Solar panels require very little regular maintenance. Generally, any failures that do occur are related to electricity production or corrosion in the wires that tie your system to the inverter, rather than with the panels themselves.
Remember, though, that solar panels produce electricity only if the sun is shining directly on them. Any obstructions from dust, snow, or vegetation will cut into your production—or halt electricity generation altogether. If you live in an especially dusty area or an area that experiences regular snowfall, keeping your panels clean and unobstructed will result in more power generation.
Summer should be a very productive season for your solar array. However, your panels may become clouded by dust, grime, animal droppings, or tree pollen from time to time. A rainstorm is usually enough to clean off a solar panel, but in arid climates, summer storms are few and far between.
If you live in an especially dusty area, and you aren’t expecting any rain, you can rinse dust off with a garden hose. This method is ideal if you can safely reach your panels from the ground without a ladder. Be sure the water you’re using to clean your solar panels is demineralized; hard water can cause scaling or corrosion over time.
Solar panels can keep producing energy well into the fall—as long as they aren’t covered in loose leaves or other vegetation. There’s no guarantee that your roof and array will stay leaf-free, however, even if you don’t have tall trees overhanging your home. Autumn winds can carry debris into the air, depositing it on your panels and rack.
Fortunately, leaf removal is one of the easier solar maintenance tasks out there. It’s on par with cleaning your gutters. If you have proper safety equipment—sturdy rope, a harness, a ladder you may be able to tackle the job yourself. Make sure to check your panel warranty to ensure that you won’t accidentally void it by using a brush or roof rake to clear leaves.
For areas with high chances of snowfall, regular snow removal may be difficult. Most of the time, snow on your roof will melt off over a day or two from the heat of the sun and the heat produced by your home—though the panels will need at least a fifteen-degree tilt for this to work well. In the event that it’s too cold for the snow to melt off, a long broom or snow rake can help you clear drifts. Again, check your warranty to ensure it won’t be voided by the use of cleaning tools.
Ice buildup is another concern, as it may weaken your roof and threaten the integrity of your solar panels. Removing ice from your roof may be necessary in some cases to prevent eventual water penetration, pooling, or even structural damage. However, the use of salt as a snow-melt may cause corrosion on your rack or the panels themselves, making ice removal a challenge. Situations like these warrant consulting a professional maintenance service recommended by your solar installer to prevent any long-term damage or issues.
Preventative maintenance can go a long way towards the life of your solar system, and spring is a great time to tackle that. Have your installer conduct a regular inspection of your installation to diagnose and address any issues. The Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) recommends that all annual visual inspections include a thorough check for any of the following:
- Water damage at any roof penetrations
- Roof drainage issues
- Vegetation growth
- Proper expansion joints, supports, and bushings in long conduit runs
- Corrosion on electrical enclosures or the rack system
- Loose or exposed wiring, or wiring that contacts the roof surface
- Signs of animal infestation
- Excessive cracking or wear on the inverter
- Burn marks, discoloration, or broken glass on solar panels
- Missing bolts
- Corrosion or erosion of system supports
Depending on your system, your solar installer may also choose to conduct isolation tests to determine if there is any damage to the wiring insulation, or any resistance from loose or broken connections. If you notice a drop in your production, or if your system monitoring has revealed a dead panel, these tests can be conducted to isolate the problem for maintenance.