Solar panel upkeep, what you need to know

By Ben Delman on November 2, 2015

One advantage of solar energy is that the cost of the fuel, sunlight, is free. But what about the cost to maintain your system? Because solar panels have no moving parts, they require very little maintenance. There are a few things you should know to ensure your system continues to run properly throughout its 30-year lifespan.

All solar systems should come with various warranties for parts and labor. These warranties cover your investment should parts of your system have problems.

Before you go solar, check with your insurance company to make sure your homeowners insurance covers the panels. Our experience is that most policies will cover solar panels. Some insurers will offer their customers ‘green’ discounts for going solar, so shop around.

Now that you have the paperwork out of the way, let’s talk about two forces of nature that may degrade your system’s output: dirt and critters.

In most of our area, panels do not need regular cleaning, as dirt and debris are regularly washed off by rain. If you do live in a particularly dusty area, there are several ways to ensure your system continues to function at peak efficiency.

Automated sprinklers designed for solar panels at work. Image credit: Heliotex.

The easiest way to clean your system is to wash the face of the panels with a standard garden hose with warm water. For safety concerns, we do not advise you to take care of the cleaning on your own. If you feel your system needs a good clean, there are professionals available to take care of it for you. Work with us or your installer to find a professional cleaner. Some systems come installed with automatic sprinkler systems. These tend to be in drier, dustier climates, where the financial benefit of adding an automatic washing system outweigh the cost of reduced panel performance. This is typically not necessary or common in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Metal mesh surrounds solar panel system to prevent animals from damaging system. Image credit: Spiffy Solar.

A more pressing concern is animals nesting under your system or chewing through insulation wires, connections, and even the junction boxes. Replacement costs for these components can reach into the thousands of dollars. Your system can be installed with guards to help keep these expensive creatures away from your system. You should work with your installer to determine if including these defensive measures is worth their cost.