Best Ways To Clean Solar Panels & What To Use

June 22, 2020
By John Cole

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Did you know that dirt, pollen, and other debris hurt the efficiency of your solar panels? Without regular cleaning of your solar panel system, you’re minimizing your cost savings and energy efficiency. To ensure you’re always getting the most from your solar panels, it is recommended that you facilitate regular cleanings without compromising or damaging your solar panels.

Cleaning your solar panels is like cleaning your car – because you don’t want to scratch the panels in any way, it’s best to use just water and a non-abrasive sponge to apply soapy water. Using this method, you will successfully remove any built-up debris from the solar panels, enabling them to reach peak efficiency moving forward.

Luckily, cleaning your solar panels is a relatively easy task and something that most homeowners can accomplish throughout a weekend. Before diving in, it’s important that you learn the dos and don’ts of solar panel cleaning to avoid using any products or tools that could cause permanent damage to your solar panels.

If you’re in the market for solar panels or have questions about maintaining your existing solar panels, Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

how to clean solar panels and what to use

How to Clean Your Solar Panels

While solar panels are relatively self-cleaning, it is recommended that you clean your solar panels up to two times a year to reach maximum efficiency. This can be completed by most individuals on their own, but if preferred, a professional can perform your solar panel cleaning. You can easily (and safely!) clean your solar panels by following these steps:

  1. The first step to cleaning your solar panels should always be to check your manufacturer’s instructions. If noted, follow their recommended instructions for cleaning to ensure you do not void any manufacturer’s warranty.
  1. Safely remove any loose, excess debris and dirt from your solar panels by lightly rubbing it off or spraying it with water. Doing so will make it easier to remove any built on grime.
  1. Remain on the ground, if possible, and use a high-quality soft brush and a squeegee to safely clean off your solar panels using soap and water.
  1. After cleaning your solar panels with the soft brush, use a hose with a light stream of water to rinse off the remaining soap from the panels and allow the dirt to run off.
  1. Ensure you are thoroughly rinsing off all excess soap and water to prevent unnecessary buildup down the line.
  1. Allow the solar panels to air dry instead of trying to wipe them off with a brush or towel (which could cause damage or scrapes).

Cleaning solar panels is not that much different than cleaning a typical window, making it a relatively easy task for most homeowners to take on themselves by following the simple steps mentioned above.

What to Use When Cleaning Solar Panels

If you’re planning on cleaning your solar panels yourself, you don’t need much to perform a thoroughly clean job. We recommend using clean water and soap, along with a sponge or soft brush to remove the most stubborn grime. Think of it like you’re washing your car – you want to provide a thorough clean with soap and water without using anything too abrasive that could cause damage to the exterior of the solar panels.

Can you use vinegar to clean solar panels?

Yes, vinegar is safe to use on your solar panels. While many individuals rely on soap and water to clean their solar panels, vinegar is a great, inexpensive option as well. You can try adding 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon liquid non-abrasive soap or detergent, and 2 cups of water to a spray bottle and using this to break up the excess buildup on the solar panels before using the squeegee to brush it off.

Can you pressure wash your solar panels?

No, it is not recommended to clean your solar panels with a pressure washer. A high-pressure washer can actually damage the solar panels. Instead, you should clean your solar panels with a non-abrasive method, such as a hose and soapy water.

In most cases, you won’t need to clean your solar panels often because rain or snow will help to remove any grime that accumulates over time. However, there are times it makes sense to clean your solar panels instead of waiting for the next rainstorm. Performing your cleaning at the beginning of spring will remove buildup from the winter months and allow for maximum energy efficiency throughout the summer.

solar energy providers

Cleaning Tips to Avoid Damaging Your Solar Panels

While cleaning solar panels is a relatively simple and painless process, there are guidelines to follow to ensure your solar panels stay in pristine condition for years to come. Avoid making these common mistakes when cleaning your solar panels:

  • Don’t use metal objects or abrasive projects. You shouldn’t use metal objects or abrasive products when cleaning off the solar panels. Doing so can compromise the energy efficiency and cause damage to the exterior of the solar panels.
  • Avoid using detergents, if possible, as these may streak the glass of the panel. Similarly, using abrasive powders or powdered soaps can also risk scratching the panels.
  • Thoroughly wash off all excess soap. Soap that isn’t washed off correctly can leave a film or residue that can encourage dirt to stick and build up faster – causing you to need to clean your solar panels more often (not ideal!).
  • Use a squeegee if you’re cleaning with hard water. If rinsing your solar panels off with hard water, make sure you completely squeegee off all remaining water deposits. If not, you will be left with hardened minerals as the water dries which can compromise efficiency.
  • Avoid washing your solar panels at the hottest part of the day. Do not wash solar panels when they are hot – the sudden temperature change from cold water increases the risk of cracking the solar panel’s glass.

