Solar Panels Maintenance Best Practices and Costs
Since their creation, solar panels have been viewed as the key to renewable energy. In recent years, advancements in solar panel technology have made this awesome green energy solution more affordable and accessible to homeowners than ever before.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to solar, either. You can opt for a professional installation or can purchase your own home solar panel kits.
Whether you have recently added solar panels to your home or are considering making the jump, you will likely have questions about this ever-changing technology. One of the most common questions that we encounter is “Do solar panels require maintenance?”
Below, you will find everything you need to know about maintenance on solar panels, including costs, the effect of local climate on your panels, and more.
Do Solar Panels Need to Be Maintained?
Solar panels, which are sometimes referred to as PV systems, will require some maintenance throughout their service life. With proper care, you can expect to get about 25 years out of your solar panel kits.
Don’t let the fear of maintenance prevent you from obtaining a green energy source for your home. While solar panel maintenance is necessary, much of the care involved simply requires cleaning away dirt and debris. This can often be accomplished in as little as a few minutes.
Periodically, your solar panels may need more in-depth care. The frequency at which you need to perform the maintenance of solar panels will largely be determined by your location and the local weather conditions you experience. Heavy snowfall and decreases in energy output are the two primary causes for extensive maintenance.
How Can You Do Maintenance on Solar Panels?
Maintenance of solar panels is surprisingly easy. This is especially true if you have tilted panels, as rainfall will wash away most of the debris and dust that accumulates on them over time. With that being said, you will have to conduct some manual cleaning during droughts or dry seasons.
You can clean your tilted panels in one of two ways. The easiest is to break out your leaf blower and blast away dust or debris. This makes cleaning roof-mounted panels extremely efficient. It is also safer because you won’t have to lug a garden hose up a ladder.
The alternative option is to rinse away debris with your water hose. There is no need to attach a high-pressure nozzle or use a pressure washer. Doing so could potentially scratch the panel cover. Instead, just rely on your home’s standard water pressure.
Once you are done, your solar panels will be squeaky clean, allowing them to effectively absorb sunlight. For best results, you should conduct manual cleaning two to four times every year.
Solar Panel Maintenance After Snowfall
If you live in an area that is prone to heavy snowfall, you will likely need to perform solar panels maintenance more often. While a thin layer of dust can reduce the effectiveness of your panels, thick snow can leave them completely inoperable. That is why any snow must be removed as soon as it is safe to do so.
Removing snow is not very complicated, but it will often be more time-consuming than standard maintenance. Cleaning roof-mounted panels can be particularly challenging after a heavy snowfall due to slippery working conditions.
Unfortunately, your leaf blower will not be able to get rid of all of that powder. Instead, you should opt for a squeegee and/or water hose. Oftentimes, you will need to use a combination of both methods to completely clear your panels.
Before you start pouring water onto your panels, ensure that it is lukewarm. Hot water can warm the tempered glass too rapidly, causing it to crack. If that happens, you are going to be in for a costly repair bill.
Once you have checked the water temperature, slowly begin rinsing away any snow build-up. Then, squeegee away any water residue before it refreezes. A thin layer of frost will not completely block out sunlight, but it certainly will affect the efficiency of your system.
Repeat these steps until you have cleared off every panel. If you are faced with prolonged snowfall, then you may have to repeat these steps daily.
Solar panels are designed to be completely self-contained systems. As long as you do not begin to tamper with the batteries or wiring, there is no imminent danger of electric shock during solar panel maintenance.
With that being said, most of the risk that is associated with care for your panels will involve scaling your roof. Climbing a ladder and maneuvering about your roof can be risky, especially after a snowfall. If inclement weather prevents you from safely cleaning your panels, wait until the weather clears.
How Often Should Solar Panels be Serviced?
You should perform solar panels maintenance at least twice per year. However, it’s important to understand that the need for regular care can fluctuate with local weather conditions. If you live in a place with lots of snowfall like Minnesota, you can expect to perform maintenance more frequently. On the other hand, a sunny environment with lots of rainfall will minimize the need for extra care.
While cleaning your solar panels is important, you should also have your panels serviced regularly by a professional technician. Since home solar systems have very few moving parts, you will only need to book a service visit once per year. During your service visit, a professional technician will inspect all vital components of your solar system, including:
If any damage or deficiencies are discovered, the technician can generally make the necessary repairs that same day. Any repairs should be covered by your manufacturer’s warranty, which often lasts for about 10 to 25 years. The technician will also perform a thorough cleaning during this appointment to ensure that your panels are working at their best.
Benefits of Professional Solar Panels Maintenance
A professional solar panels maintenance visit is the best way to keep your system working optimally. In addition, regular professional care may be required by your installer as part of the warranty for your system. When scheduling maintenance visits, it is important that you keep any receipts or documents for your records.
Regular professional maintenance is vital if you want to get the most out of your investment. Even a slight reduction in efficiency can limit your power generation and result in increased reliance on traditional utility services.
While solar panels are typically extremely durable, professional maintenance is also the best way to detect issues early on. The sooner a problem is discovered, the more likely it is that you will be able to avoid an exorbitant repair bill.
Ground Panels vs. Roof Panels: Are There Different Needs for Maintenance?
You may be surprised to learn that there are virtually no differences when it comes to the maintenance procedures for ground or roof panels. The only distinction is that ground panels are much easier to access, which allows you to clean them quickly and efficiently. In fact, you can often just sweep off dust or snowfall when you are cleaning ground panels.
The major appeal for roof panels is that they are in an elevated position. This makes it easier for installers to place them in direct sunlight and away from obstructions. With that being said, not every property is suitable for ground panels.
