Does Solar Panel Cleaning Improve Panel Efficiency?
Solar Panel Cleaning is required for best panel performance. Most common solar panels consist of solar cells covered by a glass coating, for protective purposes. The dirtier this coating becomes, the more the efficiency of the solar panel in question will decline.
Loss in solar panel efficiency can be caused by several factors. If the panel surface is obstructed by pollution, traffic dust, leaves or even bird droppings, this may result in loss of efficiency due to the prevention of light that reaches the panel cells. While many factors affect how much electricity your solar panels will produce – dirty solar panels can be one of the biggest, and easiest to fix. Even better is trying to prevent the problem in the first place. This can be done by regularly inspecting the solar panels.
Ways to Check Solar Panels
There are several ways to verify if your panels need to be cleaned:
- Physical Inspection: Solar panels should be inspected regularly, especially in areas where the weather conditions are unfavorable or is there is significant dust. The connections should as well be checked when performing the physical inspection.
- Use a Monitoring Service: A physical inspection is done once in a while, but there is the possibility to always monitor the status of the solar panels by using a monitoring service. Paying a monthly fee or an upfront cost, the performance of the solar system can be constantly monitored, thus preventing it from damage and in some cases increasing the lifespan.
A solar system produces a certain amount of power each month. With the aid of a monitoring system, this can give information if the solar system is offline or is not performing at optimal levels. More-so, solar monitoring systems can show how much power is saved as well as the levels of CO2 that have been saved and finally how much money is being saved.
Ways to Clean Solar Panels
When checked using any of the two ways mentioned above, the solar panels must be cleaned if dirty. There are also several ways of doing this and some might be easier and less costly than expected.
- Solar Panel Cleaning Yourself – Anyone who owns a solar panel system can clean it themselves. The surface of a solar panel can be easily cleaned with things found around the house. Warm water and soap, for example dishwashing soap, will remove any accumulation of dirt deposited. The challenging part of cleaning roof mounted solar panels on your own is actually reaching them. However, if this is not a problem, cleaning them on your own may be a cheaper solution.
- Use a Solar Panel Cleaning Service – A first dilemma with this option is finding a good solar panel cleaning service. Your installer can definitely help you with recommending a good service, can advise you about prices and he can also tell you how often the panels should be cleaned, so as not to waste money. If using a cleaning service it would be advised to be insured, in case of any accidents.
Is Cleaning Solar Panels Worth It?
Some are of the opinion that cleaning the solar panels is too much trouble in the first place. Depending on the level of dirt or rubbish on them, solar panel efficiency drops. This can drop a few percentages or can drop a significant amount, however in the course of several years.
Solar panels have a protective layer on them which protects them from bad weather. Over the course of a year or several years, if dust or other material accumulates this will reduce the efficiency. For a typical residential solar system of 5kW, cleaning every year would translate into only a few pounds of electricity production gained.
Dust on solar panels does make a difference in performance but it's not a big enough factor in some locations to warrant cleaning. If the drop in power output is not big and as long as the power of the household is still covered by the panels, then cleaning might not be worth the investment.
For larger commercial rooftop systems, the financial losses are bigger if the solar system does not perform at optimal levels, but still rare enough to warrant the cost of washing the panels.
The investment in cleaning solar panels will not be returned after hiring someone to wash your rooftop panels. This means that the cost of cleaning is more than the results afterwards.
Other Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency
It has been discovered that solar panels mounted at an angle of less than five degrees resulted in more significant losses in solar panel efficiency. This is due to the fact that deposits slip of the panels when they are at an angle. Location is also a factor in panel efficiency, areas with more dirt may affect the way the system operates.
Dust is not the only factor that can cause solar panel efficiency to drop. Other factors such as bird droppings should definitely be cleaned. This is because the droppings block all sunlight and will not be gone away naturally, from the rain from example. Depending on the surroundings, PV panels may get dirty and require cleaning. For example if the location of the panels is directly next to and downwind of a highway, factory or agricultural field, this may generate enough dirt to warrant cleaning.
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