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How to clean solar panels – the definitive guide

As a solar panel owner, you could be forgiven for thinking that once your system has been installed, you can forget about it, and while this is partly true, as energy will be generated without any need to intervene, there may come a time when you need to know how to clean solar panels. 

Just like your car or the windows in your home your solar panels require a spruce up every now and then. As with anything that is exposed to weather and the elements, your solar panels will need a little attention from time to time. Wind and rain can cause debris to land, and stray leaves can impact the performance of your panels. 

If you live in the UK you may have expected that the amount of rainfall we receive would take care of the cleaning for you, and in a lot of instances it would. Most solar panels are intended to be self cleaning, but like with anything else, can sometimes need a little intervention. 

You may find your solar panels aren’t as clean as you’d like them to be, and this could be due to several factors, including the tilt on your panels or the amount of pollution in your area. Properly maintained panels will help maximise the amount of energy your solar panels can generate, and reduce your energy bills as a result.

In this guide, we’ll not only show you how to clean your solar panels, but when, and whether you can do it yourself or need to call in the experts.

What equipment will I need to clean solar panels?


In most cases, you’ll probably have all the equipment you need to clean your panels already in your home.

Much like when cleaning a car, soft brushes are best to prevent scratches to your panels. For heavy soiling, a squeegee with a blade and soft sponge side should be used, but try to avoid an abrasive sponge as it may cause unnecessary damage to your solar panels.

High pressure water hoses (like pressure washers) can also cause undue damage to panels, so a standard hose or watering can will be sufficient. Alternatively, a bucket of water and a non-abrasive sponge will do the trick too. 

While we’ve learned a lot about using soap and water from the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be best to avoid using soaps and detergents when cleaning your solar panels, as often they have a high chemical content and can leave a greasy film over the top of your system, negatively affecting the amount of energy they generate.

For the amount of dirt and grime that is likely to be on your solar panels, warm water and a soft brush should do the trick.

Health and safety first


Taking stock of how to clean your solar panels before proceeding will also save time, and prevent any accidents. Check whether you can access your solar panels from the ground or you need a ladder.

If your system is in a hard to reach area, or needs a more rigorous clean you might need to call in a professional who offers a solar panel cleaning service. However, in most instances solar panels can be cleaned without needing to hire help.

Before proceeding to clean your solar panels, we’d recommend turning your system off for a short period of time. Solar panels can become warm and excessive water into a live system can cause some damage!

How to clean your solar panels


Once you’ve decided your panels are in need of a clean, and taken into account whether you need to head up to the roof or can access your panels from the ground, it’s time to get to work.

Panels are best cleaned in the morning on an overcast day, or in the late evening. By cleaning the panels on a warm sunny day, the water you use will evaporate and leave unwanted marks on your solar system and you’ll miss out on collecting the maximum amount of energy from your system. 

Cleaning your panels early in the morning is much easier and quicker. Your solar panels will be at their coolest, and the morning dew can help to soften any dirt and grime.

Before applying water to your system, use a soft brush to remove any debris and dust. Make sure to be as gentle as possible when cleaning your panels, as they are best cleaned with a water fed pole and soft brush or squeegee. 

Soft water is the best option when cleaning solar panels, but if you only have hard water available be sure to use a squeegee to remove any excess, as hard water will create stains on the panels as they dry.

Are solar panels affected by bird droppings?


Regular maintenance can be easy, but many people are still not sure  how to clean solar panels from bird droppings. The mess that birds leave behind can make them enemy number one for solar system owners. 

There’s no doubt that clean solar panels are more efficient, and bird droppings are notoriously difficult to remove. While dust and dirt will mainly be shifted with standard rainfall, droppings tend to need a little more elbow grease. 

If you are in a wooded area, or a place that attracts a lot of birds, droppings can be more of a problem. Due to their nature, bird droppings will block the solar panels from absorbing as much sunlight, aren’t easily removed by the rain and can decrease the efficiency of your panels by some margin. 

If birds and pests are a persistent problem for you, you may need to look for a more permanent solution. Our pigeon proofing guide covers all aspects of preventing pests from your solar panels.

Is cleaning solar panels worth the effort?


In short, yes. Once you have the correct equipment, and know how to clean your solar panels effectively, you’ll see that maintaining your system is no more difficult than cleaning your windows. 

Not only will regular maintenance of your solar panels improve the efficiency, you’ll also see an increase in energy production. Whether you decide to clean the solar panels yourself or hire an expert, the effort is more than worth the return. 

Our team of experts can provide answers any general questions you may have to make sure your solar panel system is working in the most cost efficient and effective way.

If you’re ready to start your solar journey, get in touch with us here.