If you’re still unsure about the proper methods to clean your solar panels (and which method to avoid!), Green Energy Geeks can provide insight into the answers you’re looking for.

Why Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?

Regular rain and snow typically remove any dirt, grime, or animal droppings that may have built up on your solar panels. However, it’s likely that debris will still accumulate on your solar panels over time and need the occasional cleaning.

Dirty solar panels reduce the amount of sunlight being absorbed by the panel, which in turn, reduces the amount of electricity being generated by the solar panel. While cleaning solar panels will not cause a huge spike in energy efficiency, you want to maintain your investment for many years to come by keeping it in tip-top shape.

Without regular cleanings, grime will continue to build up, making it hard for the solar panels to absorb the sunlight and provide the energy you’re expecting. Add solar panel cleaning to your annual spring cleaning checklist to guarantee your solar panel system is always operating at its best. Solar panel cleaning not your cup of tea? No worries! There are plenty of professionals providing high-quality, thorough solar panel cleaning services.

maintaining and cleaning solar panels

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Panel Cleaning

Although cleaning your solar panels is a relatively easy task, there are often many questions around how to do it, when to do it, if you need to do it, and what to do it with. Lucky for you, Green Energy Geeks is here to provide you with all the answers to the questions you've been asking and to empower you with the information you need to successfully clean your solar panel system.

Does dirt impact the effectiveness of your solar panels?

While dirt and debris can affect how much sunlight gets through to convert the light to energy, it doesn’t usually make a significant difference in the efficiency (typically improving efficiency by no more than 5%) or do much to lower your energy bill.

How often should you clean your solar panels?

It’s a good idea to clean your solar panels annually – and depending on the location of the solar panels, twice a year if needed. We recommend adding solar panel cleaning to your spring cleaning checklist. Performing your regular cleaning in early spring will remove any build-up from winter, and allow for peak efficiency throughout the summer months. Solar panels that are cleaned once a year produce 5% more electricity than those that are left uncleaned.

Is regular solar panel cleaning worth the time and investment?

The answer to this depends on you and what your energy goals are. Without regular cleanings, you could lose up to 5-10% of your energy production. While the percentage may seem small, it’s important to realize that the actual financial impact can vary depending on the size of your solar panel system – especially as the grime builds up over time, causing even more of an energy production loss.

Do I have to schedule regular solar panel cleanings?

Unless you live somewhere with high amounts of pollution, dirt, or sand, solar panel cleaning is generally not necessary. In many instances, regular rainstorms will be enough to naturally clean off your solar panels and remove any excess buildup that has accumulated over time.

How much does it cost to clean solar panels?

Solar panels typically cost up to $15 to $20 (per panel) to clean, meaning that the annual cleaning of an average-sized solar panel system with 10 panels would cost around a total of $330. Keep in mind that this is an estimate and the cost to clean solar panels will differ depending on your location and service provider.

What are the optimal conditions to clean solar panels?

We recommend cleaning your solar panels on a slightly overcast day in the morning or evening. Avoiding the midday sun will prevent the water from evaporating quickly, which can cause the dirt and debris being removed to smear along the solar panels – preventing them from becoming clean. Note: performing solar panel cleaning in the early morning is best. The dew and condensation buildup from cooler temperatures overnight will have softened the grime on the solar panels, allowing it to wash off more easily.

Do I need to turn off my solar panels to clean them?

Yes, to safely clean your solar panels it is recommended that you turn them off before doing so. Use your specific manufacturers’ manual to learn how to correctly and completely turn off the solar panel system before beginning your cleaning. Once this is done, begin cleaning the solar panels by lightly brushing off any loose dust and buildup before cleaning the solar panels with water and a soft brush.

Will regular cleanings increase the lifespan of my solar panels?

As you probably know, solar panels typically last about 25-30 years. To get the most out of your solar panels, regular cleanings will help to maintain the quality and performance – enabling your solar panels to perform at maximum efficiency for much longer than solar panels that haven’t been cleaned regularly. 

Have Solar Panel Cleaning Questions? Green Energy Geeks Can Help!

If you’re in the market for solar panels or have questions about maintaining your existing solar panels, Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

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