The cost of living crisis has seen a rapid increase in energy costs, with nine out of ten homes feeling the financial squeeze. Finding an alternative to supplement your energy bill is welcomed, such as installing solar and photovoltaic panels to heat your boiler’s water.
However, installing and owning solar panels is a significant investment. But if you can start investing in a smarter and greener future, there’s no better time.
According to The Independent, solar panels in the UK could save you up to £1,190 every year – nearly £30,000 over the lifespan of your panels.
Be aware that solar panels must work with an inverter, which converts the power generated from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). DC does not work with your home’s appliances, which is why you need to convert it into AC.
Also, you may need to get council permission to install the panels. However, solar can save you money and decrease your carbon footprint.
But if you’re considering investing so much cash to install solar panels, you will also want to maintain them properly, and that means cleaning.
Do Solar Panels Need Cleaning?
Yes, solar panels do require cleaning. This is done to maintain their optimal efficiency and performance. The accumulation of dirt, dust, bird droppings, leaves, and other debris on the surface of solar panels will stop the panels from absorbing sunlight, which they convert into electricity.
Solar panels and photovoltaic panels differ slightly, with the latter converting thermal energy into electricity and solar utilising the sun’s radiation. Both, however, work better when exposed directly to the sun.
To reduce the frequency of cleaning your solar panels and ensure they run at an optimum level, you should do the following when planning where to install them:
Install Panels At An Angle
Installing your solar panels at an angle rather than just flat is essential. This allows rainwater to wash away dust and debris, and the correct angle and placement can increase efficiency.
For homes in the UK, you want your solar panels facing due south. As a rule of thumb, the geographical latitude will determine the angle at which your solar system should be installed. For example, Cardiff, Wales, is at a latitude of 51 degrees north, which means you will want your panels at the same angle.
A poorly angled solar can generate around 20% less energy annually.
So, while solar panels will generate power if installed facing any direction, select the best location to get your money’s worth from them sooner.
Trim Trees And Consider A Location Away From Dust
As mentioned, you want to keep your solar panels clear of dirt, dust, and debris. This means ensuring your trees' leaves don’t fall and gather on your panels and that they are installed in a location that isn’t affected by excessive pollutants.
Another route is to purchase solar panels that utilise specific technology that deals with these issues.
Invest in Coating and Anti-Soiling Technology
Some solar panel companies offer new technologies that allow the coatings to be hydrophobic (allows water to flow) and anti-soiling (doesn’t let dirt stick). These coatings mean that the surface of your solar panels stay clean and clear.
However, while there are constant advancements and steps you can take, you will need to clean your solar panels eventually, so how often is this required?
How Often Do Solar Panels Need Cleaning?
As you can imagine, how often you need to clean your solar panels will depend on several factors. As mentioned, these include:
- Weather conditions: if it rains a lot, your panels will be clear of light dust
- Dust levels
- Pollution in the region
- Whether the panels have been installed at the correct angle
- And trees
It’s always important to do regular visual inspections. If you notice a significant reduction in energy production or see a visible layer of dirt on the panels, cleaning the surface is a good idea.
Some systems will have a monitoring tool informing you about a drop in energy production, which can be attributed to dirty panels.
Ultimately, the best approach is to monitor your solar panels regularly and adjust the cleaning frequency based on the specific conditions in your location.
So, when the time does come, what equipment will you need to clean your solar panels?
What Equipment Will I Need?
Cleaning your solar panels is a simple task requiring basic equipment. However, you will want to be safe as you will most likely be on a roof.
Make sure that you take the following with you up the ladder:
Soft Brushes or Sponges
You don’t want to use anything abrasive. When cleaning your panels, gently scrub away dirt and debris. Alternatively, you can use a microfiber cloth.
Also, consider using a soft bristle brush to remove loose debris.
Hose or Water Source
As you can imagine, you must wet the panels and rinse away loosened dirt. We’d highly recommend having a hose to blast away the dirt and soap sods.
If a hose is unavailable, a bucket of water and a soft cloth or sponge can always be used.
Only Use Mild Detergent
Strong detergents can sometimes damage the coating on your solar panels. So rather, use mild detergents to break down any stubborn dirt or bird droppings, such as a mild dishwashing soap.
Or you could use a dash of white vinegar mixed with water, which is a natural alternative to commercial detergents.
Your solar panels will most likely be mounted on your home's roof. To access the roof, you will need a ladder. Make sure your ladder is the correct height to access your roof.
If your solar panels are easily accessible from the ground, you can use a long-handled cleaning tool as an alternative.
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is always a good idea to ensure safety when working at heights.
If you're not comfortable working high up or if your solar panels are in a location that is difficult to access safely, consider hiring a professional cleaning service.
You can also purchase solar panel cleaning kits. These prepacked solar panel cleaning kits will include soft brushes, sponges, and cleaning solutions designed specifically for solar panels.
Always check if your solar panel manufacturer and installer have specific cleaning recommendations. While it is unlikely that you could void your solar panel’s warranty, it is best to be 100% sure you don’t.
Also, as a rule of thumb, don’t spray cold water onto your solar panels when they are heated up, and clean your panels in the morning because they haven’t had a chance to warm up.
Solar panels come with extensive warranties, with some offering up to 25 years! But this leads us to a serious question about whether you must perform regular services to maintain these comprehensive warranties.