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When, Why and How to Clean Your Solar Panels

 

So, you want to know about solar panel cleaning. You could be thinking about a bunch of things like why you need to do it, when you should do it and how it should be done. The first thing you’ll need to do is justify cleaning your solar panels… and you’ll do this by knowing why you need to do it! Depending on where you live, the ways your panels get dirty may differ, but we’ll help you with some general information about cleaning them.

Why should I clean my solar panels?

Let’s start by saying this; solar panels are generally self-cleaning. Rain will take care of most of the basic cleaning, but now and then your panels might need a decent, proper wash. Solar panels can collect dust, leaves and even bird droppings. Yes, bird droppings. When things like this collect on your panels, it can affect the amount of sunlight being absorbed, which then affects the amount of power your system generates. A little bit of dust shouldn’t be too bad, but obviously the more that it builds up over time (without rain in your area) could lead to output problems. However, leaves and bird droppings are more likely to affect your output in comparison to dust.

Dirty Solar Panels

Now, for leaves and bird droppings. Let’s say you live in a house that has a lot of big trees around it; you’re probably going to have a lot of leaves falling or blowing on to your panels. Also, with trees comes birds. Living around trees is a double-edged sword when it comes to cleaning your solar panels; there’s no way around it. They’re one of nature’s many gifts though, so it just means you’ll need to clean your panels more regularly instead of being mad at the trees.

If this wasn’t enough to convince you, think of a solar system just like you would any other electrical appliance; it needs to be maintained so that you can make the most of it for as long as possible.

When should I clean my solar panels?

Hopefully we’ve agreed on the fact that solar panels will need to be cleaned from time to time, so we’ll now look at the best time to clean them. As we said above, rain will usually take care of most of the basic cleaning when it comes to your solar panels. So, you can avoid cleaning them in winter, for obvious reasons. It’s best to clean solar panels in the cooler months though; so anytime in Spring (September to November) or Autumn (March to May) is usually fine. This is because it’ll take longer for any cleaning products you use to dry in cooler weather, so you’ll be less likely to get additional and unnecessary residue on your panels.

You’ll only have to clean your solar panels about twice a year if you live in suburbia, providing you don’t frequently get large amounts of leaves and bird droppings on your panels. There are exceptions to this; if you’re in an area with some construction happening, you’ll likely need to clean your panels more often than this. The same goes for anyone in regional or farming areas, as you’re more likely to live around things that could dirty the panels.

How should solar panels be cleaned?

First off, you can clean your own solar panels; but unless you are experienced in safely working on rooftops, it’s in your best interests to clean them from the ground with a soft brush and squeegee long enough to reach. If neither of these options suit your circumstances, you can hire an accredited technician from the Clean Energy Council to do it for you. It helps to have an accredited technician to look over it all before you clean any panels, so it might just be easier to get it all done in one go.

If you’ve decided, ‘nope, I’m cleaning my own panels myself!’, then there are a couple of things you’ll need to do. Firstly, remember to stay on the ground unless you are a rooftop safety extraordinaire. Once a technician has looked over everything and given you the all-clear to clean, make sure your solar system is fully shut down and brush off any dust and other loose bits. Then, you can go over your panels with cool, clean water and your handy brush/squeegee multi-tool before rinsing your panels off with some more water and dry them with your squeegee.

Cleaning Solar Panels
Cleaning Solar Panels

Let’s get cleaning!

Dirty solar panels are just one thing that could be lowering the output of your system. You can check out some others here. Hopefully you’re more prepared for the whole solar panel cleaning process than you were before now! If you’ve got any questions about anything you’ve read, get in touch on social media! We’re always happy to help and have a chat to you about your solar system.

 

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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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