Anything that stands between your solar panels and sunlight will impact your system’s production.
Left unchecked, significant dirt and grime accumulation can create a decrease in your production and an increase in your electricity bill. If you find yourself in this position, you should look into having your panels professionally cleaned.
It is important to note that most solar panels that need to be cleaned are installed at a farm or near a high-traffic road. Pollen and other standard environmental dirt at your average home and business will be cleaned off with a good rain shower.
With the help of Jared Koch, owner of JTK, a Lancaster County-based professional cleaner, we’ve assembled a list of common questions related to solar panel cleaning. If you’re a solar-system owner who is considering having your panels cleaned, read on for answers to the common questions below.
- Do your solar panels need cleaning?
- How does professional solar cleaning work?
- Can you clean your own solar panels?
- How much do solar panel cleaning services cost?
- How will cleaning improve your solar panels' efficiency?
- How often should solar panels be cleaned?
Do Your Solar Panels Need Cleaning?
Solar energy is generally a set-and-forget investment that won’t require a lot of time or money to maintain. But depending on the type of environment your solar panels are in, the occasional cleaning could be in order.
Over time, dust, dirt, and grime build up on your panels, blocking out the sun and reducing your system’s output. For most, regular rain showers will be enough to keep your panels clean. But in other cases, this buildup can inhibit energy production to the point where cleaning is the best course of action.
Whether or not your panels need to be cleaned is going to come down to what type of buildup you have on your panels and how much sunlight it’s blocking. The best way to truly know is to get a solar panel cleaning company to come out and take a look. They’ll look at how much electricity your system is producing, and they’ll safely conduct a visual inspection to determine the best course of action.
Learn More: Below is a video on how shade impacts solar panels. Extreme dirt accumulation can have a similar impact on your solar panel's ability to produce energy.
How Does Professional Solar Cleaning Work?
The process of having your solar panels cleaned is relatively simple.
JTK uses a solar panel cleaning robot to clean most systems. The setup is straightforward, and all they need is water and access to your solar system. The robot is connected to the water supply and is then run across your panels. For most properties, no additional soaps or solutions are needed. An operator will control the robot remotely, directing it to gently scrub away the dirt and grime on your panels.
The robot cleans your panels in a way that’s very safe for your panels. They don’t require extensive setup or many materials, making the process a fast, simple, and effective solar panel cleaning solution.
The robot can clean systems with a 5/12 pitch or 25 degrees. If your solar panels are pitched higher than this, JTK will use water-fed brushes, which gives them the ability to access the high-pitched panels.
Can You Clean Your Own Solar Panels?
Cleaning your own solar panels is not something that we recommend.
Solar panels are sturdy, built to withstand the elements, and last for decades. However, they can be seriously damaged if not treated correctly.
Many cleaning products can permanently discolor your solar panels’ finish. They can create a milky film over the panels, which could permanently decrease your production. Additionally, a high-pressure stream of water can quicken degradation, leading to a permanent reduction in energy. Even washing your panels down with soapy water and a garden hose can cause issues.
Learn More: This is what you need to know about solar panel degradation.
Doing any of the above can void the warranty from the solar panel manufacturer, meaning if something goes wrong with your solar panels down the road, you won’t be covered.
Most importantly, cleaning your panels on your own can be extremely dangerous. Climbing a few stories in the air with water and soap is not easy to do safely. You’re much better off hiring a professional.
How Much Do Solar Panel Cleaning Services Cost?
Ideally, what you spend to have your solar panels cleaned should be made up for by increased production. But how much exactly should you expect to pay?
The only answer to that is: it depends.
The larger your system is or, the heavier the grime, the more time and product it will take to get the panels cleaned. This will be reflected with a higher price. Another factor could be the distance your system is from the contractor’s shop.
As a very broad estimate, cleaning for an average residential system could cost around $150. Larger commercial and agricultural systems can be in the thousands.
How Will Cleaning Improve My Solar Panels' Efficiency?
Cleaning your panels should mean better panel efficiency, meaning your solar panels will produce more free electricity than they did before they were cleaned.
To get a general sense of how much more electricity they’ll produce, look into how much your solar panels produced in years past. If there’s a significant decrease in production and your panels look visibly dirty, you may earn back some of that lost production with cleaning. However, keep in mind regular degradation, fluctuations in weather from year to year, and other needed maintenance could also be responsible for the drop in production.
Solar panel cleaners will be able to give you a better idea of how cleaning your dirty panels will improve efficiency with an on-site estimate.
How Often Should Panels Be Cleaned?
The frequency of solar panel cleaning will depend on what’s happening around your system. It could range from once every few months to once a year or longer. It all depends on how much dirt is being released into the air.
For example, a system on a farm will likely need to be cleaned more often than a system in a neighborhood. Additionally, systems near major highways and busy roads need to be cleaned more frequently.
Your solar cleaning contractor should help you set up a cleaning schedule that keeps your solar system in its best working order.
Still not sure whether or not your solar panels need to be cleaned? Reach out to JTK for a free site evaluation and estimate. They’ll come to take a look at your system and help determine whether or not cleaning solar panels can save your business or farm money.