How to Ensure Your Solar Panels Stand the Test of Time: A Guide to Solar Panel Maintenance

Solar panels are a significant investment in renewable energy. They are designed to last for decades, providing sustainable and cost-effective power. However, to truly maximise their lifespan and efficiency, regular solar panel maintenance is essential.

This in-depth guide will look at various aspects of solar panel maintenance, from basic cleaning to understanding degradation and implementing strategies to counteract it.

We’ll also delve into innovative technologies that enhance solar panel longevity and the importance of choosing a reputable installer.


Understanding Your Solar System Components

brown brick house with solar panels on roof

Your solar system comprises several key components: solar panels (modules), a mounting system, a solar inverter, and a computerised controller. Solar panels generate DC electricity from sunlight, which is then converted into AC electricity by the inverter. This AC electricity can then be used within your home or business. 

The computerised controller manages the solar system to ensure optimal performance. If you have opted for a battery backup system or an off-the-grid solar system, your solar system will include a solar battery.


The Importance of High-Quality Equipment

Ensuring that your solar panel and inverter are of high quality is crucial for the overall output of your system. Monocrystalline panels, generally more heat-tolerant and efficient in warm weather, are a wise choice for warmer climates.

As technological advancements continue, more panels and inverters are hitting the market, offering higher quality and more sustainable products.


Choosing the Right Installer

The demand for solar systems is increasing, and it’s vital to work with a reputable installer.

From site visits and system design to installation and maintenance, your installer plays a significant role in your solar journey. After-sales service is also essential, as your solar system is designed to last you 25 years or more. Therefore, it’s advisable to research potential installers thoroughly, taking note of their industry reputation and customer feedback.

Here at Glo Renewables, we are MCS registered and have many great reviews from happy customers in Devon. 


The Solar Panel Installation Process

heat water with solar panels

The most common location for solar PV panel installation is the roof, as it usually provides the ideal specifications for maximum sunlight exposure. However, if roof installation isn’t possible or desired, ground-mounted panels are an alternative. Regardless of the location, it’s essential to ensure that no objects are blocking the panels from efficiently absorbing the sun.

The installation process involves several key steps:

  1. Setting up scaffolding for safe access to the roof
  2. Installing solar panel mounts at an optimal angle (usually between 18 to 36 degrees) to maximise sunlight exposure
  3. Installing the solar panels onto the mounting structure
  4. Wiring the solar panels using suitable connectors, usually MC4 connectors
  5. Installing the solar inverter in a location where it will stay cool and protected from the elements
  6. Bonding the solar inverter to the solar battery (if your system includes a battery)
  7. Connecting the inverter to the consumer unit to generate electricity
  8. Starting up and testing the system to confirm that everything is working correctly


Regular Solar Panel Maintenance

Regular maintenance is vital to ensuring the longevity and efficiency of your solar system. This includes cleaning the panels to remove any debris or dirt that may have accumulated, as well as inspecting the system for any potential issues. Solar panels typically require cleaning two to four times a year. This can be performed using a garden hose and a non-abrasive microfiber cloth.

However, for safety reasons, you should turn off your solar power system before starting any cleaning activity. Additionally, avoid cleaning your panels on hot, sunny days, as the quick evaporation of water can leave smudges and streaks on the panels.

It’s also recommended to conduct a professional inspection every year. This ensures that your system continues to operate optimally and that any possible problems are identified and addressed promptly.

At Glo Renewables, we guarantee that your solar panels will function efficiently and produce maximum energy output with our solar panel maintenance services. Our team of experts in Totnes can help you maintain your solar system and save money in the long run while reducing your carbon footprint.


Monitoring Your Solar Panel Output

Regularly monitoring your solar panel output is crucial for maintaining optimal performance. Some installers provide monitoring software included with their installation packages, while others may offer web portals with day-after data. Alternatively, you can purchase a solar monitor or use a solar panel monitoring app.

A consistent drop in energy production can indicate that your panels need maintenance. This could be due to dirt or obstructions on the panels, or it could mean an issue with the panels themselves.


Understanding Solar Panel Degradation

Over time, solar panels naturally degrade, resulting in a reduction in output efficiency. On average, solar panels degrade at about 0.5% to 1% annually. While this may seem insignificant, over a 25-year lifespan, a panel could lose up to 25% of its original efficiency. Factors contributing to this degradation include UV exposure, thermal cycling, damp heat, and mechanical stresses. However, there are several strategies you can adopt to counteract this degradation.


Techniques to Counteract Degradation – Solar Panel Maintenance

Regular Maintenance and Cleaning

Keeping your panels clean and free from debris or shading can prevent efficiency losses. Regular cleaning and inspections can enhance the panels’ longevity and performance.

