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Why Clean Solar Panels?
Once you get your solar panels installed, you will find them fairly maintenance free. Most are rated for a very long 30 year lifetime. As you can see from the above picture, solar panels can get dirty. Pollen, bird droppings, dirt, and dust can build up on solar panels. We try to clean solar panels at least two times a year. March/April when the rainy season has passed, and August/September, towards the end of summer. Pollen from our nearby evergreens really sticks to the panels. Try to clean pollen off before it bonds, otherwise a cleaning solution may be needed.
We have found a 10-15% decrease in solar output when solar panels are dirty and can immediately see the increase in power generation on our inverters.
How to Clean Solar Panels
We gently hose off our solar panels and use a soft car wash brush to lightly scrub the dirt off when doing solar panel cleaning. See the picture above to see how a partially cleaned panel looks. Check with your solar panel manufacturer to verify the best way to clean your solar panels. We have heard that people with hard water may need to wash their solar panels using a delivered water service, so check into that if your water is hard. Clean solar panels are worth the effort.
You may also need to trim back trees or plants that block the sun. We have had to do this every 5 years or so.
Too lazy to do your own solar panel maintenance? There are companies that will do solar panel cleaning for you.
Checking Solar Panel Operation
The only other part of solar panel maintenance is monitoring their energy output and ensuring there are no malfunctions. Check and log the power output on your solar inverters display on a daily or monthly basis. With this data, you can then check to see if your solar panels are functioning at full efficiency. Solar panels produce different amounts of power during the year, so keeping a baseline measurement helps.
SolarMagic Solar Power Optimizer
National Semiconductor has a new SolarMagic power optimizer box that is supposed to reclaim up to 50% of the energy lost to real world shade and mismatch conditions and enable flexible design installation.
“In fact, as little as 10% shade on an array can result in as much as 50% lost energy. SolarMagic power optimizers maximize the energy potential of each individual panel so as much as 50% of the lost energy can be reclaimed.”
A quote on their website cites an up to 22.6 percent more power out of the same panels in Oakland, California.
Solar PV arrays are susceptible to large amounts of energy loss from small amounts of shade caused by light barriers like trees, roof obstructions, and debris. In addition, solar arrays require installation with a single orientation and tilt to avoid array mismatch energy loss.
A solar panel, or module, consists of multiple solar cells placed in series – the potential of each cell adds to the available output voltage and current of the entire panel. In the same manner, an under performing cell in the panel detracts from the output voltage and current of the entire panel.
Be sure to read our article Are Solar Panels for Me?
Be sure to ready our other solar panel – solar power articles: