Do You Need to Turn off Solar Panels to Clean?

Statistics show that you can increase the efficiency of your solar panels by 21 percent just by cleaning them. And you cannot rely on rainwater to do it for you, despite popular beliefs.

Regardless of the amount of rainfall your area experiences yearly, you will still need to clean your solar panels. There are many other reasons you should clean your solar panels. And since you’re reading this post, you probably know them already.

So, do you need to turn off the solar panels to clean them? The short answer is yes; you will find the reasons in this blog post. Enjoy!

Do I Need to Turn off Solar Panels to Clean?

The general belief is that rainfall is enough to clean your solar panels efficiently. However, that’s not true. You cannot entirely rely on nature to clean up after you.

Another common problem with cleaning solar panels is knowing how often to do it. It’s either that or you’re worrying about whether to turn it off before cleaning.

Essentially, it depends on how much dirt accumulates on your solar panels. If you don’t wipe the photovoltaic surface often, the buildup of pollution will reduce its efficiency.

You probably already know all that, but you don’t know if turning off the solar panels before cleaning is essential.

Well, yes. You must turn off solar panels to clean. In fact, it is one of the most important safety precautions for cleaning solar panels. Solar panels are a system that creates and stores electricity. This means you should be cautious of being wet around them.

If anything, you should use a voltmeter to test the live current of the solar panels before turning on your hose. There is a risk of electrocution when cleaning your solar panels without turning off the system.

And it is not enough to simply switch off the inverter. Photovoltaic cells only need visible light to convert the photons into currents that can shock you.

Why Do You Need to Clean Solar Panels?

This is a valid question. Cleaning solar panels is integral to their maintenance, so don’t be fooled by believing the rain will do it for you.

The rain cannot efficiently clean your solar panels because of how they’re installed.

Here are other reasons to clean your solar panels:

1. It improves efficiency

When there is a buildup of dirt and grime on the solar panels, it prevents adequate sunlight from penetrating. And the photovoltaic cells need enough visible light, so if you notice lower performance, this is likely the reason.

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Statistics show that unclean panels can affect electricity generation by as much as 21 percent in domestic settings and 61 percent in the commercial sectors.

So, just by cleaning regularly, you can increase the output of your solar investment.

2. It validates your warranty

Solar panel manufacturers and installation companies work with specified conditions of use. For some, proof of regular cleaning is important for them to assist when there’s a fault. This is because they understand how dirty surfaces can affect the efficiency and performance of the system.

3. It increases the durability

Another reason you need to clean your solar panels often is to increase their durability. Otherwise, the buildup of dirt, grime, stones, small particles, and other debris may scratch or cover the surface of the photovoltaic cells.

These little damages can accumulate, contrast and expand over time, leading to gutter damage. Of course, this reduces the durability of your investment.

4. It dictates the aesthetic appeal

A dirty roof wouldn’t appeal to anyone and certainly doesn’t speak well of homeowners. The same applies when you have solar panels on your roof.

And it’s even worse because these are glass and reflective surfaces. To increase the aesthetic appeal of your property, clean the panels often.

5. It is an opportunity to inspect them

Small cracks and dents on the surface of your solar panels will expand and contract because of the weather elements. There may be other faults with your solar tech too, and you’ll only know when you inspect them regularly.

Can You Get Electrocuted Cleaning Solar Panels?

Certainly, you can get electrocuted when cleaning your solar panels, despite popular beliefs.

Of course, the likelihood of this happening is low, but there’s a chance. Essentially, the photovoltaic effect requires the generation and transfer of electricity. These occur in well-protected glass and aluminum structures, but there’s still room for a slip-up.

The type of electricity generated in the solar cells is called direct current or DC. It is a continuous flow, making it more dangerous because you’ll be unable to pull away if it gets a hold of you.

And sadly, many people think just turning off the inverter kills this electricity. You see, the inverter is merely a system that facilitates the storage of electricity, not the production.

There are three significant ways you may get electrocuted if you clean your solar panels without turning them off.

The first is when your body serves as the “earth” and becomes electrocuted. It happens when the photovoltaic system isn’t earthed well.

Earthing is the process of transferring electrical energy into the earth through a wire. If your technician hasn’t done this process correctly, you may get electrocuted when you try to clean your solar panels without turning off the PV system.

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Another danger is faulty wiring. This problem is called electrical arcing, one of the primary causes of solar fires.

