If you have solar panels or are thinking about installing them, you’ve probably wondered about whether or not you need to clean them. Not only that, but you may have also thought about what it takes in order to maintain your solar panels so they are running at peak efficiency.
The energy gained from solar panels differs depending on where you are in the country, due to the varying amount of sunlight. The cleaning required for the solar panels will also change from state to state due to rainfall.
Therefore Fixr.com has consulted with solar experts and together have calculated an estimated amount of savings loss if you don’t clean your solar panels in your state. But is it even worth it? Take a look below at how much you could save in your state and whether or not cleaning is worth it, as well as other necessary solar panel maintenance information.
Savings Loss for Not Cleaning Solar Panels in Your State
In the above map graphic, you can see how much annual savings you lose in each state by not cleaning solar panels. We calculated these numbers by taking into account how much energy fifteen 400-watt panels produce in different states. This depends on the amount of sunlight and assumes all other conditions are the same. According to Ben Zientara at SolarReviews, the average annual energy loss from a lack of cleaning is around 5%, which we applied to these calculations.
On average for the whole country, not cleaning solar panels loses you annual savings of $79. Hawaii, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine are the only states with solar panels saving losses higher than $100. Hawaii is where you are most set to miss out on savings with losses averaging $238 per year.
At the other end of the scale, you have Washington state, where you can expect to only lose out on $47 annually if you don’t clean your solar panels.
However, these calculations do not take into account rainfall, which goes some way to keeping your solar panels clean. Below we explore this in further detail.
What about rainfall as a cleaner?
Rainfall definitely plays a part in keeping your solar panels free of dirt, dust, and debris. As Zientara says “Most manufacturers recommend letting the rain clean them”. Rain can give the panels a regular rinse, so there isn’t too much build-up of dirt which can hamper their performance. However, it is not completely effective as during warmer months with less rainfall, dirt, and bird droppings can be baked into the panels. In some areas, algae and lichen can grow on the solar panels. Rainfall may not completely clean the solar panels as effectively as cleaning might.
So it is important to consider the local weather conditions where you live. In areas such as the southwest where dust storms are the most common, or in western states where there is less rainfall, cleaning may be more than just a once-a-year task. It is also extra important if your solar panels are flat, as it will be more likely that rain is not adequate enough.
Should you clean solar panels yourself?
Once you’ve decided if rainfall will keep your solar panels clean, and you have determined if it’s worth cleaning either once or more times a year, you’ll then need to consider if you do it yourself, or call in an expert.
While cleaning itself may require only a garden hose and a soft sponge or squeegee, climbing a ladder may not be for everyone. You also need to make sure you don’t do more harm than good. Using the wrong type of brush could permanently damage your solar panels. You also need to check with the manufacturer about the best type of cleaning solution. You should also never clean during the day when the panels are hot as cold water on hot glass/silicon can cause micro-cracks.
Ensuring your solar panels are working properly, well-maintained, and cleaned therefore may be best left to a professional.
How much does solar panel cleaning cost?
Bearing in mind that most manufacturers recommend to have a yearly inspection of your solar panels, it may be worth opting to have cleaning included:
- Only having your solar panels cleaned costs an average of between $150 and $330.
- Solar panel maintenance costs around $300 to $700 on average.
The actual cost of cleaning and maintenance will depend on a number of factors, including where you live, house height, roof pitch, and what type of setup you have installed, as well as the number of panels. It’s worth taking into account these costs when considering how much solar panel cleaning can save you, how much it rains in your area, and whether or not you will hire a professional.
How else can you optimize solar panel savings?
Besides regular cleaning, there are other steps you can take to maximize the benefits of your solar panels and increase your cost savings.
Prioritize energy-efficient appliances and home improvements to reduce your overall energy consumption, allowing your solar panels to cover a larger portion of your needs.
Take advantage of net metering programs offered by your utility company. This allows you to earn credits for excess energy your solar panels generate which you then feed back into the grid.
Install a solar monitoring system to track your energy consumption and production. This helps you identify areas where you can further reduce energy usage and receive alerts about any solar panel malfunctions.
Is cleaning solar panels worth it?
In general, yes. Cleaning your solar panels is not a very difficult job and it doesn't require much equipment or time. Therefore, it is probably worth saving those extra bucks each year. Solar panels are a long-term investment and regular cleaning will keep them working well for longer.
If you live in an area with frequent dust, dirt, or pollen accumulation and low rainfall, regular cleaning of up to 4 times a year may be more beneficial.
Irena Martincevic is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. She analyzes and looks for visual ways to simplify data. She has been researching and writing about home improvement and personal finance since 2018. At Fixr.com, she is constantly looking to give homeowners the best advice on how to invest in their homes.