Solar panels may require periodic cleaning and maintenance throughout their lifetime. This is because dust, debris, and the effects of the weather can impair the performance of the photovoltaic cells over time. Maintaining your solar panels ensures that they are always working at peak efficiency.
But what exactly does "maintenance" mean for solar panels, and how often do you need to clean them? Is there anything technical involved, and do you need to hire a professional? Besides that, is there anything simple you can do to cut down on solar panel maintenance costs?
That’s what this blog is about: how to maintain your solar panels with a minimum of stress and cost. Read on to find out more.
Do solar panels need maintenance?
Your panels won’t need as much regular maintenance as something like a boiler: it’s more ‘fit and forget’. Annual cleaning can be useful to keep your panels running optimally, though. For anything else, our extended insurance-backed warranty coverage can help.
Most solar PV (photovoltaic) cells work at their most efficient when they are clean and free of debris. In some instances dust can gradually cover the cells themselves, reducing the amount of sunlight they absorb over time.
So, the point of maintaining and cleaning your solar panels is to get rid of the dust as it accumulates, as well as any other debris that may have collected on them.
However, your panels won’t need regular mechanical maintenance. They don't have moving parts, which means your panels won't get problems like frayed wires, worn surfaces, broken mechanisms and so on.
How often should I clean my solar panels?
Once your panels are installed, you’ll need to understand how you can keep them working properly. There really is no right or wrong answer. Typically, we believe that there is enough rainfall in the UK to clean your panels for you. In most cases, you should not clean the panels yourself and should ask a window cleaner to do it periodically with just water and a soft brush.
However, some people clean theirs twice a year, other people once a year, and others never clean their panels at all—although we wouldn't recommend that. Any more often than twice a year is probably wasting your time.
Keep an eye on yours and see how quickly they get dirty. Maybe it rains a lot where you live, which stops the panels getting too dusty; maybe there are lots of birds. Do what's right for you. If you live in an area with high rainfall, you might find that you hardly need to clean them at all.
How to properly install and place solar panels
Another thing to bear in mind is that you might want to avoid having solar panels installed in the shadow of a tree or nearby roosting birds.
Not only would the shadow reduce the effectiveness of the panels, but it may encourage birds to fly over and land in the trees, which you don't want. This is basic stuff that any solar installation engineer will keep in mind. You can discuss any potential worries about the installation with your Solar Together installer during your survey.
On that topic, it’s vital that you work with a professional to have them installed. While solar panels don’t have any moving parts, there are a few things that can go wrong:
- Improper roof anchor installation can damage your roof tiles, or leave the panel insecurely attached.
- The panels have to be wired to an inverter. The panels themselves are pre wired but should still be wired up by an MCS-certified installer; problems include dangerous earthing or exposed cabling.
- If the support legs are installed too low on the panel, it may be at an angle that causes wind load stress.
So not only can bad installation mean higher maintenance needs, but it can even be dangerous.
The high-quality panels and expert (MCS accredited) installations available through Solar Together can help you avoid these issues. Interested in whether you might need planning permission for your solar panel installation? Find out more here.
Installing bird netting for solar panels
A great way to prevent birds from causing problems for your solar panel is to install netting, 'bird barriers' or bird deterrent kits.
These are different names for broadly the same things. When you have your panels installed, you can install mesh, netting or wire strips that stop birds from getting underneath your solar panels. These also help prevent environmental ‘hazards’ like twigs accumulating around your panels. Bird protection is available through Solar Together for a fixed additional cost, and it is worth discussing with the winning installer as part of your on-site survey.
How to clean solar panels on roof
Although we think that the level of rainfall in the UK is sufficient to clean your solar panels, if you do choose to clean them yourself, here are some ways you can do so safely.
From ground level, spray your panels with water like you would spray a window. This will get rid of the majority of built-up dust and dirt.
If there's anything more substantial caked on your solar panels you can try increasing the water pressure by pinching the end of the hose or attaching a nozzle, and spraying it with that. If that's not enough, try a sponge or a squeegee. You don't need any special tools or cleaners, these can actually harm the protective film on the surface of a solar panel.
If you clean the panels yourself, great care should be taken over your own safety and also not to damage the solar panels.
Can I hire a solar panel cleaner instead?
Hiring a professional to clean your solar panels is a great option. You can either hire somebody on a one-off basis, or ask them to come out and clean them every twelve months or so. You might prefer this option if you want them to be thoroughly cleaned, but you're uncomfortable with the idea of working at a height.
Often, window cleaners will also offer solar panel cleaning as a service. But there are also specific companies that specialise in cleaning solar panels. Have a look around for what you can find near you.
How does extreme weather affect solar panels?
Like all kinds of electronics, solar panels are affected by extreme weather.
- In freezing weather, solar panels are fine. When covered by snow, your panel can't convert light into energy, but its surface means that the snow should melt and slide off.
- In very hot weather, panels produce less voltage and become less efficient.
- In stormy weather, solar panels are fine. They come with a water-resistant surface that keeps them clear and clean. They don't increase the chance of your house being hit by lightning.
- In windy weather, solar panels are fine. When installed properly they are safe and secure even in high winds.
This means that even if you lived somewhere that experiences extreme weather, your panels should have no additional maintenance needs. Read our blog on whether your solar panels work in cloudy conditions.
Learn more with Solar Together
Solar Together runs a group-buying scheme that can help you lower the cost of having solar panels installed. We work in conjunction with local councils, grouping residents together from across the country, giving you exclusive access to discounted prices.
We vet installers for the quality of their service so that you don't have to. Beyond that, we even offer optional add-ons like battery storage and EV charge point installation, and insurance-backed guarantees for customer protection.
We understand why that might sound too good to be true. If you’d like to learn more about how we get competitive prices for you, if your roof is suitable for solar panels, or how group-buying can help you save money, take a look at our Blog.