Did you feel the power of your PV array drop after they have been using for some time? Your solar panels may not be degraded, and instead, it is more possible that there are a few leaves fallen on them. In this article, you will find the tips of how to maintain the high energy efficiency of your solar panels with simple steps.
Why Is Cleaning Your Solar Panel Important
As said, keeping your solar panels clean can maximize the power generation of your PV array. Installing the PV array takes you high cost, so you probably do not want the fallen leaves / dirt to block the light and reduce the energy you can get from the sun. Solar cells within a PV panel are connected in series to provide a suitable output voltage for you, so a small shading which blocks the cell connection in the series can significantly reduce the overall current running through the PV panel (like a bottle neck formed by a cloggage in water pipes), this is what we called “shading loss” or “soiling loss”.
Common matters blocking the sun include dust and leaves, they can accumulate from time to time affecting the efficiency of your PV array. Luckily, a shower from the sky can help to wash them off mostly. However, when it comes to stickier matters, such as bird droppings, rain does not help much on the removal and those stick matters will even be more difficult to be removed if not cleaned regularly. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), soiling of solar panels can reduce the energy production by as much as 7% in parts of the United States . The situation is expected to be deteriorating in desert areas (e.g.: southwest of US) which are dustier.
Cleaning and Maintenance Tips for The Solar Panels
Before the clean, make sure the PV system is shut off. Solar panels are electrical appliances after all, and this procedure can prevent damaging them, and most importantly, protecting you from a lethal electric shock.
The rule of thumb of cleaning the PV panels is to prevent the panels from being scratched. It is recommended to use only water and sponge to clean the surface (with a little amount of detergent if needed). If you found the dirt hard to be removed, avoid rubbing the panels with abrasive sponge or steel wool, nor applying any strong chemical (you will not want to leave markings on your solar panels), and try to pressurize the water jet slightly to have a more powerful wash.
Keeping yourself safe is also important while cleaning the solar panels. Most of the PV systems are on top of the roof and it is not advised to perform the cleaning without proper protection measures, especially when the roof will be wet and slippery during the clean. If you decided to maintain the solar panels yourselves, make sure you are wearing a helmet and tying a safety harness to an anchored point (check out the guides for work at height). When you are up there, getting a cleaning tool with extended handle will be a good choice to let you stay at a safe position while reaching farther panels. If possible, staying on ground while cleaning will be the best option.
Besides cleaning on your own, getting professional services may be a good choice if the above methods don’t help on stubborn stains, or it is too dangerous to clean your solar panels. If you run a large-scale solar farm, you can even consider hiring mobile cleaning robots or automatic sprinklers to do the task for you.
Is It Worth the Cleaning?
You can always check the power output of your PV system to see if it matches your expectation on energy production. When the solar panels are dirty, you can tell from the energy balance which the electricity generated ranges at the lower quartile. Dirty panels increase your energy bill, while cleaning them consume some of your manhours and investment on cleaning equipment, so whether the regular cleaning is worthy depends on the scale of your PV system. We recommend you to keep tracking the performance of your solar panels under different atmospheric conditions to identify if a cleaning is needed.
Still confused? Feel free to contact us and our specialist will be more than happy to assist you with the full set of solution.
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