The function of solar panels is to capture as much of the sun’s energy as possible and convert it into electricity to be used in our homes and businesses.
For this function to be fulfilled, the surface of the solar panel must be as clean as possible and free of anything that could obstruct the path of the sun’s rays from the sun to the photovoltaic cells in the solar panel.
Such an obstruction could compromise the overall power output of your solar panel. Thus, it should be clear that solar panel cleaning and solar panel maintenance are essential to keep your panel functioning at its peak performance
In this article, we’ll take a look at how vinegar, as a viable cleaning agent, compares to the other cleaning agents on the market and delve into how it can be used to clean your solar panels.
What Can You Use to Clean Your Solar Panel?
The process of cleaning your solar energy system is one that must be carried out with the utmost level of care. This is because solar panels are highly sensitive and one wrong move can cause significant damage to both your panel and, consequently, your bank balance.
The point of departure here is to decide whether you are going to take on cleaning your solar panels yourself or not. If you decide to opt for the latter, you will have to make use of a third party, such as a solar panel cleaning company to take charge of this delicate task and clean your panels for you.
These companies generally use either soap and water, other harsher chemicals, or even vinegar as their cleaning agents.
Keeping things clean is also important if you find pigeons nesting under your solar panels which will make things get messy much quicker.
Bearing in mind the problems you might encounter with the soap or commercial chemicals to clean your panels, you might now be asking what cleaning agent can be used as an alternative. We recommend vinegar.
Vinegar is widely recognized as a viable alternative cleaning agent for solar panels. Not only is it naturally derived, but it’s also less abrasive than the other harsh chemical cleaners on the market that have the potential to damage your solar panels.
One of vinegar’s primary benefits is that it contains acetic acid. This acid is the cause behind the pungent smell we associate with vinegar. The benefits of this acid are that it’s strong enough to break down most of the forms of dirt and grease that might be found on your solar panel, but is not strong enough to bring along solar panel rust or cause harm to animals or humans.
Soap and Water
The go-to means of cleaning a solar panel is simply hosing it down with water at low pressure and scrubbing it with soapy water and a soft cloth. In this regard, it must be mentioned that you should refrain from using the high-pressure hose of a pressure washer as this could leave scratches on the surface of the solar panel.
Most people argue in favor of using detergents mixed with water as this mixture tends to have more cleaning power. Although this is true, we would advise against it. This is because stronger chemicals such as soap-based detergents have the potential to leave streaks on the surface of your panel. This is problematic as your panel needs to be squeaky clean in order to function at its peak performance.
A further downside of using soap as a cleaning agent for your solar panel is that it leaves a thin film on the surface of your panel. This will not only affect the amount of sunlight that your solar panel’s photovoltaic cells can absorb but also accommodates dust and dirt build-up in the future.
We would recommend staying away from harsher chemicals as cleaning agents altogether. Not only are these cleaning agents unnecessary, but they may actually damage your solar panel’s photovoltaic cells.
This will in turn be detrimental to the overall power output of your solar panel.
Vinegar as a Cleaning Agent for Your Solar Panels
Is It Safe?
Not all types of vinegar can be used as a reliable cleaning agent for your solar panel. In this regard, we can distinguish between cooking vinegar and cleaning vinegar.
White cleaning vinegar is generally regarded to be safe to use as a cleaning agent for your solar panel. This is because it contains about 5-8% acetic acid by volume whereas commercial vinegar has a stronger concentration percentage. As a result, commercial vinegar could cause damage to your solar panel.
Despite being regarded as a safer cleaning agent than the alternatives mentioned above due to its reduced strength, it is still essential that you dilute even white cleaning vinegar by mixing a ¼ cup of vinegar with two cups of de-ionized water.
De-ionized water has no mineral content. This means that it will not leave behind any streaks or marks as a result of the minerals found in some types of water (such as tap water). By diluting the vinegar you will ensure that no damage is done to the protective coating on your panels.
Furthermore, when diluted, white cleaning vinegar will not cause any discolorations to your solar panel, nor will it leave behind the film that soap does which actually encourages subsequent dirt and grime build-up.
It is important to note that some people recommend adding a detergent to the diluted vinegar mixture as it will give it more cleaning power. Once again, we would advise against this because the streaks the detergent leaves behind will have a negative impact on the power output of your panel.
How Do You Clean Your Solar Panel with Vinegar?
Cleaning your solar panels with vinegar is a fairly straightforward process that can easily be executed without any issues by following these 10 simple steps:
Step 1: Check Manual
Refer to the solar panel manufacturer’s instructions first to see how they recommend cleaning the panel and what procedures you should refrain from using.
This should always be your point of departure when cleaning your solar panel.
It’s also important to disconnect your solar panels any time you’re cleaning them or carrying out maintenance to avoid damaging the sensitive wiring inside.
Step 2: Repair First
Don’t clean your solar panels if they have any cracks or other forms of damage. For example, where damage was sustained as a result of a hail storm, these cracks to your solar panel and hail damage should first be repaired before proceeding with the cleaning process to prevent further damage.
Step 3: Remove Loose Rubble and Dirt
Before scrubbing or running anything over the surface of your solar panel, any loose dirt or rubble should be removed with a fine bristle brush. Such rubble could scratch your panel as well as prolong the cleaning process.
Step 4: Hose Off
Thoroughly hose off the surface of your solar panel with a moderate spray of de-ionized water.
Step 5: Dilute Vinegar and Apply Coat
Dilute the white cleaning vinegar in the ratio of two cups of de-ionized water for every ¼ cup of vinegar and pour it in a spray bottle, mixing it thoroughly.
When you’re satisfied with your mixture, apply a light coat to your panel.
Step 6: Wipe Surface
Wipe the surface with a soft non-abrasive sponge until it is free of any and all dust and rubble.
Step 7: Hose off Again
Once again hose off the panel with a moderate spray of water.
Step 8: Use Squeegee
Use a squeegee to rid the panel of any extra moister that remains to avoid leaving behind any moister deposits and watermarks.
Step 9: Dry
Dry the surface of the panel with a soft lint-free cloth that won’t scratch the glass of the panel.
Step 10: Wait 30-60 Minutes
Leave them in the sun for final drying and connect them to power about 30 minutes to an hour later.
Is It Better Than Other Cleaning Agents?
By looking into the above options you have with regards to cleaning your solar panel, to which vinegar is an alternative, you’ll notice that vinegar poses the lowest risk to the health and performance of your solar panel whilst producing the same if not better results as other cleaning agents.
Furthermore, vinegar is a cleaning agent that is not only sustainable but naturally occurring as well. Its natural properties will ultimately reduce the amount of unwanted dust and grime that has and will collect on your solar panel in the future.
As is clear above, cleaning your solar panel with the appropriate vinegar mixture is both easy and advantageous for you as the owner.
Using vinegar as your choice of cleaning agent will allow you to maintain your solar panel in a way that not only best supports a long lifespan but also allows for optimal energy production through its effective removal of dust and dirt from your solar panel surface.
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