Solar panels are great for generating cleaner, renewable energy for your home. Not only do these panels help in the fight against global warming, but they also save you money over time by reducing your monthly bills.
However, the panels will only work as long as they’re in good working condition. In order to keep them that way, you need to take good care of them. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide on solar panel maintenance.
Solar Panels 101
First, let’s look at what solar panels are and how they work.
In simple terms, solar panels are devices that collect the sun's energy and convert it into electricity. They consist of photovoltaic cells (panels) that run on direct currents and connect in a series to present an output voltage.
There are also different types of solar panels, and each has its unique benefits and disadvantages.
How Solar Works
When taking care of solar panels, you need first to have a basic knowledge of how they work.
Solar panels have a unique structure made from fragile layers of minerals and inorganic compounds. These layers are photovoltaic.
The top layers of the cell have a protective and reflective layer that keeps out moisture and dust.
The panels absorb the light from the sun, and the rays of light "excite" the electrons on the silicon atoms, causing them to move or become “excited.” As a result, the electrons produce electricity, which can be stored in a battery or used immediately in your home.
Solar Panel Maintenance: Common Issues
Solar panels are usually very durable. However, there are still some issues you might see over time. When looking over your panels, keep a lookout for the following items.
Solar panels are made of silicon and glass, which can crack due to environmental factors. If you see any cracks in your panels, it’s a good idea to contact a professional as soon as you can.
Cracks can also lead to other problems, so it’s best to watch them as they only worsen over time.
Solar panels can bend and warp in extreme heat or cold. However, if you see this happen, it likely means that your solar panels are of cheap quality.
Contact the company you purchased them from and check your warranty policy if you see this happen.
Discoloration and Spots
Solar panels can discolor and spot over time due to several factors, but these spots are usually harmless. However, if you have concerns, it’s best to contact a professional.
Solar Panel Life Span and Warranty
When buying solar panels, you want to make sure you purchase a product with a decent warranty. This will help you get a replacement or refund if you have issues.
Most solar panels have a life span of about 25 to 30 years.
The warranty for solar panels can last for the product's life, so it’s worth checking the warranty before you buy.
Inspecting Your Panels: When and How
In order to keep your solar panels in good condition, you will need to inspect them regularly. For most homeowners, once a month is a good place to start. However, some inspect them every season.
While you are taking a look at your solar panels, here are some of the things you'll want to check:
The panel itself, as mentioned above, is subject to some cracking, warping, or discoloration.
A few of these issues are not a cause for concern, as they will not affect the efficiency as much.
However, you will want to watch out for any cracking or bad discoloration, which can lead to further problems.
You'll want to look at the wiring running from the panels to the battery or inverter. This is to make sure that there are no frays or exposed wires. If you notice any of these, you will want to address them immediately.
The wiring to the grid is particularly important if you are selling electricity or creating a microgrid. Make sure your panels connect to the grid correctly and send the appropriate signals.
You should inspect the framing of the panels to make sure that nothing is cracked, broken, or bent.
This is especially the case if you have received any significant weather-related damage. Again, you do not want to go through the process of replacing panels only to have them break again.
The power box is where you will connect the panels to your battery or inverter. You want to make sure that this is clean and free from debris.
The batteries that store the power your solar panel generates will need an inspection from time to time. It would be best if you looked at the water level in your batteries and their overall appearance.
The inverter is the unit that converts the power that your solar panels generate into usable electricity. You don't need to do much here; just make sure everything is in good order.
Cleaning Your Panels
While you are inspecting, you might notice that your solar panels are dirty. In fact, as your panels heat up, they will start to collect dust and dirt.
When dirt collects on your panels, your efficiency will take a hit.
Therefore, you want to make sure you give your panels a good cleaning every season.
- Garden hose or pressure washer (depending on the severity)
- Brush to scrub between the panels
- Soft cloths or towel
Make sure not to use abrasive tools so as not to scratch the glass panels.
Getting the Job Done
Start by turning off the electricity to your panels and the inverter. You can do this by opening the breaker box and flipping the switch for your panels or unplugging the panels.
Next, hose down your panels in a downward motion. If you use a pressure washer, carefully direct the water to the panels, not the wiring.
