Solar Panel System Operation Maintenance: 5 Low Cost Ways To Keep Your Home’s PV System Optimized and Running Efficiently

If your home is equipped with a PV system, it will need to be maintained from time to time. Check out these 5 solar panel maintenance tips.

Solar Panel System Operation Maintenance: 5 Low Cost Ways To Keep Your Home's PV System Optimized and Running Efficiently

Just like the car that’s parked in your driveway, your solar panels will need periodic maintenance to keep them operating efficiently and at peak performance.

After all, you wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a new BMW and then never change the oil to only have the engine explode on you one day, right? Well, the same logic can be applied to your solar panels (but don’t worry, they won’t explode like your car’s engine). Instead they’ll just stop absorbing as much light and generate less electricity – which could result in a higher monthly electric bill. Doh! So to help you keep your system running like it should, try implementing some of these tips:

5 low cost ways to keep your home solar PV system running like it should

1. Have your system cleaned at least once per year. There are lots of factors that come into play when determining how often you should get your panels cleaned (proximity to highways, oceans etc.) but it’s recommended that they be cleaned at least once per year. Not sure if your system is in need of a cleaning? There’s a real easy way to figure it out. Just take your finger and wipe it across the panel – much like checking to see if your car is dirty – if you see a distinct difference between the area you wiped and the rest of the panel, it’s time to get it cleaned. Take a look at the following before and after image to get an idea for just how dirty your panels can be:

Solar Panel System Operation Maintenance: 5 Low Cost Ways To Keep Your Home's PV System Optimized and Running Efficiently

We recommend that you hire a professional cleaning service (here in Hawaii, we have Pacific Panel Cleaners*, for instance) instead of taking on the task yourself. After all, you wouldn’t rebuild your car’s transmission all by yourself would you?

However, if you do decide to do it on your own, keep in mind that not all solar panels are created equally, and some may have materials in their housing that is sensitive to certain cleansers. Here’s a recipe for a natural glass cleaner you can use on most solar panels. Make sure to check the owner’s manual on your system to see if there is anything in particular you need to use to clean your panels.

Once you’re done washing, use a squeegee to clear the panels of any remaining liquid. If you do any drying or scrubbing, make sure to use a non-abrasive cloth to do so.

2. Trim any branches or plants that may be shading your panels. The idea here is pretty straightforward. The more shaded your panels become, the less light they’ll absorb and the less electricity they’ll generate. By trimming any plants that are shading your system’s panels you’ll help to maximize the amount of energy they can produce.

3. Visually inspect your system’s cabling. Any cracks or breaks in the cabling throughout your system could cause it to generate less electricity, or even worse, not work at all. Take a flashlight and be sure to carefully look over every cable on your system. If you do notice any breaks or cracks, we recommend that you have a professional maintenance service come out and repair or replace them for you.

4. Check the readings on your system’s inverter. Before the electricity generated by your PV system can be used throughout your home it needs to converted from direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC). This is done through the use of an inverter. Now, not all inverters are the same, but they’ll all be able to tell you just how much electricity your system is currently producing. Consult your owners manual and check the readings on your inverter periodically throughout the week and be sure to take note of any dips in power production as well as weather conditions (since your system will produce less energy on cloudy days). If you notice that your system is producing less energy, especially on clear sunny days, then it’s likely that your system is in need of some maintenance.

5. Keep a log of your system’s maintenance. Keeping a log of your system’s maintenance and performance is a great way to keep it running efficiently. A detailed log will be able to give you a good insight into when your system starts to under-perform and what may have caused it to do so. We recommend sharing this information with a certified maintenance technician when they come to service you system.

Photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons and Pacific Panel Cleaners.

This post was generously sponsored by Pacific Panel Cleaners.


About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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