Tips for keeping your solar panels clean and properly maintained

 

Cleaning your solar panels

Ok, all the hard work is done. You’ve researched panels and inverters, sought out a few different quotes [hopefully from us *wink * ] and finally made that big decision to go solar.

Now what? Well, you could look at the panels from a real “set and forget” point of view, but you might be compromising the amount of energy that your panels can absorb and be converted in to energy, which would directly affect how much money your system is saving you.

Keeping your panels well maintained is the key to preserving your energy efficient and effective solar system.

Luckily, solar panels do not have any moving parts that can break or rust, so they require minimal maintenance.

With that in mind, here are a few helpful tips for maintaining your solar panels:

• Ensure that your inverter is flashing green lights, indicating that your panels are working by converting the sun’s rays into energy and saving you money.

• Clean up any branches or obstacles that may be providing unwanted shade on to the panels, which will reduce the amount of lights they will be receiving and therefore reducing the total daily amount of energy produced.

• Track the daily performance of your panels, including overcast, rainy and cloudy days. This will help you to know what an “average” daily output would be and can be a warning sign if the output falls below average.

• Refer to the panels’ manufacturer and installer warranty policy, which may require regular and professional maintenance. If it does, simply jump on line and search for a local maintenance company to perform that service regularly for you. There are plenty of professional, accredited and insured companies out there to choose from.

A couple of times a year it’s beneficial to give your panels a good clean to ensure that any dirt, debris or dust is not accumulating on them. Your panels can be cleaned with the same materials that you’d use on your car or house windows.

• Do not use cold water or hot panels. It’s best to clean them in early morning or late afternoon.
• Avoid using a sponge or rag that is abrasive.
• Do not use harsh cleaning materials that could possibly damage the panels
• Take caution if you need to be on the roof for cleaning.
• Do not step on the panels.
• If you want to be more proactive and clean them on the regular, you can easily get away with simply using your garden hose.
• For safety purposes, a longer handled wiper is recommended.

With panels that are too far out of reach or you don’t have the time or desire to clean them yourself, hiring a professional panel cleaner is another alternative.

You can even install automated cleaners that work like sprinkler systems or even schedule appointments with solar panel cleaning companies.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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