Solar panels work by turning light into electricity via silicon cells that are inside the panel, the greater the light levels the higher the amount of electricity that the panels will produce.
Because our solar panels are outside it is understandable that, at times, they are going to get dirty, a dirty panel will not allow as much light to pass through to the cells inside, so it’s fair to say that power output will be affected.
Keeping our solar panels clean is important to maintaining good levels of power generation and it also helps to keep our panels in tip top condition, particularly if we can physically inspect them when we perform cleaning.
Do you need to clean solar panels?
Some people and installers of solar systems claim that solar panels do not need cleaning and that they will stay clean through the affects of the weather, and that the rain and wind will keep solar panels clean.
The reality is different – panels can get dirty from a variety of sources, dust, mud, bird deposits etc.
If you’ve ever washed a car then you’ll know just how difficult it can be to get rid of some of these things = rain and wind simply don’t do the job.
You need to use some elbow grease and clean the car. It’s the same with your solar panels – you have to wash them to help them to maintain peak performance.
Does cleaning solar panels make a difference?
The simple answer is Yes your solar panel output will drop considerably, as much as 50% when your solar panels are dirty.
These tips will help you to keep your panels clean and we’ll list a few regular questions with answers as well.
1- When your panels are installed make sure that they are fitted at an angle. If your panel slopes slightly then gravity will assist with the cleanliness as the dirt will be more likely to roll or slide off, grime and other muck will build up less frequently.
This simple step can reduce the amount of maintenance time spent cleaning your solar panel.
2- Consider using the services of a company that can come out to clean your panels.
There are businesses that specialise in this service and if your panels are on the roof or hard to access then this might be a safe option for you.
Get them to come at the end of winter when the panels are most likely to be grubby.
3- Believe it or not you can get automated cleaning devices that operate like car windscreen wipers to keep your solar panels clean.
They can be really useful and once fitted you don’t need to bother about them or about cleaning your panels as it’s all taken care of automatically.
4- The most obvious way to clean your solar panels is to get out there and do it yourself. This can be tricky for some installations as you may need to get the ladders out and get up high, but the effort is worth it as you’ll maintain good levels of energy from your panels.
- How often do solar panels need to be cleaned?
At the very least you should aim to clean your solar panels at least once a year. It’s wise to keep a regular eye on your panels and check them at various times of the year.
Most manufacturers recommend that your panels are cleaned annually to maintain peak performance. It is best to clean your panels at the end of winter.
You should also be ready to step in and clean your panels if you notice that they are dirty, covered in leaves or other debris. Snow should also be cleaned away as this will impact performance.
What do you clean solar panels with?
- Can you use a pressure washer to clean solar panels?
Not recommended. If your panels have become so dirty that you need aggressive methods to get them clean then you have a maintenance problemand you’re probably better, and safer, to employ the services of a specialised solar panel cleaning company.
Solar panels are delicate and using a pressure washer runs the risk of damage, water ingress and failure of panel.
- How to clean solar panels from the ground
If you can reach your panels from the ground then it’s possible to clean them by using an extendable brush or mop.
These are widely available, for example here’s one that we’ve used before on Amazon, and all you need is a bucket with soap and water and a swift arm to move the brush backwards and forwards across the panels.
You can also use a hosepipe and simply spray clean water onto the panels. Unless the panels are really dirty a hose is often the best and safest way.
The only exception to this is when it is hot.
A sudden covering of cold water could crack the glass on the front of your panels, so if the weather is warm then wait until later in the day before you wash your panels.
- Can you use vinegar to clean solar panels?
On it’s own probably not a great idea as vinegar is a dilute acid. However you can make a really effective DIY cleaning solution for your solar panels which does include vinegar and which will leave your panels in great clean condition.
Fill a bucket with warm water and a non abrasive cleaning solution, something like liquid soap or washing up liquid is ideal. Add a cup of vinegar and apply to your panels with a soft sponge or cloth.
Once clean then remove any remaining water with a squeegee. Polish the edges of the panel with a soft cloth.
- Can you get electrocuted cleaning solar panels?
There is always a danger of accidents when cleaning solar panels, particularly if they are on a roof.
Thankfully the risk of being electrocuted is low. The majority of home solar panel installations produce low voltages that only become dangerous once they have entered the building and have passed into the inverter.
It is wise to be careful and to check for damaged panels and any exposed wiring before manually cleaning your panels.
How to clean your solar panels safely
How to clean solar panels on garden lights
Solar garden lights provide us with great garden decoration and light during the evening at no cost, they keep the garden light and safe and provide great effects for evening enjoyment.
Solar lights are great additions and, due to being solar powered, reduce our costs and help to minimise our impact on the environment.
They can get really dirty and to keep them in the best shape possible it’s important to undertake some basic maintenance which will minimise problems.
We’ll need the instructions for the lights so that we can take them apart and access the solar panel inside. Take care as the lights can be delicate.
When we have the light in pieces we need to locate the battery. Take the battery out of the light so that you can clean it properly.
To start examine the battery to see if there are any signs of damage or leakage.
This will be evident in the form of a white coloured paste like substance that will be smelly. Clean this away with a brush or cloth if you find any, normally this would be around the terminals, just wipe it away.
Check the contacts where the light meets the battery, they should be clean and shiny, if not give them a good clean also.
If you have had problems with the light and power has been intermittent or it simply hasn’t been working then, if after these cleaning actions the light still does not work then it may be worth replacing as the battery and or solar cell are defective.
Give the solar panel a clean. The solar panel is the engine for the light, it produces the power that enables the light to operate. So it’s important to keep the panel clean.
Give it a good wipe over with a damp, soapy cloth and then dry it off. Remove all dirt, dust, dead insects etc.
When the lamp is in use it is important to remember to regularly check the condition of the solar panel and to keep it clean.
Once you’ve cleaned the panel and dealt with the battery and the innards of the lights all that is left to do is to give the housing a clean. You can do this with a cloth or use the kitchen sink to give them a good soak if they are really dirty.
Dry them off and put them back together.
Once you’re happy with everything you can place the lights outside in your garden or yard and enjoy them for another season.
For best performance remember to try and position the solar panel in an area where it will get maximum amount of daylight. This will give the battery a good charge and provide hours of illumination during the night.