Solar panels are a great way to limit your energy usage as well as your carbon footprint. With a lot of home appliances like refrigerators being manufactured as solar energy compatible, solar panels are a wise investment for the future.
Great strides have been made in the renewable energy industry and mainly in its manufacturing technology in recent years. The life expectancy of solar panels has greatly improved and it is now expected that solar panels can continue to work with more than 90% efficiency for as long as twenty years after installation. Another important advantage of solar panels is the fact that they require very little maintenance.
Since there are no rotating parts associated with these panels, there is no possibility of rusting or wearing out of gears and one does not have to deal with greasy lubricants. Hence, unless the panels are installed in highly industrialized areas with alarming levels of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), annual maintenance should suffice.
Solar panels are self-cleaning and weatherproof in nature. The dust, grime and dirt layer that settles on them can be easily washed away by rain, especially if the panels are tilted at acute angles. Here are three maintenance tips that you can follow to extend the life and ensure optimum performance of your solar panels.
1. The garden hose is your best friend
Cleaning solar panels can be quite easy. All you need to do is grab your garden hose and start spraying the panels mimicking the action of rain. All grime should wash away. In case of really stubborn dust layers, you might want to use soapy water along with sponge brushes with long handles. If you have an installation at an appreciable height, then be cautious and do not try to carry out rooftop maintenance without proper safety equipment in place. Also do not try to carry out cleaning during the day since the panels might get very hot. Work at night or early in the morning, or a cloudy cold day instead.
It is advisable to steer clear of using abrasive cleansing agents or detergents since these can leave smears and scratches on the panel surfaces. Smears and scratches reduce the amount of incident sunlight and thus adversely affect the panel performance. For the same reason, one should not try to forcibly scrape any resident grime with sharp metal tools.
Some companies have also started producing automated solar panel cleaning systems that act like water sprinklers. If you have a large installation and too little time to maintain it, then you can give these cleaning systems a try.
2. Steer clear of shade
It is quite intuitive to note that the amount of energy produced by solar panels is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight incident on it. Thus, solar panels need to be installed away from shades. If you spot a tree growing dangerously towards your solar installation, it is time to trim it. This will not only keep the panels away from shade but also ensure that dry leaves, pollen grains and twigs do not fall on the panel surface.
The tilt angle of the panels can also be adjusted according to the position of the sun for optimum energy production. A solar panel is most efficient when the incoming sun rays are perpendicular to its surface.
3. Monitor your energy usage
There are several available solutions that help you to monitor the energy output of your solar panels. Inspecting this data can be a good indicator of the health of the panels. If you notice a sudden anomaly in the energy output, you can investigate the cause of failure. Several metering solutions are now capable of streaming the output data to your smartphone in real time. Hence, you would not even have to physically check the devices to have an idea of the panel performance. Closely monitoring the energy output can also help you build a fair idea of how much energy are you selling back to the grid in different seasons.
Solar panels are fairly low-maintenance. They require minimum intervention and are very beneficial for the environment. With the utilities introducing net metering at large scales and the government endorsing pro-solar regulatory policies, residential solar panels will become even bigger in the future. Thus, knowing how to maintain and optimize the performance of your solar panels is of high importance.