How to clean solar panels

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Solar panels are an investment, both from an environmental standpoint, and from the perspective of your energy bill, with free energy from the sun too good to pass up for most of us.

As a result, it makes sense that you want to take care of your investment, from ensuring that your solar panels are installed correctly through to checking that you’re on a decent feed-in tariff, as well as maintenance and upkeep. But when it comes to solar panel maintenance, does cleaning factor into it, and is putting in a bit of elbow grease worth getting up on the roof for? Read on to find out how to clean your solar panels – and if they’re worth cleaning at all – with this Canstar Blue guide.


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Does cleaning solar panels make a difference?

Dirty solar panels

As with most things, a quick clean can be the trick to help ensure everything works smoothly, and it’s no different for solar panels. Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electrical currents, which in turn is converted into electricity to power your home. But if something is blocking your panels – such as dirt, grime, leaves and the bane of homeowners everywhere, bird poop – then not all of the sunlight that your panels could be capturing is turned into electricity, which could be affecting your bottom dollar.

A study presented to the World Renewable Energy Congress shows that solar panels can lose between four and 20 per cent of their effectiveness if they become dirty, indicating that cleaning your solar panels can make a difference as to how much energy you’re receiving. However, how much of a difference cleaning makes is dependent on a number of factors, such as the number of solar panels you have, how dirty they actually get and general weather conditions.

How to clean solar panels

Cleaning solar panels with brush

If you’re looking to clean your solar panels yourself, you can do so in a few simple steps, although it’s recommended that you take the proper safety precautions before getting up on the roof. To clean your solar panels, follow the steps below:

  • Step one: Turn off your solar panel system, and redirect the roof runoff away from rainwater tanks (if you have any).
  • Step two: Hose down the solar panels on a gentle wash, as this will generally take care of any dust.
  • Step three: Use soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to take care of any tougher stains or streaks.
  • Step four: Wipe off any excess water with another cloth or squeegee to prevent streaks and blockages on the panels.

It’s best to avoid using a pressure washer, scourers or harsh cleaning chemicals when it comes to cleaning your solar panels, as they may damage the system or surface of your panels. And if you’re not sure about getting up on the roof, you can always get some professionals to come clean your solar panels for you.

Do I need to turn off the solar panels before I clean them?

It’s best practice to turn off any electricals before touching and cleaning them, and the same goes for solar panels. While solar panels are built to withstand the harsh Aussie climate, if you’re hosing your panels down, some water may get on the underside of the panel, which could potentially cause issues and damage if you’re not careful, meaning that turning off your solar panels before cleaning is the safest option.

  • You can shut down the solar panel system via the process outlined in the owner’s manual.

Compare Solar Energy Plans

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

How often should you clean your solar panels?

Most solar panel providers and installers recommend cleaning your solar panels at least once every 12 months, but this is dependent on several factors, such as how dirty the panels get, and how much rainfall your area gets.

If your solar panels are installed on an angle, and there’s plenty of rainfall year-round, nature may be able to take care of most of the cleaning process for you, whereas those with solar panels on a horizontal surface may look to clean more regularly.

  • It’s also recommended to clean earlier in the morning when the panels are a bit cooler to touch.

How much does it cost to clean your solar panels?

If you’re looking to get your solar panels professionally cleaned, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the service, although this will depend on a few factors, such as how many panels you have, how easy it is to get onto your roof as well as the traditional call out fees for tradespeople. However, most professionals also offer a quote, allowing you to compare and research to find something that suits your budget.

  • Most solar installers offer a cleaning service, so if you’re looking to get your panels professionally cleaned, they may be a first port of call.

Is it worth cleaning your solar panels?

Professional cleaning solar panels

Cleaning your solar panels can be thought of as home maintenance, such as cleaning the gutters or washing the car. But whether it’s worth doing comes down to a variety of individual circumstances, including how many solar panels you have, how much rainfall you generally get, and how much time and effort you’re willing to spend to potentially save a few dollars on your energy bill.

For instance, the four per cent output difference between a dirty and clean solar panel could make a world of difference for a business that has hundreds of solar panels across a large roof surface, but for a small house that only has a few solar panels, that four per cent may not seem entirely worth getting onto the roof for. As a result, cleaning your solar panels will come down to how much you enjoy cleaning, and what lengths you’ll go to for a cheaper energy bill.

If you’re really looking to cut your energy costs, check out our ratings for solar providers to see what other options are out there, or our guide on energy savings tips to see what else you can do around the house.

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Picture credit: Thep Photos/shutterstock.com, TS2017/shutterstock.com, Africa Studio/shutterstock.com, Lev Kropotov/shutterstock.com

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