Cleaning Solar Panels UK

Solar panels are a worthwhile, long-term investment that can save you money for decades, and proper cleaning and maintenance are crucial for longevity and optimal performance.

Solar panels must remain exposed to the sun, and dust, bird droppings, dirt, and other debris can accumulate on their surface and inhibit their functionality.

A study on the effect of dust on power loss in solar PV modules shows that an accumulation of a uniform dust layer can reduce power by 13% to 50%.

The accumulated dirt or dust particles can obstruct sunlight and prevent solar cells from absorbing energy, and the dirtier your solar panels get, the less efficient they become. They can also accelerate more severe issues like corrosion and degradation.

Cleaning your solar panels and keeping them well-maintained can increase their lifespan, ensure optimal performance, and maximise the return on your investment.

This guide explores the best practices for cleaning solar panels in the UK to help you keep your solar panels in tip-top shape.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cleaning your solar panels helps ensure their efficiency and output are not affected by contaminants like dirt, dust, leaves, or bird droppings.
  • How often you clean your solar panels can be influenced by the environment, the presence of birds and trees, rain frequency, p[roduction changes, and manufacturer guidelines
  • Precautions when cleaning solar panels include switching off power, using proper equipment, working with a spotter, and using gentle cleaning.

Why Should You Clean Solar Panels?

Solar panels create electricity from the sun, but over time, environmental contaminants like dust, dirt, bird droppings, pollen, leaves, and other debris can accumulate on the surface and obstruct sunlight, leading to partial shading.

Even small shaded areas can reduce the efficiency and output of the entire panel or solar array, with studies highlighting reductions between 2% and 50% after days or months without the panel’s surface being cleaned, depending on location and environment.

Some debris, like bird droppings or other organic matter, can be corrosive or acidic. If not cleaned, such contaminants can gradually degrade the protective coatings of solar panels and damage the cells.

Organic material or thick debris can also retain moisture on the surface and increase the risk of mould growth, corrosion, or water damage.

When panels remain uncleaned, debris can accumulate, resulting in uneven heat distribution across the solar panel.

Cells underneath the debris can remain cooler while other cells heat up, creating hotspots that are detrimental to the performance and longevity of the solar panels.

When moisture or rain combines with the accumulated debris, it adds weight to the solar panels and supporting structures, leading to structural damage.

Regularly cleaning your solar panels ensures they operate at maximum capacity. It also helps prevent issues caused by debris and prolongs the operational life of the solar panel system.

Cleaning also ensures your solar panels don’t look unsightly and improves the overall appearance of your property.

Check out our video on selecting solar panels in the UK:

How Often Should You Clean Solar Panels?

On average, cleaning your solar panels at least once or twice a year is recommended to maintain optimal performance.

However, the frequency can be influenced by various factors like:

  • Environment: If you live in an area with dust, pollution, or airborne debris, you may need to clean your solar panels more often. Dust and pollutants can accumulate quickly on the panel surface, reducing efficiency.
  • Birds and Trees: If your solar panels are located near trees or areas frequented by birds, you may need to clean them more frequently to remove bird droppings and other organic matter that can accumulate and obstruct sunlight.
  • Rain Frequency: Solar panels can be self-cleaning, where debris gets washed off when it rains. However, dirt and dust can accumulate on solar panels more quickly in regions with infrequent rainfall. In such areas, you may need to clean the panels more often to ensure optimal performance.
  • Production Changes: If you notice a significant decrease in energy production or visible soiling on the panel surface, it’s advisable to clean them promptly to restore optimal performance.
  • Manufacturer Guidelines: Some solar panel manufacturers may provide specific guidelines regarding cleaning frequency based on their panel designs and materials. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for best practices.

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Safety Precautions for Solar Panel Cleaning

Safety is vital when it comes to cleaning solar panels, especially if they’re on rooftops or elevated locations.

Some essential safety precautions to follow include:

  • Turning Off Power: Before cleaning the solar panels, switch off the power supply to the system to prevent the risk of electric shock. Ensure no electricity flows through the panels while you’re working on them.
  • Using Proper Equipment: If working at heights, wear appropriate safety equipment, such as non-slip footwear, gloves, and safety harnesses. Safety goggles may also be necessary to protect your eyes from debris and cleaning solutions.
  • Check Weather Conditions: Avoid cleaning solar panels during rain, snow, or strong winds, as you can easily slip and fall in such conditions.
  • Work with a Spotter: Whenever possible, work with a partner who can assist you and provide support, especially when working at heights. It makes it safer and ensures help is available in an emergency.
  • Use Stable Ladders or Platforms: If using a ladder or elevated platform to access the solar panels, ensure it’s stable and securely positioned on a flat surface. Avoid overreaching or leaning too far while cleaning to prevent falls.
  • Be Mindful of Electrical Components: Avoid damaging electrical or wiring components while cleaning the panels. Avoid spraying water directly onto electrical connections or junction boxes to prevent electrical hazards.
  • Use Gentle Cleaning Methods: Use non-abrasive cleaning tools such as soft brushes, squeegees, or microfiber cloths to remove debris and dirt from the panel surface. Avoid harsh chemicals or materials that can scratch or damage the panels.
  • Avoid Walking on Panels: Never walk directly on the surface of solar panels, as this can cause damage and reduce efficiency. Instead, work from the edges or use a stable platform to access hard-to-reach areas.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Guidelines: Adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning procedures and guidelines to ensure the safe and effective maintenance of the solar panels.

Final Thoughts

Regularly cleaning your solar panels at least once or twice a year or more frequently, depending on your situation, can ensure they perform efficiently and reduce premature wear and tear.

You can do it yourself if you’re not afraid of working at heights or hire professional cleaning services.

Sources used in this article: