Solar panel maintenance: Everything you need to know
Solar panels are a great investment that can provide you with renewable solar energy for the next 25 years or more. But how do you maintain them? Are they like your car, requiring regular tune-ups to stay in peak condition? Or are you supposed to just leave them be? Read on for answers to the common solar panel maintenance questions.
Do solar panels need to be maintained?
Solar panels generally require very little maintenance in order to function. The only thing they need is a periodic light cleaning to make sure dirt, leaves, and other debris aren't obstructing the sun's rays. The only time you may need more extensive maintenance is during periods of heavy snowfall, or if your panels' energy output starts to decrease. Let's take a closer look at how to make sure your solar panels last as long as possible.
How do you maintain solar panels?
If your panels are tilted, you’re in luck: rainfall actually clears away debris that's accumulated on them. However, during the dry season or extended periods without rain, it's important to clean them manually. It is generally recommended that you perform solar panel cleaning between two and four times per year. The good news is that this doesn’t require much work. All you really need is a leaf blower or a quick spray with a garden hose, and your panels will be clean and in top condition.
In winter, you may need to clean your panels after a heavy snowfall. If you're using water to clear the snow away, make sure it's lukewarm. You can also use a squeegee with a long handle. Just remember, never use hot water when clearing snow off the panels. The panels are made of tempered glass, and the extreme temperature disparity between hot water and cold panels can crack them.
Ground panels vs. roof panels: Is there a maintenance difference?
The only real difference between maintaining ground-mounted solar systems and roof solar systems is that ground panels are easier to access, and therefore easier to keep clean. If you notice a buildup of snow or other debris, you can simply sweep it off with a broom.
What is the standard warranty for solar panels?
Make sure you are getting a good solar panel warranty before you go solar. This is because if your solar panels' efficiency does start to decrease, you'll need professional maintenance that can potentially cost you thousands of dollars over the years. A good solar company will give you a warranty of between 15 and 25 years, and guarantee that your panels' energy production remains at 85% or above for that entire time.
How does extreme weather impact your solar panels?
Solar panels are designed to be durable. Top quality solar panel installations allow PV systems to withstand all kinds of weather, from wind and rain to snow and more. You’ll be glad to know that solar panels hold up well against hail, as found by the Department of Energy. They can even survive hurricanes, as evidenced by the limited damage to solar systems in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence in 2018.
Of course, they are not 100% indestructible; on rare occasions can suffer damage by hail, hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. But as long as you have a good warranty, and/or your panels are covered by homeowners' insurance, you should be able to have any damaged panels repaired or replaced. Somewhat ironically, the type of weather that most commonly affects panels is heat. When the temperature gets over 90 degrees, panels lose efficiency approximately 1% per degree. However, by elevating them a few inches above the ground or roof, you allow for air circulation, which can help cool them down and maintain energy production.
Can you monitor the health of your solar panels?
By integrating a solar panel monitoring system into your setup, you can track how much energy your panels produce on any given day, and how much they produce over time. This allows you to see exactly how various external factors affect your panels' performance and how well they're maintaining their efficiency across their life. The monitoring system will also alert you if a panel breaks or malfunctions so that you can repair or replace it.
How to repair or replace solar panels
If your panels need to be repaired or replaced, it's best to hire a professional. If they're losing efficiency and still under a performance/power output warranty, then call your solar company. They'll send someone to assess the situation and either fix the problem or replace the panels. If your panels have sustained physical damage, that's often covered under a separate equipment warranty, or under your homeowners' insurance. Find out if and how your panels are covered for damage, and whom to call to file a claim. Either way, don't attempt to install solar panels or make repairs yourself unless you're experienced with home solar systems.
Conclusion: Are solar panels hard to maintain?
All-in-all, maintaining your solar panels is pretty easy. Just be sure to get a good warranty and good insurance, and can keep your panels free of dirt and debris buildup. Do that, and your panels should continue to operate at peak efficiency, bringing you clean, renewable solar power for years to come. Learn more about installing solar panels in your home today!
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.