Solar Panel Maintenance: 6 Tips You Need To Know
5 - Minute Read
Sep 13, 2022
The vast majority of photovoltaic solar systems are very reliable and typically require very few if any repairs for the lifespan of the solar equipment. Solar systems have no moving parts, and most solar panels are designed to last 25 to 30 years. They are designed to withstand the elements, including rain, wind, snow, ice and heat, so maintenance costs are typically low.
However, if a solar system isn’t performing well, it is critical to catch this as soon as possible to prevent missing out on renewable energy production. Therefore, adequate solar panel maintenance is essential for optimizing your utility bill savings.
Remember that labor and equipment warranties may cover the solar panel and inverter repair costs. You can refer to your solar system proposal to determine the length of the warranties and what is covered. Also, your homeowner's insurance may cover repair costs from storm damage or a tree falling on your solar system. We’ll discuss different ways to check your system’s performance and some quick maintenance you can do to increase efficiency.
1. Leverage Your Solar Energy System App
Most solar installers provide solar system monitoring so you can see historical and real-time solar energy production data. These systems are integrated with your inverter and typically are displayed through a mobile app or an internet browser.
Solar monitoring systems provide your power output within given periods of time, including lifetime, yearly, quarterly, monthly and daily electricity generation. In addition, these apps will often display your greenhouse gas emission reductions from choosing clean solar energy compared to grid power.
Some monitoring systems provide panel-level data, while others show only system-level data. Panel-level data is helpful because it can help you determine if one or two solar panels are underperforming, and this information can help solar technicians troubleshoot issues and pinpoint a problem.
However, keep in mind there can be a logical reason why some modules have lower energy output than others. For example, a chimney or dormer may shade just one or two panels but not the rest. This is not a maintenance issue, but rather a known issue with your system setup.
In addition to providing solar output information, some monitoring apps also allow you to schedule repairs. Some solar system owners find this feature helpful because it saves time and streamlines the repair process.
It is helpful to refer to this information periodically to know if your system is performing correctly. However, data can be misleading.
For example, if snow is covering your solar panels for a day, there will be minimal energy generation, but this is expected. Likewise, your output will be lower than usual if you have more cloudy weather than is typical. The best way to know if you have a maintenance issue from your solar output data is to view information from a sunny day.
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2. Implement Routine Solar Panel Cleaning
Unfortunately, dust, pollen, sap, leaves, pine needles, grime and bird droppings can reduce the energy output of your solar panel system. Rainwater can help clean solar panels, especially if they are mounted on a slope. However, it can also leave behind a buildup on the surface of the panel.
If your solar panels have become dirty, a solar panel cleaning can help reduce your energy bills. Depending on your climate, cleaning your panels every 3 to 6 months is usually adequate. Although many solar installers offer this service, it is also a relatively simple DIY project for many solar homeowners.
If you clean your solar panels yourself, ensure you do so safely and in a way that doesn’t damage them. Don’t use a power washer or abrasive tools like a rake that can scratch the surface. In some cases, merely rinsing the solar panels with a garden hose is adequate for removing debris, and it might be possible to do this from the ground. Consult with your installer on what they recommend if you choose to go the DIY route.
3. Inspect The Panels After Hailstorms And Other Extreme Weather
Hail and falling debris from storms can damage solar panels. Therefore, check for visible signs of damage, such as cracks, after heavy storms. Also, refer to your solar monitoring app to determine if there is a drop in energy production after a storm.
However, not all solar panel warranties cover damage from storms, but your homeowner's insurance policy often will. Read your policy carefully and consult your insurance agent for additional questions. If you need to replace any solar panels, it's recommended to use an experienced solar technician.
4. Allow Accumulated Snow To Melt
If you live in a cold climate, you may wonder what to do when you have snow on your solar panels. The good news is that snow can help remove dirt and debris from solar panels. However, how much snow will impact your energy production depends on the temperature, amount of snow, the pitch of your roof and cloud cover. Light snow doesn’t require cleaning and will often resolve itself quickly on its own. Usually, even a moderate or heavy snowfall will slide off the panels relatively soon, especially if the sun is out.
Heavy snowfall may require cleaning off the panels to boost your electricity production and prevent buildup. This is especially true if you don’t have a roof with a steep pitch and you expect below-freezing temperatures for a long time. However, be very careful about getting up on the roof, especially if it is slippery from snow or ice. If you can’t safely clean off your panels from snow buildup, let the snow clear off on its own or call in a professional.
5. Keep Nearby Trees Trimmed
Proper tree care is essential for keeping your solar system running at optimum performance and your electric bills down. Trees can shade or drop leaves on your solar panels, so it’s helpful to trim them back to minimize this. In addition, keeping such trees trimmed can help prevent storm damage from falling branches on your solar system and home.
6. Prioritize Annual Inspections
Many solar installers offer solar system inspections. Typically, this service includes cleaning the solar panels, inspecting the system for visible damage and reviewing solar system monitoring data. An inspection is an excellent idea if you’re concerned about low solar system output or you are buying or selling a home with a solar power system.
The Bottom Line: Solar Maintenance Is Rarely Difficult
Although they are usually very reliable, proper solar panel maintenance is critical for keeping your system running at peak performance. Proactive maintenance can help prevent issues down the road and boost your utility bill savings. If you do need to hire someone to perform a repair, check to see if it is covered under warranty.
Solar panels are built to last with minimal maintenance. If you’re ready to start saving on utility bills, we’re here to help!