Solar panels are an excellent investment both financially and environmentally.
Once you install solar panels they will continue to be both low-cost and eco-friendly for up to 30 years.
But do you need to maintain solar panels?
It's a valid question and one that comes up frequently.
In general, solar panels require very little maintenance to function effectively. Most solar systems stay clean without maintenance. An average amount of annual rainfall is often effective in washing the panels. However, there are some cases and situations where you may want to clean or do maintenance on your solar panels.
In this article, we'll provide answers to all your questions on solar panels maintenance.
How do you maintain solar panels?
Solar panels can benefit from periodic light cleaning. Periodic cleaning is usually only necessary if your solar panels were not initially installed on a tilt. If they are on a tilt, natural washing from the rain is usually adequate.
An annual inspection or cleaning may be required if the panels aren’t tilted, or you live in an area like the outback where there is lots of dust and very little rain.
In those cases, occasional cleaning is necessary to remove dirt, leaves, and other debris that may be obstructing the sun's rays. Solar panels maintenance could be done by a professional whenever you get your gutters cleared from leaves and similar debris.
Cleaning After Snow
After a period of heavy snowfall, your solar panels may need more extensive winter maintenance. You should check your panels after heavy snow. If you're using water to clear the snow off a roof which has solar panels installed, you should ensure the water is lukewarm. Never use hot water when clearing snow off the solar panels. Solar panels are made using tempered glass, and the extreme temperature disparity can crack them.
Often, the danger that comes from climbing your roof to maintain your panels is not worth the risk of cleaning the panels. The benefit gained by cleaning is low compared to the value of your safety.
If you're having your roof or gutters professionally cleaned, that is an excellent time to have your panels cleared of debris or bird droppings as well. In most cases, you should avoid doing this DIY yourself, as ladder injuries are extremely common.
You could consider giving your panels a light cleaning using a hose while standing on the ground. You only need to do this if you can see visible dirt or bird droppings and if it hasn't rained in a while. However, you should only use a standard garden hose, be aware that attempting to clean roof-mounted panels with a pressure washer or water blaster may void the warranty on specific arrays.
Ground panels vs. roof panels: Is there a maintenance difference?
When choosing between ground and roof panels, the question of maintenance is likely to come up.
Ground-mounted solar panels are free-standing; they can be installed anywhere on your property. Rooftop-mounted panels are always attached to your roof. Both options have unique benefits, but ground-mounted panels are the easier option when it comes to maintenance.
Ground-mounted solar panels are naturally easier to maintain because they are easier to access. Accessing rooftop mounted panels often poses a serious risk to your safety.
Although easier to access, ground-mounted panels may need more regular inspection. A ground-mounted array owner may need to check and maintain their panels more regularly during cold and snowy weather. You should keep the area around your panel's base clear, as new snow will only be able to slide off the panels if the area below is clear.
How does extreme weather impact your solar panels?
The glass used in solar panels can take a serious beating before breaking, but changes in temperature can impact it. Most solar panels can withstand the impact of rain, snow, and hail. It's extremely uncommon but not unheard of for freak weather to damage your solar panels. However, most solar panels can easily last 25 to 30 years.
How can I tell if my solar system needs maintenance?
How do you know if your solar panels need maintenance? That's a good question, and one you can answer through several methods.
Energy output is one of the key indicators your solar system needs maintenance. You may notice that your system is producing less energy than the installer told you it would. If your solar panels are delivering a -5% solar output, it may be a sign they need maintenance.
Your electricity bill might also have you wondering about your panel efficiency. If you’ve noticed a sudden unexplained increase in your electricity costs it may be a sign your solar panels aren’t working as efficiently as they should be. However, seasonal weather changes can also affect your solar output, so your electricity bill isn't always a reliable source in determining your system's energy production.
Simply looking at your solar panels is often an excellent way to gauge whether there's a problem. Can you see a lot of bird droppings, sap, dust, leaves, or other debris building up? Do you see any signs of deamination or plastic peeling? These are indicators the panels are not in good shape and need some maintenance.
You can also check your inverter to determine if your system needs maintenance. Look at the light color on the box during daylight hours when the system should be running.
A green light indicates the system is functioning correctly. A red or orange flashing flight during daylight hours means there's a fault. In this situation, look for an error code on display and call your installer.
Solar Panel Maintenance Cost
The cost of professional solar panel maintenance in Australia ranges from $150 – $330 when done annually. However, your exact maintenance quote will depend on the type and number of solar panels you have installed. The panel's condition and where they were installed will also affect the cost. In residential homes, roof panels are more common and more difficult to access so the cost of labor to clean these are usually higher.
Overall, maintaining your solar panels is pretty easy and straightforward. With some low maintenance and light cleaning, you can keep your panels free of debris and dirt, especially if you live in an area with mild winter weather. With low-level maintenance, your solar panels will continue to operate at peak efficiency for years to come.