Solar panels work with alternating current or AC and direct current or DC electricity. The photovoltaic cells convert AC to DC energy through the photovoltaic effect. And one thing that characterizes direct current electricity is that it is continuous.

Now, when an electrical arcing occurs, DC electricity keeps flowing regardless. Disconnection in wiring is one of the ways the energy leaks out and starts a fire. If you see sparks and smoke, get away from the scene as fast as possible.

Finally, you won’t always know when your solar panels are cracked or broken. These cracks are caused by falling twigs, stones, and other sharp objects that create minor dents.

They expand over time, but you won’t know if you don’t inspect your solar panels regularly. And when you turn on the hose, you put yourself at the risk of electrocution.

The effects of electrocution on the body are very undesirable for anyone. DC electrocution causes fibrillation, where the heart muscles stop contracting and expanding in sync.

This prevents the heart from pumping blood properly and may often cause brain damage or cardiac arrest. The shock may also make you fall off the roof. It’s either that or you get burned by the fires that arise.

You can avoid electrocution or the risk of a fire outbreak by inviting professionals to clean your solar panels.

How to Clean Solar Panels on a Roof?

There is a proper way to clean your solar panels. This method eliminates the risk of electrocution and ensures that you achieve efficiency in the process.

The average cost of cleaning solar panels runs between $100 to $300. Fortunately, you can do it yourself. But how?

Step 1: Start by turning off the PV system completely.

Step 2: Use a garden hose to remove the dust and grime accumulated on the surface.

Step 3: Now that you’ve softened the dirt on the solar panels, you can use soap and warm water to finish the job. Use a soft cloth to gently wipe the surface of the panels without standing or walking on them.

Step 4: Finally, use a squeegee to wipe off the excess water or suds on the panels to prevent streaks from forming and blockages from happening.

When you’re cleaning your solar panels, avoid putting your weight on them. It’s also best to wait until the temperature reduces before cleaning the panels. This is to prevent them from being too hot to the touch while you work.

If anything, we recommend waiting until sunset to clean them. You should also wait until the panels dry before cleaning them if it has just rained. Otherwise, they are slippery and dangerous hazards.

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Does Rain Clean Solar Panels?

The answer is yes and no. Rain does clean your solar panels for you, and they have been installed in a manner that allows adequate rainfall to hit them and fall away.

This means manufacturers had this chore in mind. Solar panels are constantly in the open, which exposes them to dirt, grime, and other environmental factors that dull the clear photovoltaic surface.

Rain washes the panels to an extent, but if you don’t also play your part, the system’s durability will be affected.

What’s your part? Well, you’re supposed to see this chore as your opportunity to inspect your solar panels. That way, you can see if there are cracks, loose wires, and other functions that have gone wrong.

Do Solar Panels Require Cleaning?

Without a doubt, yes. Solar panels require cleaning because they cannot naturally clean themselves. Although they have been designed and are often installed in a way that allows rainfall and other natural elements to clean them for you, you still need to put in some effort.

Occasionally washing the panels won’t hurt. You need to do this to remove the smudges and streaks that the rain and grime cause. Otherwise, the maximum efficiency of the PV system will not be guaranteed. 

You cannot leave your solar panels to nature to clean for you. Play your part by inviting a team of professionals or doing it yourself.

How Often to Clean Solar Panels?

It depends on where you reside. If you’re from an area with abundant trees and vegetation, we recommend cleaning your solar panels twice yearly, every 6 months.

This removes the buildup of ash, soil, sand, limestone, silica, and calcium. If these materials accumulate, you should expect a whopping reduction in performance.

Don’t be that PV system owner with dirty solar panel surfaces. This will not just affect its overall output but will send it into overdrive before you know it. It affects the durability, and homeowners’ insurance won’t touch you if you haven’t been cleaning the panels regularly.

In most cases, regular cleaning is a prerequisite for validating insurance claims for damages to solar panels. If you cannot provide proof that you’ve been maintaining the PV system the right way, you may be financially responsible for the damage that occurs.

Conclusion

Care and maintenance of your solar panels will increase their lifespan. However, there are many common mistakes people make in the process. One of them, cleaning the panels without turning them off, puts you in significant danger.

It is essential to clean your solar panels, but you don’t have to do it yourself. If it is beyond your ability, kindly call a team of professionals.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.