Solar photovoltaics (PV) – known as “solar panel” systems, work by capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into electricity. For almost two decades now, the net metering rules of California have permitted local homeowners to reduce their energy expenses, and generate more power through rooftop solar panels.
For those who have embraced the concept of cleaner energy their biggest concern may be learning what will keep their panels in the best working order. Most solar panels require little maintenance, as — unlike generators — they are not composed of moving components which require replacement or repair. The robust design of solar panels — made with tempered glass — means that the majority of their maintenance consists of occasional cleaning, inspection, and regular monitoring.
Following are some steps that you can take to ensure your solar panels continue to work properly all year round.
Step One: Discuss Maintenance During Installation
To some degree, the efficiency of your solar panels can be determined from the moment of installation. A trained and professional installer should be able to evaluate each panel and ensure they are all working at their optimum ability before leaving your property. While your installer is analyzing your panels, you may also take the opportunity to discuss with them the details of any particular maintenance checks you may need to conduct.
The company that installs your panels should be able to offer advice about how frequently you may need to conduct maintenance on your panels to ensure they continue to work properly. They may even leave you with details about fault signals that you may see from the main inverter, and trouble-shooting methods you can use if you notice an issue. Keeping a careful eye on the amount of electricity your system is generating should teach you what you can expect, and when you should be wary of something wrong.
Step Two: Cleaning Your Solar Panels
Often, solar panels work so seamlessly that we forget they’re there at all — and that forms the route of the problem when it comes to proper maintenance. Though it’s easy to forget about our clean power generators, solar power maintenance is an important way to ensure that those panels generate the optimum amount of energy for a home. The cleaner the tempered glass on your panels, the more unaffected surface there is to soak up the sun’s energy.
Determining how often you should clean your solar panels will depend on the weather and circumstances surrounding your property. For instance, if you live in a dryer part of California, with more particles in the area to land on your solar panels — you may need to clean them more. On the other hand, if your panels seem to stay cleaner for longer, you could get away with less frequent maintenance.
When cleaning your panels, you should ensure that you never use an abrasive cleaning sponge or soap – as these can scratch the glass. Depending on how frequently you clean, you may be able to use some gentle biodegradable soap, or even run the hose over the panels. Remember to be particularly careful if you need to get on the roof – as the panels will become slippery once you begin to wash them.
Step Three: Monitoring Your Solar Panels
Finally, it never hurts to keep watch over your solar panels for any evidence of errors or problems. In general, this means keeping a closer eye on the inverter display for any strange occurrences – for instance, if the green light goes out. If something seems unusual, you may not be able to figure out what’s wrong yourself, but that’s where the team that installed your panels can become useful – call the experts and let them work it out.
To take monitoring one step further, make a habit of writing down the amount of energy your system produces each day — making a note of the whether to ensure your results aren’t thrown off by overcast days. This daily accounting could help you to determine whether your system starts to work less efficiently than it once did. From that point, you can check to see whether your panels need cleaning, or whether you might need to contact an expert for a more comprehensive evaluation.