Solar panels are incredibly easy to take care of – once they're installed, you don't need to worry too much about them. Nonetheless, it's important to understand the basics of solar panel maintenance and how to clean solar panels to ensure they generate energy as efficiently as possible. Here we share our top tips.

Solar panel cleaning

When solar panels develop a layer of dust and dirt on their surface, they cannot absorb sunlight as efficiently which means they don't produce as much electricity. To get the best performance out of solar panels, it's important their surface stays as clean as possible.

However, the majority of solar panels in the UK are self-cleaning. They have a coating on the surface that helps water droplets to roll right off without depositing minerals which would otherwise build up and cloud the surface. As the water droplets roll across the panel, they pick up and remove dust and dirt particles to stop these from building up too. For this reason, there's usually no need for cleaning solar panels unless there's a very noticeable buildup of dirt or dust.

Enjoy low maintenance solar energy

When do solar panels need cleaning?

Sometimes solar panel cleaning is necessary because the panels are in a location where they're exposed to high levels of dirt and dust. If you live in a highly polluted area such as near a busy road, or you tend to get lots of birds leaving droppings on the panels, you might need to periodically clean them.

If your solar panels are tilted less than five degrees, it can be harder for water droplets to roll off them and cleaning may be necessary. Finally, if your panels are installed at ground level with trees nearby, you may need to periodically clear away fallen leaves or seeds.

How often should you clean solar panels?

If you know your panels pick up lots of dirt or don't efficiently clean themselves, you should clean them between one and four times each year. If you notice the panels' energy output has fallen, check for excess dirt and see if cleaning offers an improvement. Over time you'll learn how quickly your panels get dirty and how often they need cleaning.

You can also try to keep the surrounding area clear to prevent shadows from blocking sunlight absorption. Make sure surrounding trees and hedges are cut back or lowered if they’re blocking any light. This should be done as often as necessary to prevent the panels falling into shadow.

Top tips for how to clean solar panels

If you think it's necessary to clean your solar panels, here are some top tips to help you stay safe and keep the panels in excellent condition.

1. Turn off the system before you start

Always shut down a solar system before cleaning it. Keep in mind that cabling surrounding the solar panels remains live because you can't turn off the supply of solar energy from the sun. Look out for damaged cables before cleaning and do not continue with cleaning if you notice any problems.

2. Don't DIY unless you know how to clean solar panels on roof mounts safely

We don't recommend cleaning solar panels yourself when they're roof-mounted unless you're trained to work safely at height and have appropriate safety equipment such as a ladder stabiliser, a harness and a hard hat. It's usually safer to hire a professional.

3. Use gentle cleaning products and tools

It's vital that you don't scratch the surface of the solar panels as this can inhibit their performance. Use a very soft brush or rag and avoid abrasive sponges. Water is usually enough, but for stubborn dirt you could use a gentle cleanser such as dish soap diluted in water. Never use a pressure washer for cleaning solar panels as this can damage the solar cells.

Solar panel maintenance

Solar panels are relatively low-maintenance because they don't have any moving parts. You can usually keep an eye on the successful function of your panels with the help of the monitoring system that's provided with them, which tracks the energy output of the panels. If you notice an unusual fall in energy output, this may be a sign of a fault. Some monitors can even detect and highlight faults so that you can arrange for a professional to repair the problem.

How often do solar panels need maintenance?

Aside from inspections and cleaning, you shouldn't need to do much maintenance of solar panels but sometimes inverters need repair or replacing. The inverter is what converts the DC output of the solar panels into AC as required by the power grid. Although inverters typically last around 20 to 25 years, which is roughly the same as the expected lifespan of the panels themselves too.

How much does solar panel maintenance cost?

Solar panel maintenance costs vary depending on how many panels you have and where they're installed. You can expect to pay between £150 and £250 for an annual service. Professional solar panel cleaning typically costs between £5 and £15 per panel.

Inverter maintenance

A crucial part of solar panels, the inverter is the component which converts the direct current (DC) which solar panels absorb into an alternate current (AC), which provides power for your home. A poorly maintained inverter will experience a greater drop in performance at the end of its life, so cleaning and maintenance is essential for efficient operations and a longer lifespan.

Around once a year, it’s recommended you:

  • Dust the inverter. Check the air inlets and ventilation grids aren’t blocked and give the parts a gentle dust. You can also dust the room where your inverter is installed more regularly to keep on top of cleaning.
  • Check the operations of the inverter. You can check the LEDs and displays regularly, but annually it’s worth:
  • Checking all connection cables are in good condition
  • Check there’s no evidence of damage or corrosion at the connections and any visible wiring
  • Restart the system and check it still works

If there is a problem with your solar panel system, it’s likely to be the power supply or the inverter. To troubleshoot, check if the electricity is connected, whether the switch has tripped and if the isolators are on – if all of this is OK, it’s not a power issue. You can then go ahead and check the inverter. If you notice any abnormalities or overheating, you should contact a professional.

There's no need for solar panel maintenance to be a source of stress. Solar systems are really easy to maintain so simply follow the recommendations in the instruction manual or consult your installer for advice. If you're interested in having solar panels installed on your property, get a free quote now from Otovo and let us connect you with the right deal and a reliable local installer.

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