Solar panel installation is a worthwhile investment and a great way to save money on your energy bill. Besides, solar energy remains the answer to the ever-growing demand for clean and renewable energy. A high-quality solar panel can last for up to 25 years. However, proper maintenance is inevitable between installation and service life.
One of the biggest upsides of solar energy systems is that they require little care and maintenance. With no moving parts, they undergo minimal degradation over time. This guide reveals effective maintenance tips and practices that will keep your solar panel in good working condition for years to come.
How do you Maintain Solar Panels?
It is crucial that you carry out regular maintenance on your solar panel system to ensure it is operating safely, correctly, and efficiently. Over time, debris and dust may build up on your panels, which may compromise the system's performance. The key focus is perfectly aligning the panels with the incoming solar radiation.
Routine maintenance will ensure system performance is maintained, allowing you to maximize savings on your energy bill for many years. Thankfully, taking care of your panels is incredibly easy! Cleaning is the most common type of maintenance, along with the repair and replacement of damaged parts.
How to Clean Your Solar Panels
Cleaning your solar panels is surprisingly easy, especially if they are titled. The rainfall washes away most of the debris and dust accumulated over time. During winter, you may need to clean your panels after heavy snowfalls. If you are using water to clean, ensure it is lukewarm. You should never use hot water to clear snow on your panels.
In drought and dry seasons, you will need to conduct manual cleaning more frequently. The easiest way to clean your solar panels is to blast away debris and dust by using a leaf blower. This option is perfect for roof-mounted panels since you will not have to lug a hose up a ladder.
Another effective way is using a water hose to rinse away the debris. You do not need to use a pressure washer or a high-pressure nozzle as it could potentially scratch the panel cover. Your standard home water pressure is efficient. Once you clean, the panels will effectively absorb solar radiation and supply energy to all your preferred areas. You should conduct manual cleaning two to four times per year for the best results.
Camping solar panels only require a little cleaning with water to eliminate dust and frost buildup. Based on the manufacturer's instructions, you may need to switch off the system when cleaning to avoid damage to the electrical system or short-circuiting.
How to Repair or Replace Solar Panels
If your solar panels require repair or replacement, it is best to hire a professional. You can call your solar panel installation company in the event that your panels are losing efficiency but are still under a performance output warranty. They should send someone to examine the situation, repair the damaged parts or replace the panels.
If your solar panel system has sustained physical damage, this falls under a different equipment warranty or the homeowners' insurance cover. You will need to find out the damage coverage for your panels and file a claim. That said, never attempt to make repairs or install solar panels by yourself unless you are experienced with home solar systems.
Do Solar Inverters Need Servicing?
While most solarinverters come with approximately 5 to 10 years of lifespan, they require regular servicing to enhance optimal efficiency. You will need to call a professional from time to time to check out whether your inverter is in good condition. Always ensure that your inverter is clean by regularly wiping it free of any accumulating dust, debris, or cobwebs.
Often, inverters above a certain size come with a fan to maintain efficiency. If your inverter has a fan, avoid covering or limiting the airflow around the inverter to allow adequate cooling. As a rule, you should leave at least 12 inches of clearance around the unit.
If your inverter is installed in a dusty area, you may need to call a technician to clean the air intake filter. This type of maintenance requires a professional, so you should not attempt it by yourself unless you are experienced.
Be sure to watch out for error codes. If your inverter shows an error code or displays a different light than normal, it may need servicing. Again, a professional is best equipped to read these error codes and offer the appropriate services.
How to Tell When My Solar Panels Need Maintenance
In most cases, your solar panels will not need much maintenance outside your regular cleaning and inspection. However, there are a few red flags to look out for, which may indicate that your panels require maintenance.
One of the key indicators that your PV system requires maintenance is the reduction in the energy output. Small dips in production may result from weather changes like prolonged clouds. Solar panel degradation is also a potential cause of a minor decrease in power production.
How to Inspect Solar Panels Power Production
There are two major ways to inspect the power production levels on your panels. Start by analyzing your latest utility bill. In essence, your bill should be extremely low to the point of receiving the credit from your provider. If you notice a questionable increase in your costs, there is inadequate power production. However, certain variables account for when analyzing your utility bills.
For instance, in warmer seasons, you are likely to use more electricity. Changes in your bills would be more significant if the slight decline in production and an increase in usage occurred simultaneously. You may also need to ensure the charge controllers are in the right settings.
Another way to inspect the energy production levels on your panels is to analyze the data on your solar panel monitoring system. This is an easier way to find out about the efficiency of your PV system. Investing in deep cycle batteries is also crucial in enhancing efficient energy supply to your home, even in low output.
