solar panel cleaning

Solar panel cleaning: the basics

It may be a good idea to freshen up your panels on your home occasionally if you live in an area with heavy particulates in the air. Here are answers to some of the top questions solar panel system owners have about cleaning solar panels and how to do it safely. While it may not be absolutely necessary to clean solar panels, you may be losing out on value and efficiency by not doing so.


How to clean solar panels

When cleaning your solar panels, the most important consideration to keep in mind is that scratching or damaging the glass in any way will reduce a panel’s energy production. It’s best to approach panel cleaning the same way you might clean your car. 

Cleaning your solar panels: is it even necessary?

Your solar panels need to be exposed to sunlight in order to produce power. However, unless you live somewhere with high amounts of smog, dust, dirt or sand blowing around, solar panel cleaning is generally not necessary. In most cases, occasional rain will be enough to naturally and safely keep your solar panels clean and free of debris that could lower production.

Should you clean solar panels yourself or hire someone?

Just like going to a car wash, there are professional options for cleaning solar panels – your solar installer may even do it for you, for a fee.

Is it worth paying for a service?

If you have a rooftop system, it may be a good idea to enlist a cleaning service, if only for safety reasons. Cleaning services won’t do a significantly different or better job than you can do yourself, but they are equipped to safely clean and maintain rooftop units. For ground mount units it may not be worth the service fee when you can safely and effectively clean your own panels with a hose, some dish soap, and a soft rag.

What products should you use?

When cleaning your solar panels, the most important consideration to keep in mind is that scratching or damaging the glass in any way will reduce a panel’s energy production. It’s best to approach panel cleaning the same way you might clean your car. Dish soap and warm water applied with a soft sponge or cloth is the safest and easiest cleaning method. It may also be helpful to use a squeegee to remove dirty water. Remember – avoid damaging or scratching the glass at all costs!

On rare occasions, oily stains can appear on your panels. You might find these if you live near a common truck route or an airport, and they can be tackled with a little isopropyl alcohol and a rag. It is essential to avoid using strong cleaning fluids, however, as these can streak and damage the glass.

How to clean solar panels: step-by-step

  1. The first step to cleaning your solar panels is by shutting them off. This will help ensure your safety and that equipment is not damaged.
  2. Use a soft brush to clean the surface of your solar panel of any surface debris like dirt and dust.
  3. Use water from a hose to remove remaining debris. When cleaning your panels with water, you should avoid using a high-pressure hose as this may create cracks or otherwise damage your system.
  4. Scrub any remaining areas that still have debris with a soft brush.
  5. After you have fully cleaned your panels, monitor output to see the difference in efficiency that cleaning has made!

Does your solar lease cover panel maintenance?

In general, solar lease agreements will include a maintenance clause of some sort. Some companies will perform regular maintenance on their panels, and others will repair damages the customer reports. It is important to remember that solar panels generally require little maintenance, and simply spraying your panels down with a hose occasionally can do the trick.

Types of of professional cleaning

There are many different types of professional cleaning companies that can help you. Robotics companies use semi-autonomous machines to clean without as much direct personal work involved. Some maintenance companies also use soapless brushes and sponges to clean panels to avoid potentially harmful residues. Other high-tech cleaning options are in development including waterless vibration and nanoparticle coatings.

When to clean solar panels by location

  • In desert climates including the US Southwest, more  frequent cleanings are needed due to the large amount of dust and sand that could affect solar panel cleanliness.
  • Solar panels in polluted areas near highways, factories and airports should also be cleaned more frequently to avoid residue buildup that could result from heavy machinery nearby.
  • In heavily wooded areas, solar panels should also be frequently cleaned to prevent obstructions as a result of overgrown vegetation.

Should you remove snow from your solar panels?

Snow on solar panels generally doesn’t need to be removed – it will typically slide off on its own. Most panel installations are tilted at an angle, and snow will naturally slide off as it melts. If snow persists on your panels, you can also invest in tools like a solar panel snow rake, which makes it easy to safely remove snow covering on solar panels. It is important not to use a standard broom, shovel, or another non-specialized tool to remove snow from panels, as they can scratch the panel glass and lower your power production.

