Learning Center

Solar panel cleaning

10 min read

Solar panels get dirty. That’s just what happens when a thing is outside all day, everyday. We bring this up because there may be times when you think, “Should I clean those panels?” Our answer to you is, “Sure. If you feel it’s necessary, go for it.” We know that may not sound as definitive as you may like, but cleaning solar panels can actually be pretty subjective. Depending on things like your area, local weather conditions, or solar design, you may never have to clean your solar panels.

Not sure where to begin or how to even tell if your panels need cleaning? We can help you with that. This article will go over a list of things to consider when you think it may be time to clean your solar panels. We’ll go over things like how to tell if your solar panels need to be cleaned, your cleaning method, your personal safety, the weather, and other things like cleaning time, frequency, cost, and attitude. Let’s get started talking about when and how to clean solar panels.

Consider your solar panel cleaning method

Want to know how to clean solar panels? The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no one “correct” way to clean your solar panels. There are many different types of solar panels and they all differ slightly from one another. Different solar providers may advise different cleaning methods, so it may be a good idea to check with the solar manufacturer or company from whence (that’s right, we said “whence”) you purchased your panels to ensure you’re aligning with their specific cleaning requirements.

If you have a Vivint Solar system, we have good news for you: we only have one rule when it comes to cleaning your solar panels: be safe.

Consider your personal safety

Listen, this may seem obvious, but our solar installers put our panels on rooftops, and those rooftops can get pretty high off the ground. You’re not a professional solar installer or roofer. Your personal safety is the most important thing when it comes to, well, doing literally anything. If you’re doing anything, you should always consider how it impacts your personal safety. We ask that you please, please, please consider the conditions around you (weather, roof stability, slickness, water buildup, etc.) and avoid getting on your roof to clean panels. Really, we worry about this so much that we ask that you please just remain on the ground and not get on your roof at all. It’s more important that you remain safe than that your panels are clean. Also, natural weather conditions usually take care of the need to clean your panels anyway, so it’s usually not even necessary.

Consider local weather conditions

Mother nature can be a fickle mistress and often has the biggest impact on your solar panels. That being said, she can also be the biggest helper when it comes to cleaning your solar panels. Look outside. Does it seem overcast to you? Did your local Meteorologist predict a high chance of showers tomorrow? If yes, then we say wait. Why do the work of cleaning your panels when mother nature could do it for you?

Now, it’s true that the rain can actually add to the amount of dirt on your panels, but that amount of coverage is negligible and we account for it when customizing your solar design. What we mean by negligible is that your panels will work through it and continue to produce at optimal efficiency, even if they’re a little dirty. We say sit back, relax, and enjoy the benefits of the time and water you just saved by letting the rain do all the work for you.

Not one to just sit back? We get it—the weather can really impact your solar production. For now, let’s put a pin in cleaning methods and first talk about weather impacts. The thing is, there are no hard or fast rules when it comes to managing weather conditions. They’re kind of a hit or miss thing and not even the best Meteorologist in the world can accurately predict them one hundred percent of the time. Instead, we encourage you to use your intuition and contact your solar provider if you feel that the weather is really impacting your solar production. If it helps, we tend to group weather and panel cleaning into two categories: manageable and unmanageable.

Manageable situations are when the weather conditions are short, when rain or snow runoff takes care of the cleaning naturally, or when it’s mild enough that you can easily use a long hose to clean the panels from the safety of the ground (again, we’ll cover that in a minute).

Unmanageable weather conditions are ones that will likely require us to come out and take care of the cleaning for you, and we can absolutely do that. If you are ever concerned about the impact that extreme weather is having on your Vivint Solar system—regardless of what it is—please Contact Us. Here’s what we’ll need from you:

  1. As long as it’s safe (we cannot stress that enough) grab your camera and step outside.
  2. From the safety of the ground, snap photos of the areas where you feel the extreme weather might be negatively impacting your solar production. Here are some common examples:
  • Heavy snow coverage which will take multiple days to melt
  • Heavy ash from fires or volcanoes which will take multiple days to dissipate
  • Large pieces of debris from extreme wind or storms
  • Thick layers of dirt or mud which cannot be easily removed
  1. Email your picture and a description of your concern to help@vivintsolar.com. We’ll refer your case to a system specialist who will review it and dispatch a technician, as necessary.

Though cleaning is important, unnecessary cleaning is just a waste of time, and we know that—as a homeowner—your time is a precious commodity. Speaking of time, it’s also important to think about the best time to clean your panels.