Besides energy output, there are other signs to look out for that would suggest the need for your solar panels maintenance:
Unexpected Power Shutdowns
Several problems with the installation or wiring can cause unplanned shutdowns of your solar panel system. You may need to contact your contractor for issues such as loose wires. It is also possible for the inverter to shut down when receiving more than the recommended voltage. In such a situation, you will have to adjust the inverter's voltage settings or upgrade its components to handle the higher voltage. For safety reasons, ensure your solar panel system has circuit breakers. If your circuit breakers trip too often, it's a sign that your system needs maintenance.
If you come across burnt marks or discoloration on your solar panels, contact a technician immediately. Discolorations indicate corrosion on the panel, leading to uneven temperature distribution across the system, and reduced energy output. In most cases, you will be required to replace the damaged panels.
Some solar panels associated problems come from inverters. When an inverter stops working, the rest of the solar panel system does not work either. You can carry out simple diagnostics by looking for red lights or error messages.
Often, the inverter shutdown comes from a fault with the grid, voltage issues, or an earthling problem with the system. It is extremely crucial to protect your inverter from the outside elements. In case it has broken down, check out the manufacturer's warranty to see if you can get free repairs or find a replacement.
Most solar panels are designed to withstand the harsh outdoors, but accidents have been known to occur. A tree branch or tornado could cause a crack in the glass and damage the panels. You should never ignore these cracks as they allow moisture to seep into the cells and lower efficiency.
When your solar system experiences physical damage, you will need to call a technician to inspect the panels. They will advise you on repair or replacement based on the severity.
Solar Panel Degradation
Solar panels are made to last for a few decades. However, even the best quality systems experience a certain level of decline in quality as they age, known as solar panel degradation. Solar panels degrade gradually over the years, but you can expect 90% efficiency in the first decade. The quality of the panels and the environmental conditions of the installation site also determine the service life of your PV systems. If you discover any signs of degradation, it may be a call for solar panels maintenance or replacement.
Maintaining Solar Panels in Snow or Rain
If your area is prone to heavy rains and snowfall, chances are that you will need to conduct solar panels maintenance more often. Thick snow can leave your panels completely inoperable. As such, you must remove the snow as soon as it is safe to. Snow removal is not complex, but it may be more time-consuming than standard maintenance.
It can be challenging to clean roof-mounted panels after a heavy downfall due to the slippery working conditions. Unlike cleaning dust and debris, it is impossible to get rid of all the snow powder with a leaf blower. You should therefore use a squeegee or a hose. Sometimes you will need to combine the two methods to effectively clean your panels.
As already mentioned, clearing a snowfall requires lukewarm water. Avoid hot water as it can result in cracks on the tempered glass. Once you ensure that the water temperature is okay, rinse away all the snow build up slowly and squeegee the entire water residue before it refreezes. Repeat the steps for all panels. You might have to perform this a few times daily if there is a prolonged snowfall or rain.
Solar Panels Maintenance Cost
Most homeowners hire technicians to clean their solar panels every year. Since most panels are roof-mounted, hiring a professional is much safer. Luckily, the solar panels maintenance cost is minimal even when hiring a technician. Choosing the right PV system installer is also significant, as it guarantees quality equipment and a warranty to match. The solar panels warranties usually cover all components of a solar system, including:
- Solar Panels
- Racks and frames
- Solar panel battery chargers
Be sure to choose a company that you can easily contact whenever there is a problem. That said, the maintenance costs vary based on factors like weather conditions and solar panel installer.
For instance, the cost may be slightly higher if there is your panels experience physical damage. Another reason could be if you clean them more often due to the quick accumulation of dust and debris. Depending on your solar panel system contractor, you may even pay less for maintenance. Some installers include several maintenance visits as a bonus for purchasing your solar panel kits from them. Others provide service plans that cover regular cleaning and maintenance.
If you have an aging roof, consider repairing or replacing the structure before your solar panels installation. Doing this can be a good cost-saving measure over time.
Can you Monitor the Health of your Solar Panels?
Absolutely! Integrating a solar panel monitoring system is an excellent way to measure the efficiency and energy production of your PV system. It helps you pinpoint particular problem areas in your system whenever they arise. Solar monitoring systems usually measure your system's energy production from a charge controller or solar inverters. Based on the manufacturer, a monitoring system can be included on your solar panel or sold as an add-on.
It is much easier to check the status of your panel with this system since it provides easy-to-understand feedback. For a more accurate assessment of your panels' health, you can compare the previous month's production to the same month in past years. If there notice a considerable difference, it is probably time to seek maintenance services.
Installing solar panels is a great long-term investment that requires minimal maintenance. Keeping your panels free of debris and dust buildup is critical in enhancing their efficiency. Above all, you need a reliable solar panels installer for the best quality equipment and warranty to match. Doing that ensures that your panels operate efficiently, bringing you clean, renewable energy for years to come.
If you do not know how many panels you need for your home or business, you can find out easily using a solar panel calculator. If you need financial help with the installation, you can research the solar panel rebates around your area.