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A Beginner’s Guide to Maintaining Your Solar Panels

Going solar is a big investment, so you'll want to keep your panels in good working order.

Megan McDonough
Head of Content
A Beginner’s Guide to Maintaining Your Solar Panels
  •  
Feb 28, 2024
  •  
5 min read

Going solar is arguably one of the best investments you can make for your home, as well as your lifestyle. On top of significantly reducing your electric bill and benefiting the environment, homes with a solar system increase in value by 4.1-percent. Now that your solar panels are starting to generate power, it’s only natural that you might wonder whether weather and other wear and tear will affect how well they operate. The good news is that more often than not, your panels are durable enough to withstand the sun, rain, wind, and snow. At the same time, a little upkeep goes a long way. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide for how—and how often—to keep your solar panels in tip-top shape.

Is solar panel cleaning really necessary? 

Whether or not it’s worth the trouble that comes along with cleaning your solar panels is often a hot debate among homeowners. Many people feel that the benefits outweigh the potential risk, while others assert keeping panels clean is the only way to get the most out of your investment. 

For the most part, normal pollutants such as dust, leaves, and animal droppings do not negatively impact the efficiency of solar panels. In fact, the sun, rain, and wind are pretty effective at getting rid of those pollutants naturally. 

That said, there are a few exceptions:

Flat panels tend to get more buildup and grime 

A big reason for this is simply because they lie flat on your roof rather than at an angle. This has to do with your roof pitch—or the degree that your roof slopes. Panels installed at a slant almost act like a draining system; water hits the panels, wash away the pollutants and then drain off the roof and onto the ground. 

With panels that are flat, rain can sometimes just pool on them, which then leaves a mark when the water evaporates. Plus, dust and grime are still there and in extreme cases the build-up does negatively impact how much energy your panels produce. 

Be ware of wires

Location also plays a role in how effective natural weather conditions like sun, rain, and wind can naturally clean your panels. When solar panels are close to trees, wires, or antennae, they becomes a popular spot for birds and other small critters to gather. 

More likely than not, your panels’ performance won’t be compromised by bird droppings, but all the same, it can get pretty messy up there without regular maintenance and upkeep. 

Keep an eye out for native trees

While only applicable for areas with a lot of nearby native trees, ‘Cicada rain’ can really wreak havoc on your panels. During the hot summer months, these insects drink tree sap as a way to cool off and when it passes through their little bodies, the rain-like liquid can dry on the surface of your solar panels. This cicada rain along with pollen and dust create a tough residue that is harder to remove than other pollutants.

How much does dirt and debris affect solar panel performance? 

Remember, panels are built to be durable; after all, they are there to receive the damaging UV light that us humans wear sunscreen to protect against. 

As we noted above, it’s unlikely that a moderate amount of dirt, dust, animal droppings, and other debris will negatively impact the performance of your panels. Natural weather conditions remove enough debris for your solar panels to continue to operate efficiently. 

All in all, you’re likely looking at maybe a 5-percent decrease in performance. This is true even for flat panels that accumulate more dirt and grime overtime without being washed off very well. 

Should you hire professional cleaners or do it yourself? 

At Monalee, we take safety seriously, so we will always recommend hiring professionals to clean your solar panels. Walking around on your roof is one thing; washing your panels with water and (sometimes) detergent, is another and it’s simply not worth all the risk involved.

When you hire professional cleaners, they show up ready to work. Cleaners wear the right equipment and they use the right brushes, detergents, and water systems to clean your panels safely and thoroughly. For stubborn stains, a professional cleaner will use a soft brush, a hose, and some dishwashing liquid to gently wash the panels without causing any damage. 

If you must clean your solar panels yourself, keep it simple. Don’t use pressure washers, detergents with harsh chemicals, or abrasive scrubbers. Anything too strong could cause damage to your panels in the form of scratches on the glass, which can reduce how well they perform. Also remember that water and detergent will make your roof slippery (again, another reason to hire professionals). 

How often should solar panels be cleaned?

It’s not always necessary to do a deep cleaning of your panels. However, if you want to maintain their upkeep for aesthetic reasons, we recommend aiming for every six months. At a minimum, plan for one cleaning during the winter months. This way, you can get rid of all the leaves that fell from nearby trees during the autumn season. 

What can be done to avoid debris buildup? 

Here are three add-ons to include when creating your Monalee project. 

Critter guards

You’ll find these mesh barriers between the solar panels and your roof. They’re great at deterring rodents from interfering with your solar system and keeping leaf build-up at bay. 

Attic runs

Adding an attic run lets you run conduit through the attic, ultimately minimizing the appearance of unattractive electrical conduit on your roof. Some HOAs may actually require that you add an attic run. 

Solar Skirts

Also mainly for aesthetic purposes, solar skirts help hide wires and railings while reducing access under your panels for pests such as pigeons and squirrels. We offer the IronRidge Contour® Trim (shown below) as an add-on for Monalee projects. 

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