How To Clean Solar Panels: Complete Cleaning Guide For Roof Mounted Units
You gotta love the beautiful landscape of Phoenix Arizona, the skies are clear, wind gentle, and there's beautiful hills and mountains all around with huge cactuses.
As with many local residents, I just had my solar panels installed on my home and it had me thinking for a little bit.
These yearly haboobs (dust storms) are really taking a toll on my car and home, the leftover dust is really annoying to always have to clean.
Now that I have 15x 100 watt solar panels covering 50%+ of my roof, it's going to probably settle and require me to clean every single one. This will likely result in my energy production to decrease, right?
Why Should YOU Clean Solar Panels?
It's probably not something you ever gave a thought to before and after purchasing solar panels, I was in the same position. Somehow it dawned on me to really think this through, especially since I live in Arizona where it can get VERY dusty due to the natural environment all around me.
So, why should you clean your solar panels?
The answer is quite simple, you need to clean your solar panels to ensure they produce the MOST energy possible... that's why you got them in the first place, right?
Here's the thing, cleaning your solar panels can be done either by you or a professional. Depending on how limber you are and if you are willing to climb high places, it can save you few hundred (or thousand) dollars for the entire job.
These savings can help to offset your investment in the solar panels further, resulting in maximum savings!
Before you even consider this option, you must know what the MOST important advantages are. I won’t bore you as there aren’t many, but the few there are… I listed right below here.
Keep generating the MOST solar energy: If you leave your windshield uncleaned for too long, road dust, dirt, bugs and other debris accumulate.
Your visibility is reduced, resulting in lower confidence levels when driving.
The same principal applies with solar panels, reduce transparency... reduce energy product. Keeping them clean is CRUCIAL for maximum efficiency!
Maintain a clean look. I think this one would typically be an afterthought, as most wouldn't pay attention to how their roof looks. I had seen dirty and dusty panels, it's a bad look... seriously. After a haboob, ones home looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years. Clean panels make your roof look brand new.
Doing it yourself saves money. I'd say if you have what it takes, doing it yourself saves you a few hundred dollars. This might by the second most important advantage in the list, especially if you're trying to make your money stretch.
Lucky for you there aren't too many challenges when it comes to this. This whole task isn't too complicated and even if you hire professional, it doesn't cost too much money. Assuming you'll do this yourself, here are the challenges you may face.
You'll have to climb on the roof. Depending of course your age and how flexible you'll need to get on the roof and get this job done.
Obviously the more stories your home has the more dangerous it is.
It's recommended they use proper safety equipment such as rope to ensure if you ever fall, you won't land to your death.
You'll need to buy PROPER supplies. Believe it or not you actually need to buy the right kind of chemicals to ensure the solar panels last the longest. One would assume that something like Windex would be the most effective way to clean them but that's not true.
Make sure you find specially formulated cleaning products that are designed specifically for solar panels. As you read further you will learn the proper materials required to ensure you get the job done right the first time.
How To Clean Solar Panels On Roof (Step-by-Step)
As you read above, we covered why it's important to clean solar panels, the advantages and disadvantages. Now it's time to learn how to clean them step by step. When done right this whole entire process should take less than one hour (of course it all depends on how many solar panels you have in the first place).
Step 1. Place a ladder against the roof.
Depending on the height of your roof, you’ll need to get a ladder to make your way up there. In the event that you can actually make it up there through your attic, skip this step.
Step 2. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water & panel cleaner.
Before you make your way onto your roof, get a simple 5 gallon bucket (i found one at home depot for $10), and fill it up with water and a special cleaning liquid made by Madison Electric Products. This cleaning liquid is made SPECIFICALLY for solar panels, its recommended you dilute it 25 parts water and 1 part detergent.
Just use your eyes to roughly measure this.
Step 3. Have a long reaching brush and squeegee ready.
These are the tools you’ll be using to clean each and every solar panel. Long reaching brush will be used to get al the dirt and dust off and a squeegees will wipe away all remaining water to ensure best dryness.
Remember to get ADJUSTABLE brushes and squeegees, as you’ll be able to reach much further and much closer by simply adjusting the length.
Step 4. Have a water hose ready.
