nstalling a rooftop solar system opens up exciting opportunities for energy self-sufficiency and helps to drastically shrink electricity bills. Today there are over 2.7 million residential PV systems in the US, and this figure continues to grow as homeowners increasingly choose to shift from fossil fuels to green power. And while setting up PV panels at your property may potentially give you some hassle, all the efforts will eventually be rewarded with home-based solar generation.
Do I need solar panel maintenance?
But do solar panels need maintenance? The answer is definitely yes. Not to worry though, there's nothing complicated about it. By simply following a few easy steps you can ensure a smooth and trouble-free operation of your solar panels.
How to maintain solar panels? Solar maintenance checklist
Now let’s take a closer look at each stage of solar panel maintenance.
Trim the trees around the panels
To make the most of your solar system, you need to make sure your panels receive direct unobstructed sunlight, as shading can dramatically slash the output of PV panels. Even if only a small part you your panels get shaded, you risk losing as much as 75% of the output.
If you have large trees on your property, some of them can block the sunlight. Even if the trees don’t grow too close to your rooftop, they cast shade on your panels early in the morning or in the evening. In some cases, cutting the trees down can be the only option, but normally removing a few overhanging branches is enough. So if your rooftop is surrounded by trees, trimming them needs to be incorporated into your solar panel maintenance.
Clean the panels regularly
While some people claim maintenance of solar panels shouldn’t necessarily include cleaning, we still recommend you make it a part of your solar maintenance routine. Occasional rain may wash off most of the dust, but some of the debris, pollen, and fallen leaves can stick to the panels and not be washed away by raindrops. As this dirt piles up, it can adversely affect the performance of the PV system: according to experts, the efficiency of dirty panels can fall by up to 30%.
Some PV installers might offer cleaning services as part of solar panel maintenance, but if it's not your case, you can easily do it yourself. You may use a garden hose, mild detergent, and a soft sponge, and wash your panels the same way you would wash your car. Tandem solar cells combine multiple layers to increase efficiency, promising advancements in renewable energy technology.
If you are unable or unwilling to carry out the cleaning yourself, you can always hire solar cleaning services equipped with all the necessary tools and trained to wash the panels in the safest possible way. But in either case, don’t neglect this simple yet important part of solar maintenance to ensure excellent performance and longevity of your solar PV system.
Carry out regular visual checks
Another crucial step in solar panel maintenance is a visual inspection of your PV modules. Naturally, you might not have such a good eye for some technical faults as a solar maintenance specialist, but there are still many problems you can prevent by carefully examining your solar system.
Check if there are any cracks, chips, or hot spots in the glass – all these defects can potentially affect both the output and lifespan of your PV system. Make sure the supporting frames didn’t come loose and cable insulation didn’t come off. This simple solar panel maintenance check will help timely notice the malfunction and resort to the help of solar maintenance professionals.
Keep track of solar system performance
Maintenance of solar panels also must include careful monitoring. Modern solar monitoring systems give you access to detailed real-time data on how much energy you produce and consume, show the temperature of PV modules and the amount of shading. And while these systems are designed to automatically detect most errors or hardware problems, collecting historical data manually will give you a wider perspective and help notice a gradual decline in performance.
Schedule professional solar panel maintenance
Getting your PV panels serviced is a crucial part of solar maintenance. It is recommended to schedule an appointment with a professional at least once a year. A solar panel service specialist will come to your site to examine the panels, make sure cables and wiring are not damaged and all electrical components operate properly.
The cost of a solar panel maintenance
Maintenance of solar panels will cost you some money, but it is definitely worth it. A solar system is always a large investment and solar panel maintenance is a way to ensure this investment yields results.
Solar maintenance can cost anywhere from $300 to $1300 annually, depending on what things you choose to handle yourself and what to leave to the professionals.
An average PV panel cleaning cost is $15-$35 per panel or $300-$525 for a standard residential 20-panel system. The US average cost of solar system inspections with solar maintenance specialists ranges from $150 to $300 depending on the region and system size.
Is solar maintenance covered by a warranty?
Solar panels are covered with a minimum 10-year warranty, but a lot of manufacturers offer warranties for 25 or even 30 years. Most warranties cover only the repair or replacement of defective parts, however, some premium installers include annual solar maintenance visits as well.
Bottom line: solar maintenance is key to a well-functioning PV system
To put it in a nutshell, maintenance for solar panels is critical to ensure a smooth operation of a PV system. It does not take much time: all you need to do to properly maintain your PV panels is keep them clean and exposed to direct sunlight, regularly check them for defects and schedule an annual professional inspection. With these simple solar maintenance rules, your PV installation will serve you well and provide you with clean power for decades.