Do I have to clean my solar panels?

We had this question from a customer: Given that there isn’t too much rain to help with the cleaning, what is the typical solar panel maintenance attention that you would anticipate – is solar panel cleaning just typically wetting them down with hoses, or hand scrubbing? Dust obviously and a lot of birds out there. Every other day, once a week, once a month? What is the accessibility (between panels, etc.).

And here is our answer: For most of our customers there is little to no maintenance whatsoever, other than a weekly or monthly check of the production numbers to make sure the system is still operating. They make no noise either on or off, so unless someone pays attention to the monitoring alerts you won’t notice if the system goes offline. We can have the system set up to send automatic email alerts to us and you so such events won’t get missed.

Washing: In the Midwest, with lots of rain, it is typically not cost effective to wash modules. In CA, however, it is generally considered cost effective to wash modules one to two times per year. First wash is best done in late May, early June. Second wash is optional, depending on rain. A good spray from a hose is usually sufficient.

Random birds are not much problem. But if birds make a habit of visiting one spot, then that spot will need some scrubbing.

Solar panel accessibility depends on your goals and priorities. The CA fire code requires walking space all around the edges and a few pathways between arrays. But this still leaves large portions in which individual solar panels would be hard to reach. The panels are usually butted tightly up against each other. Our trained installers can walk on them, but I would not want an untrained or inexperienced person walking on them. So, you should stand in the walkways and spray with a strong hose.

Alternatively, it is possible to purchase automated washing systems, but whether or not they’re cost effective depends a lot on the design detail. Suffice it to say, this is something easily solved and not too costly.

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