How Often Do I Need to Clean My Solar Panels?
There is no standard time frame for cleaning your solar panels, as it largely depends on your geographic location. The average solar panel owner will need to clean their panels only once or twice a year. Set a reminder on your calendar to check your solar panels seasonally to evaluate the debris and see if it is time for a cleaning.
There are a few exceptions to this general maintenance guideline. If you live near a freeway or airport, oil and pollutants can build up on your panels, meaning they will require more frequent cleaning. In a cold-weathered climate, you’ll want to keep your panels clear of snow during winter, and in desert climates, you may need to clean your panels after storms or strong winds to remove dirt, dust, and sand.
How Do I Clean Solar Panels?
You have a couple options for cleaning your panels: you can hire a professional, or you can do it yourself.
If you want a professional to handle the cleaning, first contact your solar panel company to see if they offer cleaning services. Even if they do not, they may be able to recommend a cleaning service familiar with your panel type.
Alternately, if you want to save some money — and you can safely access your array — you can clean the panels yourself. This process is a bit more involved, so follow these solar panel cleaning tips:
- Contact your solar panel manufacturer or consult your manual for any specific recommendations or warnings prior to the cleaning. Some systems may require you to power down before cleaning as a safety precaution.
- Put safety first. Watch your footing and avoid stepping on any cords or panels. If your array is on your roof, use safety restraints.
- Wait for an overcast morning or evening to clean your panels. If the sun is high, water will quickly evaporate and leave marks.
- Clean water, a towel or sponge, and a good scrubbing will remove most dirt buildup. Use small circular strokes to loosen the dirt and hose it off with water.
- For stubborn stains, you can use a gentle cleanser, like dish soap. You may want to use a natural brand that will not harm grass or shrubs when it runs off the array.
- Never use harsh cleaning supplies, abrasive scrubbers, or pressure washers, as they can damage your panels.
- If your water is hard, use soft water as a final rinse, and squeegee the panels dry to avoid calcium deposits.
Caring for Your Solar Panels in All Seasons
Solar panels require very little regular maintenance. Generally, any failures that do occur are related to electricity production or corrosion in the wires that tie your system to the inverter, rather than with the panels themselves.
Remember, though, that solar panels produce electricity only if the sun is shining directly on them. Any obstructions from dust, snow, or vegetation will cut into your production—or halt electricity generation altogether. If you live in an especially dusty area or an area that experiences regular snowfall, keeping your panels clean and unobstructed will result in more power generation.
Electrical Component Care in All Seasons
The wiring that ties your solar panels to your home should last for the life of your system. The best way to avoid any electrical issues is to go with an experienced and certified installer. Expert installers know where systems commonly fail and will avoid poor wiring that could result in water exposure or other issues that might halt your production.
Many modern systems also come with real-time system monitoring, so you should be alerted to any electrical issues fairly quickly. These monitoring systems usually output data to the web or an app on your smartphone. You can check the production totals of each individual panel. This is useful for quickly spotting any “dead” panels that are not producing electricity, either due to a problem with the panel itself or—more likely—the connection between the panel and the inverter. Any time you notice an unexpected loss in electricity production, you should contact your solar installer to come do an inspection of the wiring.
A Note on Safety
Most solar systems are tied to the electrical grid, making any maintenance potentially hazardous. Never attempt to repair any component of your solar system yourself. The Solar ABCs recommends any solar maintenance be conducted in pairs by trained technicians, with two CPR-trained professionals at the jobsite at any time.3 This requirement highlights the danger in working with electrical systems and the importance of hiring an installer with the certifications to conduct maintenance down the road.
More than anything, consider your own personal safety when cleaning your solar panels. Almost all reputable installers will be happy to put you in touch with a cleaning service that can do the job professionally.
With proper maintenance at set intervals, frequent visual inspections, and regular cleaning of your panels, you should experience relatively problem-free ownership for decades. Be sure to look at the track record of your solar installer to ensure they will take care of your solar system for the extent of its productive life. Well-established solar companies with experience, certifications, and local knowledge are the best choices for your installation.
Your solar energy system is an investment that you want to keep in good condition. Solar panels require little maintenance, but a regular cleaning can help ensure your system is working at its maximum potential.