Solar panel maintenance guide
A little maintenance is all you need
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You may assume you just stick solar panels on your roof and never have to think about them again. Like almost anything you expect to run for decades, though, solar panels need a little maintenance. Thankfully, solar panel maintenance isn’t too complicated or costly.
- Solar panels need very little upkeep.
- If DIY isn’t your thing, contact a professional for help.
- If your solar panels are damaged, check your warranty to see if it will cover repairing or replacing them.
How to maintain your solar panels
Maintaining solar panels is easier than it sounds. You just need to keep an eye out for damage, keep them clean and make sure obstructions don’t get in between them and the sunlight.
Check for damage
Checking your solar panels for damage is an important part of keeping your system running properly. Look for cracks, dings, loose panels and anything else that may look off.
“The electrical system should be inspected occasionally to ensure that the terminals haven’t become loose and that the wiring hasn’t been compromised,” said Will White, a solar application specialist at Fluke. “A residential system should be inspected every few years.”
If you find damage, take photos and then contact your solar company for any repairs that are covered by your warranty.
Keep them clean
Solar panels need to be cleaned every now and then, but how often they need cleaning depends on how dusty your property is and how exposed your solar panels are to tree sap, pollen, bird droppings and pollution.
Dirty panels are 25% to 35% less efficient.
To see if your panels need a good cleaning, take a look at your solar monitoring app. If the efficiency levels have been dropping, a layer of filth may be blocking the sunlight from getting in.
To clean your solar panels, follow the steps in your owners manual to avoid damaging the array. (The manual was likely given to you during installation, but you may be able to find a copy online too.) If you can’t find any cleaning details, it’s best to simply rinse off the panels with a garden hose or blow away any dust.
You’ll also need to remove things that may block sunlight from getting to the panels, like snow or leaves. A snowblower or leafblower can be handy in these situations, but you can also just use a soft broom.
If climbing on your roof doesn’t sound like a good idea, hire a professional to do the job for you. Edward, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Bakersfield, California, told us: “I Purchased 26 Sunpower solar panels. The panels have met my expectations. I am no longer paying PG&E, outrageous monthly charges. I have them professionally cleaned once, twice per year, and no additional maintenance required.”
» MORE: Solar panel cleaning
Trim your trees
Finally, make sure to keep encroaching trees at bay. Regularly trim any nearby trees to prevent branches from blocking much-needed sunlight or hitting the panels when it’s windy.
Solar panel maintenance costs
For the most part, you won’t spend any money on solar maintenance most of the time, except for the cost of the water to hose down your panels (and maybe buy a snowblower or leafblower). If you decide to hire a professional to clean your panels, you’ll spend around $100 to $350, on average.
You will, however, want someone to come out every few years and inspect the system to make sure everything is running properly. This will cost about the same as hiring someone to clean them.
Maintenance for residential solar energy systems is generally not covered by your equipment manufacturer’s warranty, and it isn’t usually included in the installation warranty, according to White. Some installers offer an additional maintenance package or third-party maintenance for an additional fee, but without that, you’re on your own.
Solar panel maintenance checklist
While there’s not a lot to maintaining your solar panels, there are a few tasks you should mark down on your calendar.
- Every six months: Clean your solar panels twice a year (or more if you notice a drop in efficiency).
- Fall: If fallen leaves accumulate on your panels, sweep them or blow them clean with a leafblower.
- Winter: After each snowfall, carefully wipe the panels clear or use a snowblower to remove the snow.
- Throughout the year: If you see tree branches growing close to your panels, make sure to trim them right away. Limbs can damage panels if they come into contact.
- After a storm or once every few years: Check your system to make sure the wiring, mounts and other components are in good condition.
What to do if your solar panel is damaged
If your panels are damaged by a storm or have lost a lot of efficiency even when they’re clean, then it’s time to consult your warranty to see about getting them repaired or replaced.
Here are some things to do before you call your solar company:
- Make sure your panels are still within the warranty timeline. Most solar companies warranty their panels for around 20 to 25 years.
- Check what level of efficiency your warranty guarantees. Often, warranties guarantee panels maintain at least 90% of their original efficiency after 10 years and at least 80% efficiency after 25 years.
- Look to see what kind of damage is covered in your warranty. Some companies will cover faulty equipment but not damage done by weather events. In those cases, you’ll want to contact your home insurance provider.
Just make sure whoever repairs or replaces your solar panel(s) has approval from your solar company. Otherwise, you could void your warranty completely.
» Find panels with solid warranties: Best solar panels in 2023
How does severe weather affect solar panels?
Generally, panels are made to withstand strong winds, pouring rain and 1- to 2-inch-sized hail. Of course, panels aren’t impervious to damage. Strong winds can loosen them from your roof, and hail can crack them. Very high or very low temperatures can also damage solar panels.
Can you monitor the health of your solar panels?
Most solar panel companies offer apps or dashboards that allow you to monitor the efficiency, wattage, currency and other elements of your system from your phone or computer.
How do you dispose of solar panels?
Solar panels shouldn’t be thrown away since some are considered hazardous waste. Contact your local recycling company or waste disposal authority to find out how to get rid of them safely.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- Environmental Protection Agency, “End-of-Life Solar Panels: Regulations and Management.” Accessed May 30, 2023.
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