If you’re anything like me then you probably think your job is done once you have your solar panels installed. I coughed up the money, had the contractors come out, ooh’d and aah’d when my panels were installed on my roof and then I never thought about them again. This was a big mistake. One day I called my roof installation company for inspection as my walls looked little wet in rain. They informed me about the bad condition of my panels due to dirt and debris. While solar panels may seem like a set it and forget it type item you would be wrong to think that there is no upkeep involved. I didn’t know about upkeep for my panels and I paid so I want to offer a few helpful checklist to others that have panels so they do not have to go through the same hassle I had to.
Keep your panels clean
This may sound like a no-brainer for many but if you’re anything like me it never even occurred to you that cleaning solar panels was necessary. Considering the fact that solar panels just became part of the landscape of my house that I never even noticed it didn’t dawn on me that they need care. The truth is, the cleaner the glass is on the panel the more surface the sun can reach. If the sun can reach the entire panel without difficulty then you’ll be able to receive and store more energy. How often you clean the panels will vary depending on where you live. You’ll need to take into consideration the environment that your panels are in. If there is a lot of road construction stirring up dust, or you live in a windy area, or maybe you’ve just reached the end of winter and your panels have been hit by a lot of wind and potential moss. If you live in a particularly bad area then you may need to wash your panels as often as weekly. If your home stays relatively clean from dirt and other debris then every other month should suffice. The main thing to do is keep an eye out. Simply watch for when your panels become dusty and then use your garden hose to rinse them off.
Cleaning your solar panels
While a spritz with the hose every now and then is good enough in most cases it will be necessary to clean a little deeper occasionally. Keep in mind that you should never use any abrasive soaps or cleaning sponges, these can be harmful to the panel and are unnecessary. If you have access to a pool skimmer they can be the perfect tool. Get the skimmer and apply a soft cloth or wash rag to the end and use some biodegradable soap. If you have to get on the roof to reach your panels be extremely careful as the roofing tiles can become very slick once they become wet. Once you’re ready scrub the panels carefully but with enough force to remove any dirt and bird droppings. One of the easiest ways to check if your panels need cleaning is to monitor your meter. If the meter is moving forward in the middle of the day when your panels should be getting the most sun then you either have a lot of appliances currently running or your panels could use a good cleaning. Remember that keeping your panels clean will help you save money so it’s worth the extra effort.
Solar panels like the sun
Another mistake I made was not fully considering some trees I had in my yard. While they were smaller they didn’t cast shadows across my roofing but as they grew they began to obstruct my solar panels. Thankfully I didn’t need to remove my trees but I did have to prune them in a way that allowed the sun to reach my panels. Shade on the panels can be more detrimental than you probably imagine. When part of your panel is shaded it loses power exponentially, so if ¼ of the panel is shaded it seems it would make sense to think you’re losing ¼ but in reality you’re losing closer to ½. When you install your panels consider what the space will be like in the future and if you already have panels that seem like they’re not doing as well as they could then take the time to look around for shade culprits.
Monitoring is important
This is a simple task and really doesn’t take hardly any effort on your part but can make a big difference. Just pay attention to your inverter display. If the green light is on then everything is great, if it’s not then you’ll need to look deeper to figure out why. Just consider that the longer your green light is out the more savings you’re losing. Something is wrong with the panels and should be fixed as soon as you notice so that you can continue reaping the benefits. If you’re like me you’ll have no idea what the problem could be or how to fix it so this is the time to call in the experts and have them take a look.
Record day-to-day performance
It’s hard to know if your panels aren’t living up to their potential if you don’t know how they function at their peak. This is a simple tracking method that will allow you a fuller picture of what your panels put out. To begin your record begin checking what your system has produced around the same time each day. In your ledger make sure you mark which days are sunny, and which are overcast so you know why they differ. Keeping this sort of note system will help you to more easily recognize when your solar system is still functioning but maybe not up to the standard it should be.
I hope these tips are helpful and will keep you from falling into some of the same pitfalls that I did. I truly though solar panels were an install and forget type of situation but with a little upkeep here and there yours will hold up spectacularly and will provide your family power for years to come.