Solar Panel Maintenance: What You Should & Shouldn't Do

Maintaining your solar panels isn't as time-consuming or complicated as you may think. However, this all depends on your house and location.


Tina Chang
Updated 14 April 2022
Solar Panel Maintenance: What You Should & Shouldn't Do
Sections on this page
  1. Solar Panel Cleaning: Dos and Don'ts
  2. Hiring Professional Help
  3. Importance of Clean Solar Panels
  4. Don't Have Solar Yet?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

After getting your solar panels installed, you want to make sure they're working as efficiently as possible. The main thing people think they need to do after getting solar panels is to clean them regularly, ensuring debris and dirt don't block light during sunlight. Although cleaning them yourself may seem like the easiest and cheapest option, there are benefits to paying for professional solar panel maintenance.

Solar Panel Cleaning: Dos and Don'ts

When your solar panels get dirty, it does have the potential to decrease their efficiency, but only by about 5%, according to Greener Choices (unless your panels are extremely dirty). So while you may need to clean them every now and again, you may not have to do it as often as you think.

 Do: Assess Your Solar Panels First

Yes, clean solar panels will work more efficiently than those covered with dirt, leaves, bird poop, and anything else that might fall on your roof. However, there's no point in dragging yourself up to your rooftop panels and cleaning them when they don't need it.

Depending on where your house is located and how open it is to the elements, remind yourself to check it every four months. If it looks like a lot of dirt and debris has caked on your solar panels, it's worth a clean.

 Don't: Clean Solar Panels if They're Already Clean

Over-cleaning solar panels won't damage them unless you're using equipment you shouldn't be (more on that in a bit). But, you will be wasting your time or money, and you're also risking injury by cleaning them more than you need to.

Getting up on your roof isn't exactly the safest thing to do—add to that the fact that you'll be using a garden hose, you could easily slip and fall, seriously injuring yourself. So don't put yourself at risk for no reason.

If you are paying for solar panel maintenance, you'll be spending hundreds of dollars that you don't need to.

 Do: Use the Right Materials

When cleaning solar panels, you don't need to use them much. If there's just a lot of dust, dirt, or debris on the panels, you can use a soft brush or broom to remove it the majority of the time. You don't always need to use water and a garden hose to clean the panels.

If a brush won't do the trick, for example, if there is caked-on mud or bird droppings, that's when you'll want to use water. Use a non-abrasive cloth or scrubber with warm water. Squeegee the panels once you're done, so there are no streaks (especially if you have hard water).

 Don't: Use Cleaning Products or Metal Objects

To remove dirt, don't ever use abrasive cleaning products, including steel wool or a putty knife. These things can scratch your solar panels and damage them permanently. In addition, it will cause your panels to work less efficiently, and they're expensive to replace.

Detergents and other abrasive powders can also cause streaks on your panels, creating glares from the sunlight and hurting your solar panel performance.

 Do: Follow Safety Precautions

Only go up to clean your solar panels if there are no external factors that could cause danger to you. Also, only go up there yourself if you feel physically fit enough to do so. While you may want to keep your solar panels clean, you need to put yourself first and ensure you use safety equipment.

Also, if possible, have someone down on the ground while you're up on the roof. They can help keep the ladder secure as you go up and will be able to help you if you run into any problems or emergencies.

 Don't: Attempt Solar Panel Cleaning During Harsh Weather

Whether it's excessively hot, raining, windy, or there's a storm, don't go up onto your roof if conditions are safe. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it must be stated. Remember that solar panel maintenance can wait. Don't put yourself in danger just to get clean panels.

In most cases, they don't need regular cleaning unless your roof is prone to build-up (e.g., if there are trees nearby), or it can attract birds.

Hiring Professional Help

If you're unsure about doing your own solar panel cleaning, there's always the option of hiring a professional to do this for you. Although you will be paying for this service (~$12-$20 per panel), you will usually get more than just clean solar panels.

When you pay for solar panel maintenance, they will clean your solar panels and make sure they're working correctly—something that most people aren't equipped to do. Your solar panel system will have a monitoring system that shows you how much energy your panels are producing. During regular maintenance, ask them to check the system is working.

They'll check to make sure the energy production is efficient and if the solar panels need any additional maintenance. They will also be able to see if damaged panels are the reason for poor energy output.

Cost of Professional Solar Panel Maintenance

According to Fixr, it costs around $400 on average to hire a professional to maintain your solar panels. It ranges from around $300 - $700 depending on several factors, including how many solar panels you have, your location, and if the panels are damaged or need extra attention.

Importance of Clean Solar Panels

As mentioned, it is important to have clean solar panels to make sure the system is working as efficiently as possible. If you haven't cleaned them in a while, you may notice your solar system isn't producing as much energy as it used to, especially if your home is prone to build-up on your roof.

However, most solar panels don't need cleaning that regularly. At most, people will check if they need maintenance once every four months. Some may check on their panels once a year and find they still don't need to be cleaned.

Don't Have Solar Yet?

If you're not yet a solar system owner but are considering investing in some panels for your home, consider some benefits and downsides.

Pros:

  • It can save you money on your electricity bill
  • It's good for the environment
  • There's minimal maintenance required once they're installed
  • They last decades
  • You may be eligible for specific incentives, rebates, or tax credits by having a solar system
  • It can increase your home value (on average by around $15,000)

Cons:

  • Expensive (costs upwards of $15k depending on your location and number of panels)
  • Not an option for renters (unless your landlord decides to install them on the home)
  • It doesn't necessarily mean a zero-sum electricity bill
  • Power generated is dependent on weather (if it's overcast, then your energy production is going to be lower than average)

Solar panel savings estimator.
Google "solar panel savings" to see how much you'll save over time by installing a solar system at your home.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will having solar power mean I won't have any more energy bills?

Not necessarily. Having solar will reduce your electric bill, but in most cases, you'll still need to use electricity because your solar energy output won't be enough to power your entire house full time.

Will my solar company or solar installer do my solar panel maintenance for me?

Depending on the company, they may also do your cleaning and maintenance. They are the experts in solar systems, so they should be able to come and check if the panels are working correctly and fix any issues you may have.

How often do solar panels need maintenance?

Your solar panels generally need to be cleaned once or twice a year. However, if you have a lot of trees around or live in a city with a lot of harsh weather, you may want to check the panels three or four times a year, especially if you're noticing your energy output is lacking efficiency.

Are solar panels high maintenance?

Not at all. Solar panels are designed to handle the outdoor elements and are built to last. Even those who don't regularly maintain their panels will find they last about 40 years before they need to be fixed, replaced, or just need a good service.

Do I get incentives or rebates for solar panel cleaning and maintenance?

No. The only incentives you get for solar in the U.S. are tax credits for installing a solar system. You don't get any rebates or credits if you spend money on maintenance.

The current tax credits you receive are:

  • 26% for solar systems installed in 2020-2022
  • 22% for solar systems installed in 2023

Note that this tax credit is only valid until the end of 2023 unless Congress renews it.

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