After hosing off your panels, you need to brush between the panels with a soft brush. Use the soft brush to clean off any debris dislodged by the water. If you have stubborn dirt or debris that does not come off with a hose, you can touch up those spots with the brush as well.
Use the soft brush to loosen up the dirt. Finally, you can use a towel or soft cloth to wipe dry the panels to avoid any spotting from the water if you'd like.
Maintaining Your Panels
Maintaining your panels does not just include cleaning them.
Keep in mind that the inspection you performed earlier will cover any problems you should address.
To fix cracks in your panels before they grow into a bigger problem. Unfortunately, you won't be able to replace the cracked glass, as the glass connects to the solar cells.
However, you can fill in the cracks with waterproof resin to prevent the cracks from growing and keep dirt from collecting.
Dents on the Frame
During the course of your solar panel's life, there is a chance that it will get hit by something, be it kids playing around or a lawnmower.
When the frame takes a hit, you'll notice dents in the aluminum frame where the object hit the frame.
If you have a dent puller, you can attempt to remove the dents, but if you are worried about the frame's integrity, you can reinforce it by welding.
Loose screws are fairly easy to fix. All you need is a screwdriver.
Start by unscrewing the loose screws. Next, apply a small amount of lithium grease or clear nail polish to the threads of the screws.
Screw the screws back into their spots and check to make sure that the screws are screwed in correctly and are not loose anymore.
Faulty wiring will need replacing to prevent shortages. However, if you wish to replace the wiring, you will likely need to call a professional electrician or technician.
Your batteries will also need some regular maintenance. If you see any leaking or corrosion, replace the battery.
Leaking batteries can cause further damage to your panels.
You can also clean your batteries with a paintbrush or soft cloth. Be careful not to get the corrosion on your skin.
Cost of Maintaining Your Solar Panels
Many people wonder about the cost of maintaining the panels. Maintaining solar panels does not cost very much at all.
The cost of a three-month maintenance program will cost around $150.
Monitoring Your Solar Panels
A significant part of maintenance is monitoring the output of your solar panels. If you notice a decrease in energy output, it is important to perform a thorough inspection.
However, the energy output is not necessarily the only item that needs monitoring.
Keep an eye on the dust around your panels. Check the height and angle of your panels and change them if necessary.
Also, check the distance between your panels and the batteries. You want to ensure that your panels are close enough to the batteries for efficient power transfer.
Keep them free of leaves, snow, or other items that will obstruct the panels from sunlight.
Troubleshooting Your Panels
As with any piece of technology, there are some issues that you may be encountering with your solar panels that may not have been addressed above.
While some fixes require advanced knowledge, the following six solutions are those that you can generally do without help.
If your solar panels produce less energy than they should, your problem is likely caused by one of three issues.
First, your inverter could be broken. It might not be charging, has no power supply, or has blown a fuse. You can call a professional to check the inverter of a solar panel.
Second, if your panel has damage or is dirt, the output will diminish.
Third, there could be an issue with your batteries.
As mentioned before, the batteries need to be checked regularly to ensure they function properly. Make sure they are properly installed to prevent any short circuits.
If your solar panels are not producing enough energy during the day, the problem is likely caused by either the angle of your panels.
Maintenance Tips: Solar Panel Care
We will now discuss some quick tips and tricks to care for your solar panels.
First, make sure that any large or small debris is cleaned from the panels. It will prevent the panels from heating up too quickly and will make them last longer.
Next, you want to make sure that the ends of the panels are covered. Whether you use plastic, rubber, or any other material, this will prevent rain and snow from entering the panels and causing damage.
The Benefits of a Professional Maintenance
If you are looking at this guide and are overwhelmed, don't worry. It is very understandable.
At Skyline Solar Power, we know that you want your solar panels to last for a long time and work at their full potential, and that's why we offer professional maintenance.
Our maintenance team will check your panels, ensure everything runs smoothly, and suggest any necessary actions or repairs.
Solar Panel Maintenance: Check Yours Today
We hope this guide has shown you everything you need to know about solar panel maintenance.
If you take care of your solar panels, they will take care of you. Simply following the steps in this guide will ensure that your solar panels work optimally and will last a very long time.
Would you like to know more about our services? Contact us today!