Optimal Installation

Proper installation is essential in reducing degradation. This includes installing panels at an angle that promotes self-cleaning through rain and minimising exposure to excessive mechanical stress. Panels should also be installed where they are less likely to be affected by physical damage, such as falling tree branches or strong winds.

Thermal Management

Overheating can cause significant damage to solar panels. Integrating systems that manage and disperse heat can mitigate thermal stress. Advanced mounting solutions can also improve airflow, allowing panels to cool more effectively.

Innovative Technologies for Solar Panel Longevity

Technological advancements are continually enhancing solar panel longevity. These include:

Anti-Reflective Coatings

Modern solar panels often come equipped with anti-reflective coatings. These increase the amount of sunlight panels can absorb while offering protection against harmful UV rays that can degrade panel materials.

Bifacial Solar Panels

Bifacial solar panels can capture sunlight from both their front and rear sides, maximising energy absorption. With dual-sided absorption, even if one side starts degrading, the panel can still maintain a substantial efficiency rate.

Enhanced Encapsulation Materials

Research is ongoing to develop encapsulation materials that are more resistant to humidity, UV exposure, and other degrading factors. This ensures that the solar cells themselves remain protected for longer.

Predictive Analysis Tools

With the integration of IoT and AI, it’s now possible to predict and monitor solar panel degradation. These tools provide real-time insights into panel performance, enabling proactive maintenance before significant degradation occurs.

Advanced Solar Cell Technologies

Innovations such as heterojunction cells and perovskite solar cells are pushing the boundaries of efficiency and durability. These cells are designed to be less susceptible to degradation factors, promising longer lifespans for panels.

While solar panel degradation is an inherent part of their lifecycle, it isn’t an impossible challenge. With a combination of proactive techniques and cutting-edge technologies, we can ensure our shift to solar energy remains robust and reliable for decades.

Solar panel maintenance is critical to ensuring your panels stand the test of time. Regular cleaning, monitoring, and maintenance, coupled with innovative technologies and high-quality equipment, can help ensure your solar panels continue to provide sustainable, cost-effective power for years.

Whether you’re considering investing in solar energy or already have a solar system installed, understanding the importance of solar panel maintenance is crucial to maximising your investment. Stay illuminated, stay ahead!


Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panel Maintenance:

How do you maintain solar panels at home?

You can maintain your solar panels at home by cleaning them regularly with a garden hose and a non-abrasive cloth and by inspecting them for any dirt, debris, or damage. You should also turn off your solar power system before cleaning and avoid doing it on hot, sunny days. You can also use a monitoring app to track the performance and health of your solar panels.

Do solar panels need regular maintenance?

Solar panels need very little maintenance, as they are durable and have no moving parts. However, it is recommended that you carry out solar panel cleaning between two and four times per year, depending on the dust and debris in your area.

Also, schedule a professional inspection every year to ensure that your system operates optimally and that any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly.

How long do domestic solar panels last?

Domestic solar panels can last about 25 to 30 years, depending on the quality and condition of the panels. However, this does not mean that they stop working after that period. They may still produce electricity but at a lower efficiency rate. The typical degradation rate of solar panels is about 0.5% to 1% per year.

What are the maintenance procedures for a solar installation?

The maintenance procedures for a solar installation may vary depending on the type and size of the system, but generally, they include the following steps:

a. Visual inspection of the panels and other components for any cracks, chips, corrosion, or loose connections

b. Current and voltage check of the panels and the inverter to measure the power output and efficiency

c. Inspection of the roof condition and the mounting system for any leaks, damage, or deterioration

d. Analysis of the energy production and consumption data to evaluate the performance and savings of the system

e. cleaning of the panels with water and a soft cloth to remove any dirt or debris

f.Repair or replacement of any faulty or damaged parts.

Can we wash solar panels daily?

You can wash solar panels daily, but it is unnecessary or recommended. Washing solar panels too frequently may cause more harm than good, as it may damage the surface of the panels or create water spots that reduce the efficiency. Washing solar panels daily may also waste water and increase your water bill. It is better to clean solar panels only when they are visibly dirty or when the monitoring app indicates a drop in performance.

How often must I clean my solar panels?

The frequency of cleaning your solar panels depends on several factors, such as the location, climate, tilt, and type of your panels. Generally, it is advised to clean your solar panels two to four times per year, or more often if you live in a dusty or polluted area or if your panels are flat or near trees or birds. You can also check the monitoring app or the manufacturer’s guidelines for more specific recommendations.

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