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How to diagnose & clean solar panels when dirty

05 Sep 2017

Posted in General, Residential by Alba Energy

Solar panels produce energy by absorbing sunlight. The top outer layer is a glass enclosure, and when dirty or dusty, maximum sunlight absorption and energy production could be inhibited.

The Solar Energy Power Association notes that dirty solar panels can lose 20% of their energy output, while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates it can be as high as 25%.

This article will explain tips for maintaining and cleaning solar panels, as well as ways to tell if your system could be affected by some sort of dirt or blockage.

Diagnosing Dirty Solar Panels

For most homeowners with larger installations, a few dirty solar panels on the roof may not be as noticeable or troublesome. However, for smaller sized installs like 10 panels or less, even just a few dirty solar panels can have a dramatic effect on energy absorption and power bill offset.

Many installations nowadays commonly include system monitoring. This application communicates the energy being absorbed by the solar panels with the energy being converted by the electronic inverters, and is one of the easiest ways to recognize a problem related to dirty panels.

You may see there is a problem if the past days have all been equally sunny, but the amount of wattage generated by your panels has taken an unexpected dip.

For customers with energy storage, you may notice that batteries have not been charged to their full levels during peak sunlight hours.

Another easy way to recognize a problem is to directly look at the panels themselves in search of dirt, pollen, bird droppings, leaves, or other items on the surface of solar panels.
view-of-dirty-solar-panel
Remember, solar panels are made up of individual solar cells that are wired together. If these cannot collect sunlight because something is between them and the sun, they will not function properly and thus will not produce the optimal amount of solar energy.

Seasonality and Snow

It is especially important to be on the lookout for these types of issues during colder seasons when days are shorter and sunlight is less available.

For customers who live in northern climates or places where snow is frequent, you should double check to make sure that snow and ice does not accumulate on top of your solar panels for an extended period of time.

A light dusting of snow will likely melt when illuminated and heated by solar energy from the sun.

Cleaning and Maintenance

You can clean a dirty solar panel just as you would a dirty window. Using Windex or another type of glass cleaner is recommended along with a cloth, paper towels, or squeegee.
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You can also use a hose and gently spray water on to the panels to wash away any debris. There is no electrical shock hazard from getting a solar panel wet.

Always ensure that proper safety precautions are taken when using ladders and/or standing on a roof.

If you purchased a service and maintenance plan, call your solar installer and schedule a cleaning.

Solar Power Services In Texas

Alba Energy is a leading provider of solar panel installations, service, and maintenance for home and business owners throughout Texas.

Click to view our portfolio of solar panel installations and find a solar install near you, or Contact Us to request your FREE solar savings analysis and find out how much money you could save by going solar.

You can also contact Alba Energy to learn about one of our service and maintenance packages if someone else installed your solar power system.
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