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Solar Panel Cleaning: What You Need to Know

Solar Panel Cleaning: What You Need to Know


Why Clean Solar Panels?

Maintaining clean solar panels is not about aesthetics; it's a big part of ensuring maximum efficiency and longevity of your solar energy system. Solar panels are exposed to the elements, and over time, they can accumulate various types of debris and residues. Let's explore the common culprits that make regular cleaning so important.

  • Bird Droppings: It might seem silly, but bird droppings can obstruct sunlight and reduce solar panel efficiency. To combat this issue, clean the affected area gently with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive materials that could scratch the panel's surface.
  • Tree Sap: Tree sap can be particularly stubborn and hard to remove. Begin by soaking the sap with warm, soapy water. Then, gently scrub the affected area with a soft cloth or sponge. For persistent sap, consider using a specialized solvent designed for removing tree sap from automotive finishes.
  • Algae Growth: Algae growth on solar panels, though less common, can impact efficiency over time. To address this issue, create a mixture of water and vinegar or mild detergent and gently scrub the affected areas. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Preventive measures include trimming nearby vegetation and ensuring proper panel ventilation to reduce moisture buildup.
  • Persistent Stains: Some stains, like those from mineral deposits in hard water areas, may be challenging to remove with regular cleaning. In such cases, consult your solar panel manufacturer's recommendations or seek professional cleaning services experienced in handling tough stains.

How Often You Should Clean Solar Panels

How Often You Should Clean Solar Panels

Knowing how often you need to clean solar panels hinges on several environmental and situational factors. Understanding these variables can guide you in establishing a cleaning schedule that maintains your solar panels’ efficiency without unnecessary effort or expense.

  • Geographic Location: In arid or dusty regions, the absence of regular rainfall means solar panels may accumulate dust and debris more rapidly, and you’ll need more frequent cleaning. Conversely, in areas with frequent rain, natural precipitation can help rinse away some of the accumulated dirt, reducing the need for manual cleaning.
  • Landscaping: The immediate environment around your solar panels also influences cleaning frequency. If your panels are installed near trees, they are more likely to gather leaves, pollen, and other organic debris. This can lead to a more rapid buildup of material on the panels, obstructing their ability to effectively capture sunlight. Consequently, in such settings, a more proactive approach to cleaning is necessary to maintain optimal panel efficiency.
  • Pitch of the Roof: Steeply pitched roofs allow for easier runoff of rainwater and debris, potentially minimizing the need for frequent cleaning. On the other hand, panels installed on roofs with low pitch or flat surfaces may retain more debris, necessitating more regular cleaning to maintain efficiency.
  • Time of Day or Year: The time of day and the season can also impact when and how often you should clean your solar panels. For example, cleaning panels during extremely hot weather could potentially cause damage, especially if cold water is used on hot panels. Similarly, during wet or icy conditions, it’s advisable to postpone cleaning for safety reasons and the effectiveness of the cleaning process.
  • Pollution Levels: Solar panels installed in heavily polluted areas, particularly near industrial sites, busy highways, or airports, are prone to accumulating atmospheric pollutants, including grime and oily residues. These pollutants can adhere more stubbornly to the panel surfaces, requiring more frequent and possibly more intensive cleaning to maintain optimal function.

How to Clean Solar Panels on Your Own

While professional cleaning is certainly a safer, less time-consuming option, many homeowners choose to undertake this task themselves. Cleaning solar panels is not overly complex, but it requires the right approach and tools to ensure it’s done safely and effectively.

What Solar Panel Cleaning Tools and Equipment to Use?

  • Safety Gear: To ensure a safe cleaning experience, equip yourself with a sturdy ladder and a harness system for rooftop solar panels. For ground-mounted systems, a step ladder might be necessary for reaching the edges.
  • Squeegee: This simple tool, often found in cleaning kits, is perfect for gently removing excess water from the panel's surface, minimizing the risk of water spots and streaks.
  • Soft-Bristled Brushes: Select brushes with soft bristles to avoid scratching the panels. Brushes specifically designed for solar panels are a preferred choice.
  • Telescopic Cleaning Wand: A wand with an integrated soft-bristled brush and water flow is ideal for cleaning panels from the ground. This tool effectively dislodges debris while minimizing the risk of damage.
  • Solar Panel Cleaning Kits: These kits are a convenient option, bundling essential items like brushes, extension poles, hose connectors, and cleaning cloths in one package. They are designed to provide a comprehensive cleaning solution for your solar panels.

What are Safety Considerations for Solar Panel Cleaning?

What are Safety Considerations for Solar Panel Cleaning?

Safety is paramount when cleaning solar panels. Firstly, ensure the solar panels are turned off before starting the cleaning process. This is critical for avoiding any electrical hazards. Never touch the underside of the panels.

If your home has multiple stories, you might need to climb onto the roof. If you do, use a sturdy ladder, and ensure it is stable and secure. Have someone on the ground to steady the ladder. Wear non-slip shoes and check the ladder rungs are dry. Remember, if you feel unsure or unsafe at any point, it's best to call a professional. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ladder-related falls result in over 100 fatalities annually in the United States.

What Are the Steps for Solar Panel Cleaning?

Step 1: Preparation

Gather your tools and materials, ensuring everything is within reach. If you’re using a ladder, set it up securely and ensure safe roof access. Have someone assist you with holding the ladder and passing supplies.

Step 2: Power Off

Always turn off the solar panel system before starting the cleaning process for safety and to protect the system.

Step 3: Initial Rinse

Use a garden hose with a spray attachment to rinse off the solar panels and surrounding roof area. This step helps to wash off loose debris.