If you want to benefit from ground solar panels, you will need ample space on your property to accommodate them. The area should be away from any trees, tall buildings, or any other objects that could obstruct sunlight. If your property does not meet these criteria, then roof panels will be the better option.
How Does Extreme Weather Impact Your Solar Panels?
While inclement weather can create the need for some extra maintenance, solar PV systems usually withstand extreme weather very well. Even small solar panel kits can really take a beating. This is due to their durable construction with features like tempered glass and heavy-duty brackets used for installation.
Your solar system will be able to withstand much more than just heavy rains and strong gusts of winds. In fact, they are even extremely resilient when they are subjected to hail, according to the Department of Energy. Home solar systems can often survive hurricanes with little to no damage.
What Can Cause Solar Panel Damage?
Solar panel damage is usually divided into one of three primary categories. They are as follows:
The panels of your solar system are covered with an ultra-durable layer of tempered glass. While this durable glass can take a major beating, it is not indestructible. Severe weather events do have the ability to cause damage, although this is rare.
Unusual accidents could also damage your panel. This could include a falling tree limb, repeated direct impacts by large hail, or a lightning strike. Again, panel damage is not very common and can often be repaired.
An arc fault is a serious malfunction that can occur in various electrical devices, including solar panels. An arc fault involves a discharge of electricity between two or more conductors. This discharge creates a tremendous amount of heat, which may result in an electrical fire.
The modern safety equipment that is included with solar panel systems will protect you from an electrical fire. This safety mechanism is referred to as arc fault protection. When an arc fault occurs, the inverter will enter what is known as “fault mode.”
Some inverters will display an error message that will inform you that an incident took place. It will likely read something like “fault mode.” Resolving this issue will require professional solar panels maintenance.
Ground Fault Circuit Interruption
Does the phrase ground fault circuit interruption or GFCI sound familiar? If so, it is likely because your bathroom and kitchen include GFCI outlets. These outlets are designed to detect ground faults and power surges. If one is detected, the outlet will stop the flow of power and prevent an electric shock.
A GFCI function is also present in your solar system’s inverter. If the electrical current is routed to the ground, your inverter will trip the GFCI function. The inverter will then shut down.
The GFCI feature can be activated by several different issues. A common cause is an excessive amount of moisture in your junction box. Broken panels can also cause a GFCI problem. A surprisingly common cause of GFCI is damaged wiring. This damage can be the result of overly curious small animals like squirrels, racoons, or rabbits.
Regardless of the cause, a GFCI issue will require professional solar panels maintenance. Fortunately, most of these issues can be resolved quickly. However, extensive wire damage may take a bit more time to repair.
How Can I Tell Whether My Solar System Needs Maintenance?
Major solar panels maintenance should be left to professionals, but there are a few ways to detect problems on your own. If you suspect that your PV system is due for attention, the best place to start is to check on its production levels.
Small dips in production can be caused by weather changes, such as consecutive cloudy days. Reduced production can also be the result of solar panel degradation, but more on that a little later. Both of these issues can result in minor decreases in production.
How to Check Solar Panel Production
There are two ways to check on solar production levels. You can start by analyzing your latest utility bill. Generally, you should have an extremely low balance or may even receive a credit from your utility provider. If your costs have increased, then your solar panels are not producing electricity adequately.
While checking your utility bill is a great place to start, there are many variables to account for. For example, you are likely to use more electricity during the warm summer months. If your panels are experiencing a normal decline in production at the same time that you are increasing usage, changes in your bill will be more significant.
A more accurate way to gauge your PV system’s productivity is to review the data on your solar panel’s monitoring system. This is an optional system that makes gauging the health of your panels much easier.
What is Solar Panel Degradation?
Your solar panels are designed to last for several decades. However, even the highest quality panels will experience a certain level of decline as they age. This is known as solar panel degradation.
Solar panel degradation occurs gradually over the course of many years. While every panel ages differently based on the quality and environmental conditions present at their installation site, you can generally expect 90% efficiency for the first decade. Your panel’s warranty should also address efficiency ratings based on the age of your system.
Solar Panel Monitoring
Solar panel monitoring is the best way to gauge when you need to schedule maintenance services. A monitoring system will provide easy-to-understand feedback about the health of your system. It is much easier to check on the status of your panel in this fashion.
If you are concerned about your panels’ production, simply compare the past month’s production to the same month in previous years. This will give you the most accurate assessment of panel health. If things seem off, then it is likely time for solar panels maintenance.
Solar Panel Maintenance Cost
Finding out that something is wrong with your solar system can be stressful. Anxiously awaiting to find out about the total cost of repairs will be even more so.
Even the best PV systems will eventually require solar panels maintenance, but you can save yourself time and energy by choosing the right solar panel installer. This will ensure that you get quality equipment and a warranty to match. When you have a problem, you will be able to contact the installer and let them take it from there.
Manufacturer warranties cover virtually every component of your solar system, including:
- Solar panels
- Racks and frames
Another maintenance cost that you should account for is roof repair. If you need to replace or repair your roof, the repair team will need to remove the panels first. The panels will then need to be reinstalled.
If you have an aging roof, you may want to consider making repairs or replacing the structure before you purchase solar panels. Doing so can be a major cost-saving measure over time.
Get Started with a Solar Panel System
As you can see, solar panels can be a great long-term investment that require minimal maintenance. However, getting the most out of your new investment requires partnering with a trusted company.
There are a wide variety of solar products and solutions on the market, including tiny home solar, portable solar panels, and much more! Renogy can always offer complete solar panels, charge controllers, inverters, lithium batteries, solar generators and othe all components for your off grid solar system here. Not sure how many panels you need? You can easily find out by using a solar panel calculator. By inputting some basic information, you can determine your home’s specific solar needs. Besides, you can also review more troubleshooting videos here to help the maintenance of solar panels.
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