Every so often, we get the urge to clean the house top to bottom. But the very top – solar panels – sometimes miss out on this loving care. Much like windows, solar panels can harbour cobwebs, marks and a thin film of dust. It’s rarely spoken about, but to ensure optimal efficiency, the surface of solar panels need cleaning at least once a year.
Modern systems usually have a solar panel monitoring system as part of the setup, tracking how much energy your panels produce on any given day and year on year. Typically panel warranties account for around a 15% decrease in efficiency over their lifetime. A build-up of dirt could see a similar efficiency drop that’s easily remedied.
Should I clean my solar panels myself?
We recommend using an experienced solar panel cleaning service for a few reasons, the primary one being safety.
- Working at heights is one of the most dangerous parts of many professions, so much so that industries often require specialist training for it. Roofs may have weak spots, loose tiles and sections that can become slippery when wet. A trip to the hospital (or worse) presents no savings at all in a DIY job.
- Electricity is another factor. We’re warned from a young age about the dangers of mixing water and electricity. Commercial solar cleaners know which areas may be sensitive to water penetration, to look for loose wires and to switch off the power to/from the panel and wait a short while to ensure there’s no electrical discharge.
- Scratching, cracking and other damage is the other big problem with DIY solar cleaning. The wrong chemicals or an abrasive cloth could permanently damage the surface of your solar panels. The top layer of most panels is made from tempered glass, so using cold water in the heat of the day or warm water if there’s frost could mean game over. Cracks caused by this mistake are rarely covered by warranty replacements.
A clear benefit of using a solar and electrical professional for your solar panel cleaning is they can also identify any small issues and remedy them before they become big issues.
Will rain be enough to clean my solar panels?
I’ve been on enough roofs to know that rain can wash away some leaf litter and dust – as well as bring more of it! Rainwater isn’t pure water and often carries dust and other particulates… even frogs and fish in incredibly rare cases.
Living close to development sites, the coast, or windy desert areas can impact how much build-up of dust and particulate matter accumulates on your solar PV system
The angle of your panels also makes a difference. If your panels are relatively horizontal, rainfall may sit there drying more dust onto the surface (and won’t disperse leaf litter). Even an angled panel will usually end up with streaking, reducing efficiency.
What reduces the effectiveness of solar panels?
- Constant heavy traffic near main roads
- Pollen events during spring
- Nearby construction work
- Extensive landscaping or earthmoving events
- Bushfire events
- Prescribed fire hazard reduction burns
Prolonged extreme heat can also reduce the effectiveness of some solar panels by as much as 1%. Ensuring there is some space between the roof and the panel may remedy this impediment.
It’s only natural to need occasional solar cleaning
Being named Koala Solar, we clearly love Australia’s native animals – including the beautiful bird species that populate our corner of the world. But s**t happens. Bird droppings don’t just look nasty; they’re high in uric acid, making them corrosive to many surfaces. Sometimes getting up close with a cloth is the only way to remove caked-on crud entirely, and something that most would prefer to leave to the professionals.
Perth’s air pollution can affect solar panel cleaning
Perth has some of the best air quality of any city in the world, but it’s not ‘pure’. Even the WA countryside can’t claim to be much better, as agriculture disturbs soils for planting and harvesting. Many mining and refining plants that are the beating heart of regional towns also add particles to the air, however well-regulated. Natural bushland detritus, canola field pollen, livestock on grass paddocks; these all produce particulate.
There are three key sites in Perth that measure Particulate Matter: Caversham, Duncraig and South Lake. According to documents prepared by www.der.wa.gov.au, each location measures an average of between 20 and 40 ppm each month for particulate matter. There is a decrease overall in winter, as rain tends to ‘rinse’ the air of dust and debris — right onto your roof.
Living close to development sites, the coast, or windy desert areas can impact how much build-up of dust and particulate matter accumulates on your solar PV system. Even having trees nearby solar panels can impact it in a way other than shade: like bark dust and oils dropped from Perth’s ever-popular peppermint trees.
Is maintaining solar panels difficult?
When installed correctly (like the Koala Solar guys do), solar PV systems maintain themselves for much of the year. But to maintain optimum efficiency, booking regular professional solar panel cleaning services is an excellent way to protect your investment.
Your warranty will cover most potential issues that could arise. However, events such as a freak mega-hailstorm or branch fall that damages panels may not cover a replacement, so be sure to add the asset to your Home and Contents Insurance policy on the day they are installed. After all, they’re an asset you’ll want to protect and benefit from for years to come. Beauty!