Step 4: Apply Cleaning Solution

Spray a cleaning solution onto a section of the solar panels. Let it sit for a few minutes to loosen dirt, but don't let it dry.

Step 5: Wipe Down

Clean the solution off using a soft brush or sponge. If needed, wrap a towel around a squeegee on an extension pole. Avoid leaning over and maintain a safe stance on the ladder.

Step 6: Repeat in Segments

Continue applying the cleaning solution and wiping it off in small sections until all panels are cleaned.

Step 7: Final Rinse and Dry

Rinse the panels once more with your hose and use a squeegee to dry them before turning the power back on.

What Not to Do While Solar Panel Cleaning?

What Not to Do While Solar Panel Cleaning?
  • Avoid Pressure Washers: Using a pressure washer can damage the panels. Instead, opt for a gentle spray to clean the panels.
  • Temperature Considerations: Do not spray cold water on hot panels, as this could cause them to crack.
  • Chemical Use: Steer clear of harsh chemicals like bleach, which can damage the panels and harm the environment.
  • Rough Cleaning Tools: Do not use abrasive cleaning tools as they can scratch the panel surface. Instead, opt for soft brushes and sponges.
  • Physical Contact: Never stand or put heavy weight on the panels, as this can cause breakage or cracks.

When to Ask for Help from Solar Panel Cleaning Experts

Clean solar panels are important, and there are times when enlisting the help of professional cleaners is the best course of action. Turning to the experts means not only are your panels cleaned safely but also with the highest standards, preserving their efficiency and lifespan.

Reasons for Professional Assistance

  • Heavy Soil Accumulation: If your solar panels have accumulated a significant amount of dirt, debris, or other materials that a simple garden hose can't remove, professional cleaning is advisable. Experts have the right tools and techniques to tackle heavy soiling without damaging the panels.
  • Safety Concerns: If you're uncomfortable or unsure about cleaning the panels yourself, especially when it involves climbing on the roof, it's safer to call in professionals. The risk associated with rooftop work, particularly for untrained individuals, can be significant. Professional cleaners are equipped with the necessary safety gear and training to perform the task without the risk of falls or injuries.
  • After Extreme Weather Events: In the aftermath of storms, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, solar panels may require thorough cleaning and inspection. Professionals can handle post-storm cleanups effectively, ensuring that any storm-related debris or damage is addressed properly.
  • Significant Efficiency Drop: If you notice a noticeable decrease in your solar panels' performance, it might indicate that they require a more thorough cleaning than you can provide. Professionals can clean the panels effectively, potentially restoring their efficiency.
  • Regular Maintenance in Challenging Environments: In areas that are particularly dry, dusty, or prone to bird droppings, annual professional cleaning can be a wise investment. This ensures that even hard-to-remove grime and dirt are thoroughly cleaned, maintaining the panels' optimal performance.

Cost of Professional Solar Panel Cleaning Services

Cost of Professional Solar Panel Cleaning Services

The cost of hiring professional solar panel cleaners can vary based on several factors, including the size of your solar panel system, its accessibility, and your geographical location. Generally, the prices range from $100 to $300. This cost can differ significantly by region and the specific requirements of the job, such as the need for special equipment to access rooftop panels or additional safety measures for larger installations.

Should I Use Automated Cleaning Systems?

Automated cleaning systems have emerged as an alternative to traditional manual cleaning. These systems come in various types, each with its own set of advantages and limitations. Understanding these can help you decide whether an automated system is right for your solar panel maintenance needs.

Types of Automated Systems

  • Robotic Cleaners: These are sophisticated devices designed to move across the surface of solar panels, cleaning as they go. They are particularly useful for large solar installations.
  • Sprinkler Systems: Similar to irrigation systems, these systems sprinkle water across the solar panels at set intervals to clean off dust and dirt.
  • Electrostatic Cleaning: This innovative method uses electrostatic forces to repel dust from the solar panel surfaces, reducing the buildup of debris.

Cost and Efficiency

The cost for these automated systems can range from approximately $400 to $1,200, depending on the type and scale of the system.

They offer up to 95% cleaning efficiency, significantly reducing the need for manual labor.

Robotic Systems: Pros and Cons

Robotic Systems: Pros and Cons

Robotic cleaning systems for solar panels offer a modern solution to maintenance, combining efficiency with innovation. However, it's important to consider both their advantages and disadvantages.


Pros: They offer efficient, consistent cleaning without the need for manual effort.

Cons: The initial cost can be high, and they may require an external power source.

Geographic and Placement Suitability

Best suited for large installations or areas prone to frequent dust accumulation.

Not recommended for solar panels installed at steep angles or vertically.

Waterless Vibration Cleaning

This method uses sonic vibrations to dislodge dust and debris from solar panels, providing a waterless cleaning solution.

Pros: It’s an eco-friendly option that conserves water and is highly effective in removing dry debris.

Cons: These systems may be limited in availability and could be more expensive than other options.


In conclusion, the maintenance of solar panels through regular cleaning is crucial for maximizing their efficiency and lifespan. Whether opting for manual cleaning, seeking professional help, or investing in automated systems, each method has its own set of merits and drawbacks. Manual cleaning is cost-effective but labor-intensive, professional services ensure safety and thoroughness at a higher cost, and automated systems offer convenience and consistency, albeit with an initial investment.

The choice largely depends on individual circumstances such as the size and location of the installation, budget constraints, and personal preference. Ultimately, maintaining clean solar panels is key to ensuring optimal performance and long-term benefits from your solar energy system.

Now it's time to take action. Embrace the power of clean energy and see significant cost savings with solar panels. Get a free consultation on the solar panel installation today or get a custom solar estimate right now!

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