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What is the best thing to clean solar panels with?

Dish soap and a soft sponge or rag are the best thing to clean solar panels with.

Can I clean solar panels myself?

Yes, you can clean solar panels yourself by filling a bucket with water and using dish soap and a low pressure hose.

Can you use Windex on solar panels?

Windex is a cheap and widely available cleaner that is excellent for cleaning glass surfaces such as those on a solar panel to make sure they are running at maximum efficiency.

Is it okay to pressure wash solar panels?

While they may be good for cleaning other parts of your home, pressure washers should never be used on solar panels to avoid damaging them and creating cracks.

What is the cost to clean solar panels?

A professional cleaner may charge between $150 and $300 to clean solar panels. This varies widely on the type of panel, the degree of cleanliness and how many panels you have. Costs range from $15-$30 per panel.

Does cleaning your solar panels make a difference?

While debris being cleaned off naturally by rain will help, making a concerted effort to clean your panels will lead to increased solar panel performance.

How often should solar panels be cleaned?

It is recommended that you clean your solar panels every 6 months to a year in order to maximize the efficiency of your solar panels. 

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is a researcher and content writer at EnergySage, where he's an expert on current issues–and new technology!–in the solar industry. With a background in environmental and geological science, Jacob brings an analytical perspective and passion for conservation to help solar shoppers make the right energy choices for their wallet and the environment. Outside of EnergySage, you can find him playing Ultimate Frisbee or learning a new, obscure board game.

9 thoughts on “Solar panel cleaning: the basics

  1. Vishal Saini

    In India, it gets really dusty during summers. Intense sunlight ensures solar panel work at high capacity but the dust accumulates overtime which may reduce the overall output. I am reading most of your articles as they are helping learn new and relevant things. Frankly speaking, I was worried about getting electric shocks but when I called a cleaner he just did it the way you told. Keep posting more articles, your loyal readers are always waiting.

    Reply
  2. Matt Dwight

    Absolutely correct. Most solar manufacturers don’t recommend any chemicals or soaps as they can reduce the life of the solar panels and even void warranties among other things. First read your manufactures warranty before performing any maintenance and or cleaning on your panels. Some may even require a regular maintenance cleaning to keep warranty in effect. Also, most, if not all home owners insurance policies don’t cover homeowners working on their own roofs. If you do decide to clean your own panels make sure you wear all the proper PPE’s. If there’s a short in your system or even a broken panel and you put water on them and touch them you can get electrocuted. And or short your system out and or even have it catch on fire. There’s plenty of YouTube videos showing this. There’s so many things that can go wrong working with AC/DC systems and not being safe and educated can spell DISASTER! It’s articles like this that can put a homeowner in a number of bad situations.

    Reply
  3. Hardy

    Thanks for very informative post. Ensuring regular cleaning or cleaning as needed is vital for my solar system. Doing so will prevent premature damage, which means I can protect my investment.

    Reply
  4. David Campbell

    awesome blog. you are really a great writer. your solar panel cleaning procedure is really great I think that i will also try this. Dirty panels mean power loss — grime and debris reduce the ability of the solar array to perform at full capacity. … Solar panels, like windows, can be cleaned with warm water and dishwashing soap to remove any dirt or residue.

    Reply
  5. Juanito

    We are leasing solar panels from Sunrun. There are a lot of pigeons in our area and some neighbors found out that the birds are nesting under the solar panels. Whose responsibility is it to provide some bird deterrent such as screens to prevent the pigeons from nesting under the panels?

    Reply
  6. Gonzalo Lopez

    I operate a solar panel cleaning company in Northern California. I only use deionized water fed to a rotating brush for the cleaning process.
    Dish soap is a degreaser use to break down grease and oils and may harm the integrity of your panels in the long run.

    Reply
  7. Hardy

    Great article!
    One question: Is it necessary to tidy up the solar panels of my garden often? I think I must be insightful about how often it is needed to clean the solar panels of my garden fixtures. 🙂

    Reply

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