Consider when to clean your solar panels

Most solar panel providers will recommend that you clean your solar panels with water and a hose. Usually, it’s really that simple. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to clean your panels. Think of it this way: most solar panels are made of silicon and glass. They’re specifically designed to either absorb heat and turn that into energy or directly convert sunlight into energy. There are no moving parts so they just sit in the exact same position all day underneath the heat of the sun.

What does this mean?

It means your solar panels can get really hot. We’re not talking about how attractive they are (though they do look really good). We mean like temperature-wise. It’s even possible that a sudden splash of cold water could crack a solar panel. You may not see it the first time you wash your solar panels, but you might notice it the fifth, sixth, or tenth time. Even if you don’t notice any visual damage for a long time, you’ll probably notice that your panels are no longer as effective as they once were. This could all be due to you throwing cold water on a hot solar panel.

Be cognizant of the fact that solar panels get hot in the afternoon and instead clean them early in the morning before the sun heats them up or in the evening after they’ve had a chance to cool down. Doing this will help reduce the risk that you’ll accidentally damage one or more of the solar cells on your solar energy system.

Consider how you clean your solar panels

Like we said before, all you need is a well-angled hose that you can easily direct from the ground. If you really want to get fancy, you can always invest in a high-pressure hose nozzle and a squeegee with a long handle. The nozzle will help you direct the spray a bit easier and the squeegee will help get the water off the panels, so they don’t impact production. It can also help you clear off some of the snow during the winter months. Outside of that, just point and spray.

Consider how often to clean your solar panels

Panel maintenance is important, but you probably don’t have to clean your solar panels as often as you think. There may be the occasional bird droppings or collection of wind-swept leaves that need to be cleared away, so they get direct exposure from the sunlight, but generally speaking, panels stay clean enough on their own.

Your solar panels will naturally collect a little bit of dust throughout the day but that’s not enough to stop them from absorbing sunlight and converting it into solar power. In fact, one study from the University of California San Diego observed that—when left untouched on a roof for 145 days—solar panels only lost about 7.4 percent of their energy production efficiency.

When you think of all the heat, dust, and debris to which solar panels are exposed, it’s a little surprising that they remain so efficient, but they’re made to resist the elements, and we account for the dirt and debris when we design your solar energy system.

So yes, it’s probably a good idea to clean your panels every once in a while, but you don’t have to do it nearly as often as most people think. If you’re interested and don’t feel much like dealing with the work of cleaning the panels yourself (we get it), you may want to think about hiring out the work. A professional cleaner may be in a better position to clean your solar panels for you.

Consider the cost to clean your solar panels

There are a lot of cleaning companies that are popping up selling solar panel cleaning as a service. They sign customers up for monthly cleanings and come out in big vans filled with buckets, proprietary soaps, and fancy cleaning tools.

We’ve already explained how most panels can be simply cleaned using water. We’ve also mentioned how you rarely have to wash the panels. Now that you know these two things, it may not be worth it to you to pay a company to come out and clean your panels on a regular basis.

But, if you have a large home, a lot of panels, or have trouble with mobility, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hire a professional to take care of that cleaning for you. Just understand that it doesn’t need to be cleaned every month. If they came out once or twice a year to clean your solar panels, that would probably be enough.

Depending on the size or your solar energy system, the area in which you live, and the different tiers of cleaning packages your company offers, solar panel cleaning services can cost anywhere from $100-$600 a visit. We know that’s a wide range, but again, the thing to consider is the level of effort you’re willing to commit to this bi-yearly need. It’s your call. We’re just giving you the information you need to make it. Again, you may not even need to bother with keeping them clean. The most important thing is that you monitor them to ensure they’re working properly.

Consider maintenance over cleanliness

Considering something like the cleanliness of your solar panels tells us that you’re an intelligent person. Along with panel cleanliness, we recommend that you also focus on maintaining the function of your solar energy system, including your panels and any other equipment installed on your home. Although solar panels can last for a long time, they probably won’t last forever. Regular maintenance will help improve the longevity of your panels much more than frequent cleaning will.

If you have a Vivint Solar system, be sure to use Account Center to monitor your solar power production on a regular basis to ensure there are no visible dips. If you’re concerned about your production, you can go to our website for help with commonly asked questions, or Contact Us about it and we’ll review some options over the phone. Any service provider would be willing to check your panels to ensure they are working properly and efficiently.

Vivint Solar Provides You With Clean, Sustainable Energy

At Vivint Solar, we’re proud of our product and services. We’re proud of the fact that we’re helping people across the country find energy independence. We’ve been installing solar energy systems since 2011 and it only looks like things are going to get better.

If you want to save money on your next electricity bill or if you want to enjoy the benefits of utility freedom, get a solar quote and prepare your home for clean, renewable energy today.

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