. This will give you a baseline to work from so you can tell if your solar panel cleaning made a difference.

The easiest way to do this is with a multimeter. Just attach the leads to your solar panel system’s positive and negative terminals and take a reading. Write down this number so that you can compare it after you’ve finished cleaning.

2. Remove Debris

Start by removing any large debris, such as leaves or twigs, with a brush or cloth. This can include dirt, dust, bird droppings, and anything else that isn’t part of your solar system. Be careful not to brush or scrub too hard because you can damage the panels.

You don’t want to start cleaning solar panels by rinsing them because this can mix debris in with the water and cause smearing.

3. Rinse Off

Gently spray down the panels with water from your garden hose. This will help loosen any dirt or debris clinging to the panel’s surface. 

Next, apply a small amount of soap to a squeegee or sponge and gently wipe down the panel in circular motions. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this could damage the panel’s surface. 

Rinse off the soap with water from your garden hose and dry the panel with a clean towel or cloth. 

Repeat these steps for each panel until they’re all clean!

4. Scrub Difficult Areas

How to clean your solar panels can involve repeatedly rinsing and gently scrubbing. You may have to use a mild solvent made for solar panels if you can’t remove the blockage.

5. Re-rinse

Thoroughly rinse the panels clear of any soap residue. Any leftover residue will block the sun, and too much can negatively impact your panel’s efficiency.

6. Check The Output Again

Check your solar panel’s output and compare it with the first reading. It should be producing between 2% and 3% more power.

Tips For Cleaning Solar Panels

Wait for a cloudy day. It’s best to wait for a cloudy day so the panels aren’t too hot. This will make cleaning them much more comfortable for you and prevent any accidental damage.

Cleaning your solar system starts with a visual inspection. Before you get out the hose, look closely at your panels and see if there is any obvious dirt or debris that could be easily removed by hand. Things like leaves and twigs can all be removed without getting too wet.

How To Tell When Your Solar Panels Need Cleaning

Brick home with solar panels on the roof.

Your Electricity Bill Has Spiked

If you’ve noticed that your electricity bills have gone up even though your energy usage hasn’t changed, it could be a sign that your solar panels need to be cleaned. When dirt and debris accumulate on your panels, they prevent sunlight from being absorbed as efficiently. As a result, your system has to work harder to produce the same amount of power, which uses more electricity and drives up your bills.

Your Panels Look Dirty

This one might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If your panels are visibly dirty, it’s probably time for solar panel system cleaning. Even if they don’t look dirty to the naked eye, they may still have a build-up of grime that’s affecting their performance. In general, it’s a good idea to clean your panels at least once a year to prevent any accumulation of dirt and debris.

Your Panels Are Underperforming

If you’ve noticed that your system isn’t producing as much power as it used to, it could be due to dirty panels. As we mentioned before, when grime builds up on your panels, it prevents sunlight from being absorbed properly. This can lead to reduced power production and decreased efficiency. Suppose you think your panels might be underperforming. In that case, it’s worth doing some troubleshooting to see if cleaning them makes a difference.

Your Location And Solar Panel Cleaning

Cleaning your solar panels needs to happen more often if you live in an area with high air pollution levels. Your panels will get dirty more quickly than if you live in a clean-air environment. That’s because the pollutants in the air will settle on the surface of the panels, blocking sunlight from reaching the solar cells and reducing the panel’s output. Depending on the severity of the pollution, you may need to clean your panels as often as once a week.

If you live near the ocean, salt spray can also shorten the lifespan of your solar panels. The salt corrodes the metal components of the panel and eventually leads to leaks. If you live near the coast, an essential part of cleaning your solar panels is to rinse your panels with fresh water every few weeks to remove any salt build-up.

If you have trees nearby, falling leaves can also reduce the amount of sunlight reaching your solar cells. While you can’t control when or where leaves fall, you can blow them off of your panels as needed to keep them clean.

Common Solar Panel Blockers

Leaves And Other Yard Debris

One of the most common blockages that cause the need for solar panel cleaning is leaves and other yard debris. Suppose you have trees or bushes near your solar panels. In that case, it’s important to regularly trim them back to prevent leaves and twigs from falling on your panels and blocking the sun.

Bird Droppings

Another common blockage of solar panels is bird droppings. If you have birds roosting on or near your solar panels, their droppings can quickly build up and block the sun from reaching your panels. To prevent this, you can install bird netting around your solar panels. You should also check your panels regularly for bird droppings and clean them off as needed.

Snow And Ice

In cold weather climates, part of cleaning your solar panel system involves dealing with snow and ice. If snow or ice builds up on your panels, it can block the sun and prevent your system from working properly. To prevent this, you can install a heating element on your solar panels that will melt any snow or ice that accumulates on your panels. You should also check your panels regularly during cold weather to ensure they are free of snow and ice.

The Importance Of Professional Solar Panel System Cleaning

Solar panels in a backyard.

While you could clean your panels yourself, leaving them to the professionals is really best. Cleaning solar panels requires using special equipment and solutions designed specifically for cleaning solar panels without damaging them.

Plus, solar panel professionals have the experience and expertise to clean your panels quickly and efficiently. Professionals are recommended if your house is taller than a single story.

How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned?

Ideally, you should clean your solar panels at least once or twice a year. However, if you live in an area with a lot of dust or pollution, you may need to have them cleaned more often. It would be best if you also had them inspected after any severe weather event, as debris can damage your panels and reduce their efficiency.

Measuring Your Solar Systems Output Before And After

Measuring your solar panel performance before and after your solar panel cleaning project is important. The difference in energy production allows you to tell if you’ve cleaned the panels enough.

Get Your Solar Panels Installed Using Blue Sky Electric

Solar panels are a great way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment. Still, they need to be properly cleaned and maintained in order to work their best.

Blue Sky Electric can help install solar panels for your home and keep them running smoothly so you can start saving money on your energy bill immediately. Please fill out our contact form today, and one of our experts will be in touch to discuss your options for getting started with solar power.