Updated 4 weeks ago

Solar panel maintenance: Everything you need to know

Written by Andy Sendy

Find out what solar panels cost in your area

How often do you have to clean your solar panels?

Solar panels are a great investment that can provide you with cheap, renewable solar energy for the next 25 years or more. 

But a key question is, how do you maintain them? Are solar panels like your car, requiring regular tune-ups to stay in peak condition? Or are you supposed to just leave them be? 

Read on for the answers to the most common solar panel maintenance questions.

How many solar panels does your home need?

Solar panel maintenance at a glance:

  • Solar panels require very little maintenance, especially if they are on a tilt, as rain can wash away any debris.

  • It is generally recommended that you perform solar panel cleaning between two and four times per year. Take extreme care when cleaning.

  • Clean from the ground, as climbing around on your roof can be dangerous. Use a soft-bristled cleaning brush and a non-abrasive cleaner. Be sure to clean the panels early in the morning before they get too hot from the sun; cold water and hot panels do not mix!

  • Solar panel maintenance and cleaning is not covered under panel warranties, but if your solar panels are damaged, they will usually be covered.

Do solar panels need to be maintained? 

Solar panels generally require very little maintenance in order to function, so yes, you can usually just let them be. The only thing most solar panels need is a periodic light cleaning to make sure dirt, leaves, and other debris aren't obstructing the sun's rays. You may also want to check underneath the panels for debris or signs of animals, and potentially spring for solar critter guards if this becomes an issue.

The only time you may need more extensive maintenance is if you discover signs of animals nesting under your system (in which case you may need solar critter guards) and during periods of heavy snowfall, as large amounts of snow on solar panels can hinder their performance. 

Can you monitor the health of your solar panels? 

If your panels’ energy output starts to decrease, you can monitor it via an app. Lower energy output could be a sign that your panels are obstructed by something, like debris, and cannot generate their typical electricity amount. 

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.

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 will actually clear 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. While that might seem like a lot, 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. 

It is important to note that you should 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.

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, they can suffer damage by hail, hurricanes, tornadoes, or lightning. But as long as you have a good warranty, 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 77°F (or 25°C), 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. Solar panel performance in hot temperatures is not something to stress too much about, your solar installer will take local climate factors into consideration when installing panels. 

Learn more: How hot do solar panels get and how does it affect my system?

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 or power output warranty, then call the company that installed your panels. They will 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. You can work with your solar installer to find out who can best replace those panels. Either way, don't attempt to install solar panels or make repairs yourself unless you're experienced with home solar systems.

Read more: How long do solar panels last? 

So, are solar panels hard to maintain? 

All in all, maintaining your solar panels is pretty easy. If you notice dust, debris or snow piled up, a quick clean will ensure that your panels operate effectively. Additionally, be sure the panels you get come with a good warranty so that if your panels do break, they get replaced. 

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 in our beginner's guide.

Find out how much solar panels will cost for your home
Written by Andy Sendy Solar Industry Expert

Andy Sendy is a well-known and trusted figure within the solar industry with more than 15 years of experience. His video reviews of the leading brands of solar panels and home energy storage batteries are a must-watch each year for both homeowners and solar industry professionals alike. In 2021, an article he wrote about a clause in the Tesla solar panel rental contract caused Tesla to change this clause within days. He was the founder of Sola...

Learn more about Andy Sendy