how to clean solar panels

How to Clean Solar Panels to Increase Energy Production

Having solar panels fitted to your home’s roof is a great way to reduce each energy bill and decrease a household’s carbon footprint. And with government incentives on offer for new installations, more and more Aussies are considering the upgrade.

But like all aspects of home ownership, solar panels require maintenance to ensure they function at peak performance and last the test of time.

The simplest thing you can do to help is perform semi-regular solar panel cleaning. A couple of cleans each year can increase the output of this renewable energy source. And while up there, it’s also a good idea to inspect the system for visible signs of wear and tear.

Cleaning solar panels is certainly something that can be done without the aid of a professional should you be in a position to implement appropriate safety precautions and be willing to work at heights.

Below, you can find a step by step guide on how to clean solar panels to boost energy production along with an estimate of the potential money saved by doing so.

solar panels cleaning

Can Dirty Solar Panels affect Energy Production?

Absolutely! Solar panels rely on uninterrupted sunlight for the best performance. Having materials settle on the panels can block the sun, which ultimately reduces the energy output to your home.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that in the United States, dirty panels are responsible for a 7 per cent loss in energy. Still, losses will always depend on local conditions and the grime coating the panels. Take the Middle East as an example. The same report suggests the arid, sandy conditions obstruct panels and reduce energy production up to a whopping 50 per cent.

There’s not a lot of information available regarding the potential for energy loss in Australia. We suspect it could be similar to statistics out of the US, or potentially higher where dry conditions or drought reduces the likelihood of rain washing away accumulated dust and debris.

There are also bird droppings and bat faeces to consider. These waste materials contain high levels of uric acid and are notorious for eroding paint work on vehicles.

There’s little evidence to suggest droppings can damage solar panels in the same manner, but it’s not something one wants to test on their pricey investment. Droppings will also reduce performance by blocking sunlight.

Canstar Blue estimates that Aussies will save up to $1,340 per year on energy bills by upgrading to solar. However, should dirty solar PV panels reduce performance by at least 7 per cent, you could be losing out on $94 of savings each year – all because the solar panels are dirty.

That number would only rise as the panels get dirtier and could equate to a loss of over $2809 across the average 30 year lifespan of a solar system.

That’s not a considerable amount saved across three decades, but it’s money easily saved by anyone willing to keep their solar panels clean.

Guide to Cleaning Solar Panels

Before climbing the ladder, consider the potential for cleaning solar panels from the ground level. A garden hose directed towards the panels is a great start, but you will likely require an extendable wash brush or mop with a soft end to thoroughly clean your solar panels.

There are extendable purpose-built tools for cleaning panels, but they are expensive and better suited to accompany professional cleaners.

Warning: Do NOT use a pressure washer. The high pressure can create micro-fractures in the panels and cause the solar cells to degrade at a fast rate.

If you’re forced to clean from a ladder, then please apply the appropriate safety for working at heights, including a second person to hold the ladder.

Safety Culture has an excellent guide to roof safety basics, and we recommend reading it before climbing up to the roof.

cleaning products for home

What You Will Need

There’s a good chance you already have a form of these around the home:

  • Bucket or a long hose
  • Non abrasive sponge or soft brushes
  • Suitable ladder
  • Liquid detergent or diluted vinegar
  • Plastic blade

And that’s it! Cleaning your solar panels is a straightforward job that only appears tricky due to the location and technical nature of the panels.

But precautions should always be in place while working at heights. If you can’t safely access and clean the panels, then a professional should be contacted for assistance.

Steps to Clean Solar Panels

  1. If there’s an isolator switch, shut down the system. Rain has little effect on a solar system so it’s unlikely that cleaning could affect performance, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Further instructions should be found in any accompanying instructions.
  2. Rinse each panel from top to bottom with a hose or a bucket of freshwater. This will remove the top layers of dust and dirt.
  3. Use the detergent and water or diluted vinegar with the bucket and sponge to scrub the surface to remove any stubborn grime. Only use moderate force, as too much pressure could damage the panel.
  4. Rinse each panel with water following the scrubbing to rinse off any remaining dirt and cleaning product before it can dry. This also reduces the likelihood of leaving residue smears.
  5. For any remaining debris like hardened bird droppings, use a plastic blade or similar plastic tool to dislodge the debris without scratching the panels. Rinse again as required.
  6. Perform a visual inspection of the system to ensure all panels are secured to the roof, and all cables are free of damage.
  7. Once dry, flip the isolator switch and reactivate the solar system.

Solar panel cleaning is straightforward and achievable by most. Any concerns raised over the height and technical nature of the panels should be directed to professional solar panel cleaning services.

Solar panels can produce a great quantity of renewable energy to significantly reduce power bills and your home’s carbon footprint. If you’re yet to reap the benefits of solar, or need some repairs, contact Metropolitan Electrical Contractors. We’re a professional company with licensed, fully qualified electricians on call 24/7.


Published: 6 May, 2022

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