Before you start brushing away the dirt, you’ll need to presoak each panel you clean to get rid of light dirt and dust. Afterwards, an after cleaning rinse is also necessary to way away the cleaner. Long enough hose is really necessary to make this whole thing work. Word of warning.. try to avoid the cheap “flexible” hoses which are being sold almost EVERYWHERE.
They are prone to leaks, aren’t durable, and from my experience… just plain low quality from the multiple units I’ve used.
Step 5. One thing at a time, make your way onto the roof.
Now it's time to get on the roof, whichever way suits you best. Doing this requires patience and being able to take everything, only one item at a time. Don’t rush this or else you may end up facing the possibly deadly consequences (falling).
Step 6. Ensure your safety.
A good way to stay safe is to get a safety harness which attaches directly to you and the roof. While I won’t explain how to put one on, if you watch this video, you’ll see exactly how it’s done.
Step 7. Rinse your solar panels.
Now that you made your way up, safely secure, it’s now time to take your hose and rinse all solar panels. Rinse them good, make sure to use a setting which has some pressure to it.
REMEMBER, it’s crucial you don’t damage the solar panel glass.
Step 8. Use the brush to start scrubbing the panels.
With your bucket full of cleaner, you must now dip your long-reaching brush INSIDE and then begin to gently clean one solar panel at a time.
Depending on how big your solar panels are, you’ll be able to clean multiple panels at once. This is entirely up to you.
Step 9. Rinse the panels.
When you are finished with your scrubbing, rinse your panels quickly with water to remove all remaining cleaner. Especially on a sunny day, you better do it fast to avoid some of the cleaner staining the glass and causing a bigger headache. On a cloudy and mild day, this would be a non-issue.
Step 10. Use a squeegee to remove remaining water.
As with quickly rinsing the cleaner away from solar panels, squeegeeing is one of the best ways you can dry each panel and avoid using cloth towels.
If you remember seeing the little squeegee and scrubbers you’d find at a petrol station, ones where you can first scrub your windshield of all the bugs and then flip it over and squeegee away the liquid to perfect looking windows (well, sometimes lol). This is the same method.
Step 11. Do a final analysis.
After you completed washing all panels, go over and check each one to ensure everything is looking good. Trust me, you’d hate to get back down, look at your solar panels from the ground and see one or more still dirty (get the ladder again).
Step 12. Now think, would that job be worth paying someone else?
In an hour or two, you have perfectly clean solar panels!
And, you saved money!
Materials and Cost
NOTE, some of these things you'll already have at home to reduce your cost even further.
So before you get to cleaning, let's go over the materials used in this process and ensure you start and finish with no interruptions.
- Ladder - For getting on your roof. ($75-$200)
- Safety Strap - For keeping yourself from falling to your death. ($75)
- Adjustable Length Brush - To reach further without moving. ($25)
- Adjustable Length Squeegee - To dry your solar panels to perfection, with minimal effort. ($25)
- 5 Gallon Bucket - To keep your washing solution. ($10)
- Speciality Cleaning Detergent - To thoroughly clean your panels and avoid any damage to panels. ($30-$50)
- Hose - To rinse before and after cleaning. ($25)
Next Cleaning, How Often?
Once everything is all said and done, you may be saying "goodness, that took some effort" or, "that was pretty straightforward, not too bad at all!".
Whatever you say, to maintain your solar panels... you'll need to do this again in the future. When exactly?...
In order to keep you investment protected and your energy bill low, cleaning every few months is the average recommendation. It all depends on WHERE you live. Places like Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Southern California, BAD.
There's typically more dust in the air, thus requiring more frequent cleaning.
If you live in places like Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia etc... essentially an environment that isn't rich in dust, you won't be required to do this as frequently.
As I said before, this was NOT something that came to mind when I was getting ready to buy solar panels. Being able to do this myself gave me a bit more confidence and freedom to take care of my home properly. While being in Phoenix is a blessing with the abundant sunshine, the curse of abundant dust during the summer makes it a bigger pain in the butt to clean. Nonetheless, I'll take abundant sunshine, any-day!
If you found this guide useful by letting you clean your own solar panels, consider sharing the URL on any of your social media. It would help others and help my blog grow more (which I thank for!).
My name is Ray. I’m a survivalist, an off-grid fanatic, and a proud married man to a beautiful woman. This website was started to be an educational resource for learning everything there is to getting off the grid and being self sufficient. Contact me if you’d like to connect, right here.