With spring here and summer just around the corner, pollen, dust, sea salt is in the air, and it might eventually end up on your panels. As a solar owner, we know you are very conscious of anything that could affect the production of your array. However, when it comes to cleaning your solar panels, you are better off letting rain take care of the dirt for you.
How Much Production Are You Losing with Dirty Solar Panels?
You might have heard people claim when they clean their panels, it improves output by 10% or more. And they may be right if they live next to a dirty factory, a busy highway, or have a flat solar array. However, dirt on solar panels has minimal effect on their performance.
One study in Tucson, Arizona, found that cleaning solar panels only improved their output by around 1% – and that’s in an area of the country infamous for infrequent rain, far from Maine’s weather patterns. Another study by the University of San Diego study found it to be even less at 0.05% of your panels’ production. This study found that in the case of typical dirt build up on solar panels in California, the reduction in production is so small that it’s hardly ever worth taking action.
Keep in mind that our solar consultants design your system to meet your yearly electric use. We designed your system with cloudy days as well as winters in mind using the best weather data from government sources like National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
So while the build-up of dust and pollen can affect panel efficiency, panels also clear quickly (their surfaces are made of hardened glass), so with the typical rainfall in Maine, washing the panels yourself is never really necessary.
To Clean or Not to Clean
So it hasn’t rained for a few weeks, pollen is it out in full force, and you might be tempted to clean your panels with your hose. While cleaning them may seem like a great way to save money and boost production, in most cases, it’s not only a risk to your solar system and the panels’ warranty, but it’s a risk to your safety.
First, there might be system features or special precautions that should be taken before cleaning. If you plan to use a high-pressure attachment or a power washer, that will likely cause damage to your panels, which could significantly (and permanently) reduce your production and void your warranty. And most solar panel manufacturers recommend never using any chemicals to clean your panels – just water. Lastly, another critical thing to note is that solar panels can get very hot when the sun is out.
Damaging your system or getting hurt far exceeds any gains cleaning dirt off would ever give you. No amount of energy savings is worth that.
And remember, the next time it rains, the precipitation will take care of the dirt and dust, literally washing away that minimal production loss of .5% or less for a few days.
If you see significant drops in your system’s production, chances are it isn’t because of dirt or dust. Though solar panels have no moving parts and solar systems require very little maintenance, things can happen. While we do not offer cleaning services, our team is here to help. Please give us a call or fill out our maintenance services form to request an evaluation or ask us a question.