Optimizing Solar Panels: Maintenance Tips

With load-shedding edging into the 20th year of plaguing the nation, it’s time to consider ourselves on our own. This means South Africans must know how to maximise the efficiency of their solar panels.

Maximising your solar panel’s efficiency means performing minimal maintenance work and following some cleaning tips.

But before we go into the importance of these steps, let’s talk about how you should position your panels.

How To Position Your Panels

Installing a solar panel at the wrong angle can generate around 20% less energy annually! While it can be challenging to position your panels in the optimum position for your location, there are steps you can take to ensure they’re close to perfect.

Always install your solar panels at an angle rather than just flat. When you install panels flat, dust and debris will gather on them, and rainwater won’t wash them off naturally.

In South Africa, you want your solar panels facing due north. Generally, the geographical latitude of your home will determine the angle at which your solar system should be positioned. For example, Cape Town is at a latitude of 34 (rounding up) degrees south, meaning you will want your panels at the same angle. If you’re in Johannesburg, it is 26, and Durban is 29.

But thanks to Google, you can use their Maps platform to find the best position.

Ensuring that your solar panels are facing the correct direction is critical. However, other elements will affect their capacity to generate power. These include:

Cut Trees Back And Be Aware Of Dust

The best method of ensuring your solar panels work to the best of their ability is to ensure they are clear of dirt, dust, and debris.

If a few trees are leaning over your home, ensure their leaves don’t fall and gather on your panels. And if you’re near a construction site or mining area, make sure your panels aren’t affected by excessive pollutants.

You can also buy panels that use a specific technology that prevents pollutants from affecting them.

Think Of Buying Panels With Coating And Anti-Soiling Technology

Developments in hydrophobic (which allows water to flow) and anti-soiling (which does not let dirt to stick) technology mean your solar panels stay cleaner for longer.

While there are constant advancements in technology, you will still need to clean your solar panels every so often.

Cleaning Tips For Maximising Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panels are built to last. Many panels come with a 25-year warranty. Because there are no moving parts, and they are all electronic, they’re incredibly low maintenance. This being said, they will need to be cleaned.

Cleaning solar panels is an essential task requiring simple products you can buy from any local shop.

As you will be climbing onto a roof, make sure to exercise caution. Set up the ladder on a stable surface and follow the 1:4 ratio. If climbing onto a four-meter roof, your ladder base should be a metre away from the wall.

The equipment you will need:

  • Soft brushes, sponges, or microfiber cloth
  • Source of water (can be a hose or water in a bucket)
  • And a mild detergent

The steps of cleaning your solar panel are simple as well:

Secure Footing

When climbing the ladder to the roof, ensure you have secure footing. If you have work boots with loads of grip, put them on for this task.

If you’re cleaning panels on an industrial property, you may want to secure yourself to the roof with a carabiner. Ensure that the carabiner you use is rated to handle your weight.

If you think the roof’s surface is too steep, investing in a scaffolding rig might be in your best interest. Or, if the roof is incredibly steep but close to the ground, you can use a soft brush on an extension pole.

Use Caution And Soft Cleaning Items

The first step to cleaning the surface of your solar panel is to brush off any excess collected dust with a soft bristle brush.

If you can use a light leaf blower, even better. You want to avoid using abrasive instruments on the surface of your solar panels because leaving scratches will either cause them to be less efficient or break them. If you doubt whether the cleaning equipment will scratch your solar panel, don’t use it.

Once the surface is wiped down, apply some light detergent. Again, avoid using heavy-duty cleaning agents, such as bleach. You want to make sure that you don’t ruin the plastic.

If you’re concerned, you can use vinegar. Apply it, allow it time to work, and rinse off with water. And for those who have access to a high-pressure hose, do not use it on your solar panels. If the pressure is set too high, it can cause damage.

Cleaning your solar panels is a gentle task best accomplished by hand.

Before cleaning your solar panels, always check with your solar panel manufacturer or installer for specific cleaning recommendations.

After all, you don’t want to void the warranties or cause damage. If you can, ensure your cleaning solution is compatible with the panel’s surface and won’t leave residues that could affect performance.

But at the end of the day, regular, gentle cleaning will help maintain the efficiency of your solar panels over time.