Months after the international COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, there’s one thing on our minds more than it used to be: cleaning. Whether it’s meticulously washing your hands after coming home, or disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces such as keys and door knobs. But what about cleaning your solar panels?

For residential solar panel system owners, cleaning may not be the first thing on your mind. It might not even be something you’ve ever thought about before. With the installation, monitoring your solar energy production levels, and feeling great about the money you’re saving on your electric bill, cleaning may have never crossed your mind.

Even though your solar panels probably aren’t considered frequently-touched surfaces at your house, they still need to be cleaned occasionally to keep them operating at the highest level. And unfortunately, cleaning them the wrong way can be detrimental. 

Keep reading to find out the safest ways to clean your solar system.

Why Your Solar Panels Need Cleaned

Why do your solar panels need to be cleaned? The short answer: because everything needs a good cleaning every once in a while.

Dust likely accounts for most of the dirt you’ll find on your panels. But the impact could be greater than you expect. CleanTechnica reported findings from a U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory study: dirty solar panels could yield 30% less energy than clean panels. 

While dust and dirt problems may be worse in dry areas of the U.S., like the Southwest, those of us in Kansas City know about the unpredictable nature of Midwest weather. Dirt may not build up as quickly, but it’s certainly a concern to keep in mind. Especially the longer you have your solar panels.

But there are other reasons your solar panels need to be cleaned occasionally. Have you ever woken up to find your front yard hidden by a barrage of orange and yellow leaves during autumn? Or returned to your car after work to find it covered in bird droppings? The same thing can — and will — happen to your solar panels.

While leaves may be easy to sweep away from your solar system, bird droppings can cause a much larger issue. Not only will it prevent the sun from reaching certain parts of your panels, but it can actually cause long-lasting damage. Bird droppings that sit on solar panels for too long without being cleaned may leave a permanent imprint that can’t be removed.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Soap

Your solar panels don’t need to be cleaned every single day in order to avoid these problems. We recommend cleaning your panels every six months to a year at a minimum. Some solar monitoring systems may even alert you when it’s time for your solar panels to be cleaned. 

But how do you actually go about cleaning your solar panels?

The first, and most important thing to know: don’t use soap. Or detergent. Or cleaning agents. Whatever you want to call it, do not use these on your solar panels. These may help us keep from spreading COVID-19, but your solar panels certainly aren’t worried about contracting it.

So why shouldn’t you use soap or other cleaning agents?

There are a few reasons. First, soap leaves a film on the surfaces it touches. Even if we can’t see it or feel it when we wash our hands, it’s there. Cleaning your solar panels with soap is counterproductive because the film can cause the same shading problems as the dust or dirt you just cleaned off. Also, the film may cause dust, dirt, and leaves to stick to the solar panels more easily.

Other cleaning agents and certain harsh chemicals could have a corrosive effect on your solar panels and cause them permanent damage.

The Best Way to Clean Your Solar Panels

When you’re ready to clean your solar system, consider doing it in the early morning, late evening, or on an overcast day to keep the panels from getting too hot during cleaning. After brushing off any loose debris such as leaves, clean water and a little scrubbing with a soft cloth or sponge are all most solar panels need to be efficiently cleaned. 

But this may be easier for those who have ground mounted solar systems. 

If you have a single-story home with a roof solar system, you may be able to reach your panels with the garden hose. This may be enough to wash away the majority of the dust and dirt. But if you aren’t able to reach your panels with the hose, we don’t recommend you climb on your roof in order to clean. It’s not worth the potential danger.

In that case, we recommend hiring a professional to clean roof mounted systems. Not only will it be safer for you, but you can be sure the job is done right. And taking good care of your solar system will help ensure your solar panels will operate as designed for years to come.

While we at KC Solar aren’t currently offering solar cleaning, we anticipate adding these services to our business soon. Keep an eye here on our website and social media to be the first to find out!

KC Solar: Your Hometown Solar Experts

For solar projects big and small, KC Solar is here to be your partner through the process. Whether you want to install a solar system or just want to ask questions, we’re passionate about the solar industry and our hometown of Kansas City.

Get a quote today.