Solar Panel and Inverter Maintenance – Do I Need to Do It?
Maximize Your Solar Energy Efficiency – Conduct Regular Maintenance
In general, solar panels need almost no maintenance. They just sit there. No moving parts. So can you go 25 years (on the manufacturer warranty) without touching your panels? Probably. Is that the best way to maximize your energy production and savings? Probably not.
Solar panel efficiency and inverter lifespan are directly related to the amount of ongoing maintenance they receive. Just like any highly technical system, the biggest enemy is dust. And anywhere batteries are present and electricity is flowing in the possible presence of moisture, the risk of corrosion increases too.
We’ll look at solar panel maintenance first, and then inverter maintenance.
Solar Panel Maintenance – Your Energy Savings Are at Stake
It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. The more solar panels you have, the more money you save on energy. Thus, the more you stand to lose if your panels get dirty or have other maintenance issues.
A 2014 study found that when solar panels are tilted less than five degrees, they averaged five times more soiling than panels tilted more than five degrees. Soiling is when dirt, dust, and pollen collect on the surface, reducing the amount of sunlight that hits the solar cells. Why such a big difference? It’s the same as inside your house. Your flat tables get more dust than sloped surfaces.
The lesson here is – the flatter your solar panels, the more frequently you’ll want to do regular cleaning and maintenance. The more tilted your panels, natural rain and wind will probably keep them pretty clean, and you’ll need less maintenance.
Here are the other key issues that determine how often you need to perform cleaning and maintenance of your solar panels.
- Nearby dusty roads or freeways – the more dust and soot in the air, the more it will collect on your panels
- Nearby foliage – plants and trees love to fill the air with all kinds of particulates like pollen. Your panels are helpless against them
- Tilt of your solar panels – already discussed above. But if you haven’t yet installed panels, this is something to ask your installer about – especially if a flatter panel will get better sunlight at your location. Is the need for more cleaning worth the extra efficiency? You’ll have to decide
- Amount of rainfall – more rain means more self-cleaning and less work for you
How Do You Clean Solar Panels, and How Often?
When to clean your panels depends a lot on the above factors. More dust, more pollen, less rain, less tilt – you should clean them several times per year. On the other end of those factors, you can do it less often. But once per year is a minimum, and when in the year you do it also depends on those same issues.
For example, if you live near trees that expel a bunch of debris every spring, then you probably want to clean your panels in the month after that’s over with so your panels will be pretty clean the rest of the year. If you get a lot of dust in the summer, you probably want to do it in the fall.
As for how to clean them, the simplest way to just spray them with water. As long as there isn’t too much buildup, this will clear off most of the debris.
If you want sparkling solar panels like when they were brand new, you’ll need to use soap and water, or specialized panel cleaners you can buy. Just make sure and rinse well and don’t let the soapy water dry on the panels (do don’t do it in the blazing heat of the day!). And don’t scratch your panels. Be gentle.
Coastal Solar offers solar panel maintenance plans, as well as maintenance schedules for the other components of your system, that take this burden off your schedule. These plans ensure it will be done well and that your panels will produce maximum energy throughout their lifespan.
Solar Inverter Maintenance – Preventing System Problems
Inverters are much more technically sophisticated than solar panels, and are not something the average person should touch. The electrical components and high voltage elements make this too dangerous for people without certifications.
Just like your computer uses a fan to cool its innards, and therefore invites dust into the electrical components, most inverters use the same approach.
What can dirt do to an inverter? If it’s got the right particles, it can actually create new conduction pathways on the circuit boards, which in extreme cases can lead to circuit failure.
Humidity, another inverter enemy, invites more corrosion risk for electrical terminals and connections.
An annual checkup for your inverter is a smart and low-cost preventive measure. We call these checkups a “reconditioning.” It just means a full inspection and cleaning, an analysis of how well the electrical connections are working and a tightening of any loose ones, and a replacement of any parts that are found to be failing.
When we do inverter checkups, we also do electrical testing to confirm all the panels are producing energy as they should, and identify any weak spots and make adjustments.
Yearly Solar Maintenance – Lifetime Solar Performance
You may be able to clean your panels yourself, though for larger arrays this becomes quite labor and time-intensive. But for inverter maintenance, you really need a professional to make sure your electrical components continue to operate with optimized performance. This will save you the most money on your power bills over the decades you’ll own your power.
Want to learn more about the Coastal Solar maintenance plan? Contact us today and we’ll talk about your options.