Everything You Need to Know About Solar Panel Maintenance
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Solar panels are growing more efficient and affordable all the time. As this trend continues, you may consider installing some on your home, but you may still have questions about their long-term operation. To make the most of these investments, you need to know a few things about solar panel maintenance.
Like any piece of equipment, solar panels will last longer and work better with regular maintenance. Whether you’re considering buying panels or already own some, you should know how to perform this upkeep. Here’s everything you need to know about maintaining your solar panels.
What Maintenance Do Solar Panels Need?
The good news is that solar panels don’t need much maintenance. Panels last 25 to 30 years without serious performance degradation, even with minimal care. However, if you want them to last longer and generate power more efficiently over that period, there are a few maintenance steps to consider.
Cleaning is the biggest part of solar panel maintenance. Over time, dust, leaves and other debris can accumulate on the surface of your solar installations. This buildup can block sunlight from reaching the solar cells behind the glass, leading to dropping performance, so it’s important to keep your panels clean.
Solar panel cleaning is also fairly easy. You can hire a service to do it, or you could do it yourself with some warm water and a soft cloth. Gently rinse and wipe the surface, being careful not to scratch the glass or use hot water on cold panels, then wipe away the excess water so they can dry.
This process should only take a few minutes, depending on how dirty the panels are. If you live in a particularly dusty area, near a highway or have many trees and birds near the panels, they may accumulate more grime, requiring more cleaning.
Another important part of solar panel maintenance is regular inspections. Because these systems typically sit on your roof, you don’t see them up close every day, making it hard to spot potential issues. Setting aside the time to inspect them closely can help you address problems while they’re still small.
Some issues to look for include cracked or chipped glass, loose bolts and broken solar cells. Most solar panels have few to no moving parts, so there aren’t many major mechanical issues that can arise. However, spinning solar panels, while they produce more energy, have moving axes and bearings you should check.
It’s also important to inspect your solar installation’s wiring to ensure it’s intact and working properly. Many homeowners hire professionals to perform these inspections, but you can do it yourself if you know enough about how these systems work.
Roof and Electrical Maintenance
Solar panels also benefit from regular home maintenance you should perform even without a solar array. Because these systems typically sit on your roof, you should ensure your roof is free of leaks, cracks or other structural issues. Some roofs have lifespans of about 20 to 25 years, so they could give out before your solar panels.
If you want to get all you can out of your solar installation, you should also keep your home’s wiring in good condition. That includes checking for frayed wires, testing outlets, not leaving appliances plugged in and keeping an eye on your breaker for any issues.
These steps aren’t unique to solar panels, but they’re important to keep these systems running as efficiently as possible. If your home’s electrical system has issues or your roof fails, it’ll affect your solar panels.
How Often Should You Perform Solar Panel Maintenance?
Solar panels are fairly resilient, so solar panel maintenance won’t take much time out of your regular schedule. Cleaning is the most frequent task to perform, with most panels requiring a wash roughly twice per year. You can inspect your panels just once annually if your inspections are thorough.
Some solar arrays require more frequent maintenance. If you live in a dusty area or near a busy highway where your panels will get dirty faster, you should clean them around four times a year. If you have an older solar system or a more complex one, like a spinning panel, you should inspect it at least twice a year instead of just once.
Roof inspections should happen once annually, so you can do this during your annual solar panel inspection. You should also hire a professional to check your wiring every three to five years.
How Much Does Solar Panel Maintenance Cost?
Because solar panel maintenance can be fairly infrequent, it doesn’t cost much. Annual inspections cost around $150 on average, and hiring a professional cleaning service costs $15 to $25 per panel. That adds up to between $450 and $780 a year, depending on local prices and how many solar panels you have.
If your inspections reveal any issues, you can expect to pay up to $1,250 for repairs, depending on the problem. However, many solar panels have long warranties that may cover these expenses if the issues arise from factors outside your control. You can also reduce costs by cleaning your panels yourself, taking your maintenance expenses down to $150 a year.
It’s also important to note that solar panels can reduce your regular expenses over time through government incentives and energy savings. This lower spending can help make up for maintenance costs.
Solar Panel Maintenance Tips
If you want to make the most of solar panel maintenance, you should consider installing a monitoring system. Solar monitoring systems use internet of things (IoT) sensors to alert you when they detect a fault. You can also use them to check in on how much power your panels are generating.
The data from these sensors can help you notice issues sooner, and the quicker you address them, the cheaper the repairs will be. If you don’t want to spend money on a dedicated monitoring system, you can look at a detailed breakdown of your energy bill each month to gauge your panels’ performance.
Washing your solar panels yourself is a great way to reduce maintenance costs. However, it’s best to hire a professional when it comes to annual inspections and repairs, as these can be more complicated.
Keep Your Solar Panels Working Efficiently
Solar panel maintenance is an important part of going green. If you follow these steps and keep your panels in good condition, you can use them more efficiently for longer.
While maintenance can seem intimidating at first, it’s fairly straightforward and affordable. Once you know what you need and what it costs, you can make the most informed decisions about installing solar panels in your home.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.