A Solar Panel Cleaning Robot: Is It Right for You?
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A solar panel system is an excellent investment now that their prices have dropped. Not only do they provide an energy source that’s better for the environment, but they also offer multiple ways to save on electricity bills. But while they have so many advantages, there is one thing to account for before installing them — maintenance. Solar panels require cleaning to stay at peak efficiency, but how can one avoid climbing up on the roof constantly? A solar panel cleaning robot might be the answer.
How Often Do Solar Panels Need Cleaning?
Many agree solar panels need cleaning every six months — or twice a year. However, certain circumstances may force a homeowner to go up on the roof far more frequently than that.
For instance, somewhere that’s dry and windy will likely kick up a lot of dust. All that dirt accumulating on a solar panel system over six months will make maintenance much more challenging. If a homeowner cleans them more frequently than that, their system can perform much better, but that comes at the cost of having to take the time to do so.
Additionally, residents in regions that don’t get much rain must clean their solar panels more frequently. Rain provides the force necessary to wash debris off the panels and prevent having to clear them off. Without a downpour every now and then, homeowners will have to do the work themselves or call in professionals to ensure nothing breaks.
What Happens When Solar Panels Get Dirty?
Dirty solar panels have lower energy production than their clean counterparts. In the United States, dust can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by 7% — that number jumps to 50% in the Middle East. Even a slight drop in effectiveness creates a problem, but having loose soil affect solar panels so drastically presents a significant issue.
Not only that, but pollution is partly to blame for dirty solar panels. Aerosols have an effect on solar panels called “soiling,” where the pollutants deposit on the systems and block how much sun they can absorb. According to research from the Indian Institute of Technology, India lost 29% of its solar energy potential between 2001 and 2018. That meant the country couldn’t achieve its goal of creating 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022.
Globally, pollutants can lower the efficiency of solar panels by four to thirty-four percent. China specifically has lost out on $1.9 billion dollars of solar panel efficiency between 1960 and 2015 due. to pollution. So while many say solar panels only need a wash every six months, cleaning them more regularly is likely a better idea. Unfortunately, humankind’s effects on the environment have caused solar panels to lose a significant amount of effectiveness. How much it does can worsen depending on where the homeowner lives.
Why a Solar Panel Cleaning Robot Is a Sound Investment
Thankfully, a solar panel cleaning robot can solve many problems. Most importantly, the machine can clean a solar panel system whenever necessary. While they can work in several different ways, the general way they operate is the owner turns the robot on and away it goes — no driving necessary. This can keep a system running at peak efficiency by offering in-depth cleaning anytime.
Additionally, they can prevent homeowner injury. Nationally, 500,000 people need treatment for ladder-related injuries annually — 300 of those cases are fatal. Ninety-seven percent of those injuries happen at home. Not to mention, roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. If the professionals are at such a high risk, a homeowner should leave the roof to a robot rather than put themselves in danger that frequently.
Solar panel cleaning robots can also help preserve the system’s warranty. While a fall or misplaced rag could cause irreparable damage, using the wrong products can also break the panels. A homeowner would likely think dish soap or glass cleaner are effective ways to clean their systems, right? Well, those products can cause buildup on the panels, mimicking the dust they just cleaned off and encouraging more debris to stick. Plus, they can be corrosive and harm the protective casing of the panel.
Most solar panel cleaning robots rely on de-ionized water and gentle but strong rotating brushes to scrub all the debris off without harming the system. This process ensures the solar panels get clean, stay efficient and avoid damage that would require the homeowner to pay to remedy.
Solar Panel Cleaning Robot Options
Unfortunately, the most significant downside to solar panel cleaning robots is their cost. A quick Google search shows many of the trustworthy options will set a homeowner back $20,000 or more. However, there may soon be a way to pay for robotic cleaning as a service.
For example, HELIOS — created by Belgian company ART Robotics — will deliver a solar panel cleaning robot to a house or business via a drone. A person can order the service and the drone will deposit the machine on their solar panels, the robot cleans it and the drone picks it up for collection. No one needs to supervise the process, making it accessible to busy workers. This process is also much cheaper upfront than buying a robot.
But those options are available. Indian business Enray Solutions made a solar panel cleaning robot that relies on solar power itself to clean a system without water. That’s beneficial to prevent water waste and avoid leaving marks that could block the panels. The robot slides across the panels to eliminate dust, and can withstand harsh weather and areas where dust is more common.
Someone who prefers to operate the robot can turn to the SolarCleano M1. Because it has a control range of up to 656 feet, a homeowner only needs to bring the lightweight robot to their roof to get things rolling. The organization promotes the machine is 20% more effective at cleaning than similar robots on the market and it will work on wet or dry panels. The M1 also comes with four kinds of brushes for various cleaning needs, along with the ability to adjust the water pressure.
Adding a Solar Panel Cleaning Robot to Your System
Solar panel cleaning robots can cost as much as the system itself. However, they can ensure a homeowner safely cleans their solar panels to achieve the most efficiency possible. Start keeping an eye out for a solar panel cleaning robot — or service — that is affordable and effective.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.