In It For the Long Haul

So you’ve been through the process. You met with a solar consultant, chose the right fit for your home, and installed a solar array. Now you’re ready to save money with clean energy for the next 20 to 30 years. But the solar panel installation is only the beginning. To get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll want to make sure your array is functioning at full capacity so it can have the most productive lifecycle.

There are two sides to lengthening your solar panel lifespan: cleaning and maintenance. The cleaning is easy enough to do yourself, if you’re willing to go on your roof. If you have a lease, the company will make sure to take care of the maintenance for you. If you’ve taken out a loan to pay for it, then it is more likely that you will be doing the cleaning yourself. However, you should still call your solar company for issues like repairs that you don’t want to risk doing wrong.

Maintenance

It’s important to keep up with your solar panel maintenance, and it’s fairly easy, too. Start by making sure you get a good warranty and good insurance. If your panels begin to lose efficiency and they’re still under warranty, then your solar company will send someone to repair or replace them. If they get damaged physically, that might be covered under a different equipment warranty or your homeowners’ insurance.

Luckily, most systems don’t have moving parts (unless you get tracking mounts). This means fewer problems, at least in that department. The tempered glass that panels are made of allow them to withstand most harsh weather. So, the main thing you’ll need to keep an eye on is your system’s electricity production levels. This will allow you to spot issues before they become unmanageable.

Cleaning

By now you might be wondering: what’s the best way to clean solar panels? Most of the time, you won’t even have to do anything – if your rooftop panels are at an angle, rain will be enough to clear them off. During the dry season, the panels might need some manual cleaning, depending on how much dust or smog is in your area. Then it’s as simple as spraying them with water or getting out the Windex. Make sure to use a non-abrasive sponge so you don’t scratch the panels! You can even get them safely from the ground by using your garden hose.

You don’t need to be a professional to figure out how to clean solar panels, but sometimes the extra help doesn’t hurt. It’s much safer to hire someone who is used to getting on the roof and cleaning a solar array than to do it yourself with no experience. Generally, your installation company can recommend a cleaning service. You might even be able to ask the installers themselves to clean off the panels while going through routine technical maintenance.

Residential panels are rarely installed flat, but if they are, then there’s more of a chance of buildup, so make sure to check how they’re doing more often than a few times a year. Ideally, you will be getting an annual inspection from your solar installer to make sure everything is going well with your system. If you live in a place where your panels will be exposed to more dirty conditions, you will want to take a look at them regularly so they don’t lose efficiency from the buildup.

Ultimately, you just need to pay attention to the output of your panels – any changes will likely alert you to potential concerns. If you can get a physical look at them every so often, even better, but having your provider do a yearly checkup should be enough. If you spot any animals lingering nearby (namely birds, whose droppings will dirty up the glass) or debris gathering underneath, it’s a good idea to ask your solar company what solutions they have for you. Critter guards, for example, reduce the risk of fire from debris as well as preventing creatures from getting in there.

With such minimal upkeep and all the good solar can do for the environment compared to traditional energy sources, what’s not to love? If you have good warranties to go along with your solar array, then you’ll have even less to worry about, since your solar panel maintenance costs will be minimal.  Yes, your solar-powered life is just beginning, but the easiest part of the journey starts now.

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