Solar panels are a great investment. Not only are they affordable and excellent value for money, but they also reduce the carbon footprint of your home or business.
Although they can be pricey, their long lifespan ensures you more than enough time to make a return on your initial investment. That being said, to get the best out of your solar panel, proper maintenance is essential.
In this article, we’ll look at everything there is to know about solar panel maintenance. From how to maintain your panels to the cost thereof – we’ll cover it all.
Maintaining Your Solar Panel
Do Solar Panels Need to be Maintained?
Solar panels need to stand outside all day and so, they’re permanently exposed to the elements, be it blistering heat, wind, rain, or hail. As such, solar panels are designed with extreme durability in mind.
For example, you can buy hail-proof solar panels that are built with strong tempered glass panels that are resilient to the impact of hail.
That being said, no solar panel is completely indestructible. Although they may survive such extreme conditions, they might sustain damage in the process which will inevitably require some form of maintenance and repair.
In general, however, solar panels are fairly low-maintenance. The necessity of maintenance is case-specific, but, of course, it is also subject to the weather conditions in your area. Harsher conditions such as heavy rain or snowfall will impact the solar energy output of your solar panel negatively and might call for a solar panel cleaning to restore productivity and to prevent solar panel rust.
Overall, your solar panels do require maintenance, albeit a minimal amount.
When Solar Panels Need to be Maintained
Knowing When Your Solar Panel Needs to be Maintained
Once you’ve noticed that there’s a sudden reduction in the amount of energy output that you expected of your solar panel, this is an indication that it requires some form of maintenance.
Generally, it’s always a good point of departure to start with a thorough cleaning. If the problem persists, it could be indicative of a more complicated issue that needs to be handled by a professional.
Using Solar Panel Monitoring Systems
Most of the time, the issue with your solar panel will be its power output. For that reason, we recommend integrating a solar panel monitoring system into your solar panel setup.
A solar panel monitoring system keeps track of how much energy is produced by your panel over certain times so you can get a better idea of its operating capacity.
These statistics will not only allow you to identify which specific external factor is negatively impacting the performance of your solar panel but also help you to observe how well they’re maintaining productivity over their lifetime.
An example of such a solar panel monitoring system is our Outback Power Mate3s. This high-quality and reasonably-priced monitoring system will help you to stay on top of the health of your solar panel with ease.
What If You Don’t Have a Solar Panel Monitoring System?
If you don’t have a solar panel monitoring system, an alternative method to determine whether there’s a problem with your solar panel is by looking at your electric bill.
Utility bills give you a great indication of how much energy you used in a month. It further shows you how much of this energy was produced by your solar panel and how much of it had to be drawn from the grid if you have a grid-tied or hybrid system.
This way, if your utility bill shows you that you suddenly had to spend a lot more on grid-supplied electricity than you usually do in a month, there may be a problem with your solar system. This would be the result of the monthly energy output of your solar panel being a lot less than it normally is for some reason.
How Do You Maintain Solar Panels?
Generally speaking, solar panel maintenance can be divided into two broad categories: cleaning and annual inspections.
Your solar panels need to be washed similarly to how you would wash a window. Removing the debris that collects on your panel after storms or extended periods of time outside without rainfall keeps your panel functioning at its peak performance.
All you need for this is a leaf blower, a hosepipe, or a long-handled squeegee to clear the surface of any obstructing debris and keep your panel functioning in tiptop shape. Furthermore, cleaning solar panels with vinegar has also proven effective means to this end.
Annual inspections involve technical maintenance. Here, a professional from your solar panel provider will come to your home and analyze whether your panel is functioning as it should be at the point in its lifetime.
The repair or replacing a large solar panel is something that needs to be done by a professional and should by no means be attempted by owners themselves.
If it seems that the performance of your panel is not up to scratch or is below what the warranty guarantees you will need to call your solar panel provider. They will in turn then send one of their technicians to come and address the damage at hand.
How Often Do Solar Panels Need to be Maintained?
With regards to how regularly your solar panel should be maintained, there are three different maintenance schedules.
We recommend cleaning your solar panel at least two to four times a year. This may, however, vary depending on both your solar panel setup and the weather conditions in the area you live. If there’s a lot of dust or salt in the air, you’re going to have to clean them more often.
In terms of your setup, tilted solar panels are advantageous in the sense that rainfall effectively does most of the cleaning for you. Furthermore, flexible solar panels are also beneficial in this regard as they can easily be handled for a thorough cleaning.
In winter, heavy snowfall may require you to clean your panel more regularly and thoroughly. Keep in mind that whenever you use water to remove snow from solar panels, it must be lukewarm as hot water touching the cold surface of the tempered glass of the panel might cause it to crack.
This is something that should take place at least once a year in order to ensure that the performance of your solar panel is where it should be at that point in its lifetime. If the inspecting technician finds that this is not the case, it may be necessary for additional repairs to be done on your panel.
Additional maintenance will only be necessary if you notice a problem with the functioning of your solar panel either before or following your annual inspection.
Financing Solar Panel Maintenance
How Much Does Maintenance Cost?
The average annual cost of maintaining a solar panel comes to about $450 per year. This amount is the sum of the annual inspection that should cost about $150, as well as two professional cleanings which would set you back $150 per cleaning ($300 in total). These maintenance costs might vary depending on certain factors.
For example, if your panels are easily accessible and you’re able to clean them yourself, then you would obviously not have to give out money paying someone else to do it. Furthermore, your maintenance costs will also depend on the severity of the problems with your panel, or how regularly you clean them (in the case that you don’t clean them yourself).
When buying certain solar panels or brands, the manufacturer or installer may give you a certain number of maintenance visits for free as part of the purchase price or the warranty. This will however vary depending on your solar panel provider.
A good point of departure when purchasing a solar panel is to ensure that the panel you’ve got your eye on has a good warranty. A good warranty will generally guarantee that the energy production of the panel remains at about 85% for between at least 15 to 25 years.
These kinds of warranties are essential because, as your panel starts to decrease in efficiency and performance, the maintenance necessary to fix such any of the problems could continuously cost you thousands of dollars. Thus, with a decent warranty, if your panel starts to show signs of trouble before the expiration of the warranty, any maintenance will come out of the pocket of the solar panel provider.
It must be said, though, that many of these warranties come with the condition that they are only applicable if your panels have been properly cleaned and maintained in the period leading up to such a problem.
Overall it should be clear that, although the initial installation price of a solar panel might put a dent in your wallet at first, their long lifespans, as well as their minimal maintenance requirements make up for this.
That being said, as seen in this article, regular and thorough maintenance will always be essential in order to get the best value for money out of your solar panel.
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