Maintenance and cleaning of the solar panel is an essential factor for the proper functioning of solar panel. The panels tend to get dirty on windy days. With a good time span of negligence, the panel would be filled up with icing of dirt, coupled with creepers and probably a birds nest.
In order for the panel to produce good amount of electricity, more the surface area exposed to sun, better the amount produced. When flakes of dirt surface the panel, the surface exposed to sun reduces, hence is the efficiency of the panel.
Increase in surface temperature of the panel also reduces it’s productivity. Solar panel will last much longer than 25 years.
The interesting thing is that :
"The 25 years warranty by manufacturer is not for the solar panel, but it is for the casing of the solar panel, since casing would wear out after 25 years. Solar panels last much longer than 25 years"
It’s necessary to frequently clean and maintain the panels for better performance.
Location and season
Location of residence decides the climatic condition, and the time periodicity of the cleaning schedule. The seasonal changes affects the productivity as well. Bird droppings in the spring, dusty wind in the summer, cutting down shading tree branches particularly in autumn, clearing the snow flakes in winter are the factors to consider when making up a cleaning schedule. Rainy season makes it easy to clean up.
Cleaning kit would consist of couple of brushes with different handle length, soap solution, glass wiper. Hiring a professional solar panel cleaner can ease the cleaning work. Automated panel cleaner, available in the market is an option to consider.
CAUTION: Do not clean the hot panel with cold water, since it may lead to damage.
If you’re running low on money, cleaning the panel by yourself is a better idea. Soap water with a brush long enough to reach the panels should be fine to clean it up. If you are not used to climbing up the roof, better leave the work to the professionals, because the last thing you wanna feel is your back aching after the fall.
CAUTION: But be sure not to damage any electrical wiring.
Automatic cleaning systems
If you live in a dusty area, the choice of having an automatic cleaning system is useful. The cleaning systems have low volume water-soap spray connected to each of the solar panels which can be initiated by external controllers. There would be periodic (long enough for it to be a thought) need to fill up the soap solution and when it’s emptied and a change of water filter when it get worn-out.
Monitoring the efficiency through inverter
Any downfall in the productivity of the system can be found using the inverter. The inverter can provide you with energy output. A little variation of energy output may be caused by the above mentioned seasonal changes. Any drastic change in output can be the time for significant cleaning process. Its better not to wait for the moment to see it on the inverter.
After a couple of years, the trees around the house may grow and block the sunlight reaching the solar panel. Assuming that 1/5th of the panel is shaded, it’s going to reduce the efficiency not by 1/5th but by many-fold than 1/5th. The science behind the issue is that, panel manufacturers tend to set up solar cells in the panel with varying ratio of series and parallel connection. If in a total of 50 solar cells, 20 are in series connection and the rest 30 are in parallel, then 1/5th shade covers 10 solar cells. If the shade covers even a single solar cell in series, the whole of series connected 20 cells would not produce electricity. Using average probability, 4 of series and 6 of parallel are shaded. Reduction in efficiency is (20+6)/50*100= 52 %. That’s a huge reduction you wouldn’t want to compromise on !!
Yearly inspection of the system is recommended. Inspection would involve checking the electrical wiring, working of the setup as a whole.